North Carolina News and Views

Clarity can hit you unexpectedly.

The problem we all live with
I am travelling for business and I stopped for the week end to visit some old friends in North Carolina where I used to live years ago.  We decided to go on this splendid Sunday afternoon to visit an exhibit on Norman Rockwell at the North Carolina Museum of Art. A good excuse for a countryside drive.

One of the painting exposed is the famous "The problem we all live with", a reflection on the integration battles.  Norman Rockwell might have been hijacked by conservative America, he might have been accused of all sorts of things but he would have been the first one to tell you that he painted an America the way he would like it to be, an idealized version of what he saw and not the white wonder bread vision that too many are only too willing to label him with.

That very famous painting of Ruby Bridges being escorted by 4 federal marshals to school in New Orleans is in all minds of those who have still an idea of what the fight against segregation was.  But I can assure you of one thing, standing in front of the real thing can make you gasp.  Not only at the obvious message but also at the art.  You need to see it live to truly understand the faint nigger painted on the wall, and the exploded tomato on the floor.  The perfect symbolism of a lost cause no matter what the parents boycotting that school thought that day.

The reality of Ruby Bridges
As I kept walking through the exihibit I could not help but be haunted by Ruby Bridges and coming back to observe the painting again , 4 times as a matter of fact.

These days in Venezuela the sight of Nazional Guards "escorting" someone out of the property has become common.  Whether the property has been robbed or built through hard work does not seem to make a difference: the idea is to stain or destroy that person's reputation.  The idea is to make believe to  "el pueblo" that Chavez is working for them, that he is taking away what is supposedly due to them, what they were exploited for.  That reality more than often falls short of chavista fiction is irrelevant for chavismo, in particular when the workers do not welcome the take over as the Polar case illustrated so well.

No, the reality of Ruby was that the US marshals were escorting her to include her in society;  the Nazional Guard escorting performed in Venezuela is done to divide society, to exclude people, to create a pariah class.  There is a difference, the former is democracy, Marshals and all, the later is totalitarianism, pueblo and all.

Does Bibi want Israel to remain "the only democracy in the Middle East"?

How many hands are politicians prepared to shake?

Omar Suleiman, the Security Man of Egypt

I read Haaretz and find something that corresponds very much with what I see coming from Israeli sources: the government apparently wants the US and the European Union to go on betting on Mubarak "less the Islamic fundamentalists come to power". And they create fear by stressing the fact the Muslim Brotherhood supports El-Baradeid.

And I read in Spiegel (also with reference to Haaretz) that prime minister Westerwelle is afraid of a fundamentalist wave.

Yes, indeed, fundamentalism is a danger, but then: for how long are Western countries going to let dictators be the solution? Do they think Islamic fundamentalism will become less dangerous or be kept under control like that? Does anyone remember how the West supported the removal of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran? And then the dictatorship that followed with the Shah? And what happened then when the Islamic fundamentalists took power? What is still very much happening? And does anyone remember what happened after Qassim in Iraq was overthrown with Western influence?

And why did the US government not speak of road to democracy before these events took place? Did it not know of the repression Mubarak's regime was carrying out for years now? Is there a transition still possible under Mubarak now?

So many questions...

As usual, I recommend reading Robert Fisk's account

Are there better ways to confront obscurantism and fundamentalism? Is the Muslim Brotherhood evolving differently in different countries? If so: why?

El Baradei
Can he and the Egyptian people get a chance?

Your opinion, tu opinión, Deine Meinung, твоё мнение

One can get quite interesting feedbacks from readers. On the right side you can see a set of little polls about Venezuelan topics.

So far, 90% of visitors have declared to see the Venezuelan government very negatively, 3% negatively, 1% positively and 3% very positively. So far there have been 88 votes. This is not very surprising, but it still is interesting. The amount of people in Venezuela who clearly want another form of government is about 52% and rising, if we consider the elections that took place in September 2010 and the general trend after that. People abroad have a different perspective and the Venezuelan government is likely to be seen more negatively. Some could argue Venezuelans in Venezuela know better, but you see already a trend in Venezuela itself...and we know from history how different governments managed to have a lot of popularity until very late.

Most visitors think there will be a new president for Venezuela in 2013-2014. I still have to own up I started that monthly poll rather later this month and there are just 14 votes.

I also see the top topics you want to read about here are 1) the economy, 2) estimates about what is going to come in Venezuela, 3) ideas for Venezuela, 4) what the alternative forces are doing, 5) Venezuelan culture and 6) mindmap about Chavismo.

There is another poll where I ask readers if they think Venezuela is rich or poor. I have the same poll in my Spanish blog. As I could verify some months ago, 2/3 of my readers in Venezuela-Europa are non-Venezuelans. The vast majority of those in Desarrollo Sostenible para Venezuela are my compatriots. The readers of Venezuela Europe think mostly that Venezuela is NOT a rich country. Only 23% think it is rich or very rich. In contrast, 61% of the readers in my Spanish blog think Venezuela is very rich or rich. How do we have such differences? This reminds me very strongly of something I wrote about Humboldt some months ago.

Thanks very much!

I, Chávez

You can read an interesting analysis of Hugo's latest Speech to the Nation in El Universal (in English!).

Sociologist and university professor Ignacio Suárez went through the military caudillo's speech and got some fascinating insights into the caudillo's mind.

Just a couple of tiny details: Chávez mentioned 'Chávez' (thus in third person) 52 times. He also said "I remember" 48 times. We Venezuelans know what stories those "I remember" can produce. He also used the word "we" to refer to himself a lot of times.

I wrote about the particular use of third person from Chávez some time ago. I wrote back then, on a jocular mode, that Chávez was speaking like the Gollum. I would say today more Chávez is Venezuela's gollem.

Meanwhile, the military caudillo announces he will solve part of the housing problem in Venezuela with the construction of more flats in clogged the military area of Fuerte Tiuna. As the Chávez-close companies are too incompetent and Chávez does not want to finance private companies that are not under control of his boliburguesia, he has given the contract to the Chinese (after announcing it was to the Russians).

So: instead of Venezuelan engineers overseeing the construction, it will be 中国中信集团公司 or CITIC Group. Meanwhile, millions of Venezuela far aware from the presidential palace are in need of proper housing and proper jobs.

In the map below you see the proportion (%) of votes for the main alternative party in the Caracas area and that for the Chávez party.

Roughly speaking, Caracas's West is much poorer than Caracas's East, although that is a big simplification: Petare is rather poor and San Pedro is not.

Coche, where Fuerte Tiuna is, is one of the poorer areas. Notice, though, that Chávez has only half the people's support there. In some ver poor areas like Petare his party is definitely a minority now.

Chávez also said to the military in one of their bases that the alternative forces already have a secret plan to declare their victory in December 2012 and announce Chávez will commit fraud. Chávez is already saying this almost two years in advance. It seems Chávez does not even care about appearances and admits his party has already anointed him as candidate for 2012. After all: extreme left wingers, just like extreme right wingers, always depend on the one and only leader. And they call it a revolution.

Wikileak Norway-USA-Venezuela, the original

I had forgotten, in Aftenposten there is a link to the original Wikileak in English. Please, take a look here.

And for background on that, read journalist Setty's account.

Egypt and Venezuela

I find annoying the way every group is trying to take the Egypt's events to portray their side in Venezuela.

We have facts like these
  • The US government has supported dictator Mubarak for a long time thinking that is the way to prevent Islamic fundamentalism taking power there
  • The government of Israel is very interested in keeping Mubarak or someone with his attitude in Egypt
and Chávez's useful idiots and main honchos hint at the fact the protests in Egypt are more against the US and more for "something like Chávez".

Then we have things like these:
  • Mubarak is a military, like Chávez, and he thinks, just like the Venezuelan caudillo, that he is irreplaceable
  • Mubarak abhors open debates with the opposition, he prefers monologues, like Chávez

In reality geopolitics is way more complex than that.

One of the best commentators about the Middle East is Robert Fisk. I would suggest readers to take a look at what he has to say. Not curiously, he is a bit more cautious than many other "experts" on Middle East matters.

I hope Egypt will be soon a pluralistic, open society. I am afraid it won't be so soon -too many groups from many sides in many countries do not want this. As the saying goes, extremes meet.

One thing I know no extremes want is an open and free debate.

Ein deutsches Dorf in Venezuela

Wo ist denn das? In Venezuela, logo!

Hier könnt Ihr eine sehr gute Sendung von der ZDF über die Colonia Tovar, ein deutsches Dorf in Venezuela.

Who's sleeping with the Devil?

We all remember our dear commandant-lieutenant-leader-president-macho-Bolívar 2.0 talking about the evil Empire and the Devil at the United Nations headquarters. The naive observer would think the US magnates and Venezuela's red-clad warriors are at a clinch with each other. Reality is a wee bit different.

Take the news coming from Norwegian Aftenposten about the Wikileaks. It seems the Norwegians were not very happy at the way US Chevron and Spanish Repsol decided to bid for the development of the Carabobo field.

Former US ambassador Patrick Duddy reported to Washington that Anders Hatteland, Statsoil representative in Venezuela, was mad about the way Chevron and Repsol reacted. The Venezuelan government had been making the rules of the game more and more difficult and the Norwegians were hoping for an international boycot of the tender. French Total and Chinese CNPC decided not to take part in that tender. But Chevron and Repsol did, in spite of what their past experience had been. The Norwegian said US Chevron is giving legitimacy to the Venezuelan government. I repeat: the Norwegian said US Chevron is giving legitimacy to the Venezuelan government. And it seems the "bonus" US Americans paid to Venezuelan authorities did some magic, even if that was not the only reason why they got that field.

The US reporter also said the Venezuelan government gave more money to Statesoil for its shares in one of the fields than reported in the media (130 million dollars).

Stay tuned, more funny stuff is to come.

Ps. thanks to a Norwegian friend
Ps 2. Journalist Setty linked to this post, but there is nobody like him to give a comprehensive background on energy matters in Venezuela.

Economic priorities for Venezuela

The Venezuelan military government announced it will subsidize petrol for the poor in the United States once again. This will cost some 60 million dollars. Why does the military do that? Is it to help the poor in the US? Not really. It is to rub it to the US Americans. Although there is a lot of misery in the States, Venezuela should firstly care about the poor who are in more problems in Venezuela.

Where could the regime use that money instead? Some ideas:

- invest in solving the housing problem beyond Caracas. Hundreds of thousands desperately need houses in the Llanos, in Falcón, in Sucre.

- invest in programmes to create sustainable jobs in the Llanos

- help to improve the infrastructure that poor farmers use for agriculture (but without forgetting to keep an eye on maintenance and accountability in general)

Farmer in Venezuela working as my great-grandfather did

Oil prices keep going up. Venezuela should profit from this...if only the government had a plan.

One thing I do not understand is why the Castro government in Cuba feels so compelled to carry out the current reforms when they could ask more money to the Venezuelan military. Or not? Perhaps they realised Chávez has no economic plan? Miguel showed us the way a dictator acts in pretending to deal with economic issues.

It is about time the alternative parties demand from Chávez to have an open, live debate with him about, among other things, the economy. Not that he will accept. Chávez is just a thuggish lieutenant who has never -ever- accepted a debate*. But the alternative parties need to make the point time after time.

* Two years ago Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa asked to have a debate with Chávez ahd the military "accepted" but only to say he would be one of many others who would be in the debate. Then Chávez said once that he could not debate with Vargas because Vargas was a writer and he was "just a soldier. He then said he could not debate with Vargas Llosa because he (Chávez) was "first league" and Vargas Llosa was not even a candidate. It is mind-boggling how both the state media and Globovisión described the whole issue.

Helden der Rhewoluzion

Rodríguez Chacín benutzt unglaublich oft rote Hemde, wie alle Chávez-Bonzen, die zeigen wollen, wie "revolutionär" sie sind. Niemals hat eine Bewegung so viele rote Hemde getragen wie die Chávez-Anhänger...Ersatz für Inhalt

Ramón Rodríguez Chacín ist einer der Chávez-Bonzen. Wie Chávez und die meisten anderer Führer der Rhewoluzion ist Rodríguez ein Militär. Wie Chávez war er ein aktiver Mitgestalter der Vierten Republik, obwohl er das bestreitet.

Ramón Rodríguez gehörte dem Comando Específico Páez an, eine Militär-Abteilung, die die Guerrilla bekämpfte. Diese kleine Gruppe war am Massaker von Los Amparitos beteiligt, wo mehrere Zivilisten von den venezolanischen Militärs ermordet wurden. Die Gruppe hat auch die "Acción Anguila 3" organisiert. Diese Militäraktion führte 1988 zum Massaker von El Amparo (AI Bericht, UNHCR-Bericht) Er "konnte" nicht bei der Aktion selbst tätig sein, wo 14 Fischer ermordet wurden, weil er auf der Reise dorthin bei einem Hubschraubumfall schwer verletzt wurde und ins Krankenhaus landen musste.

Nachdem Rodríguez die Guerrilla lange bekämpfte, gab es eine Umwandlung.

Er war aktiv bei dem zweiten Putschversuch von 1992 gegen eine Regierung, die demokratisch gewählt wurde und nicht zur Wiederwahl stand. Viele Unschuldigen starben bei diesem Anschlag der Chávez-Anhänger.

Als Chávez Präsident wurde, wurde Chacín Geheimdienstführer. Er war Innenminister ein paar Monate im Jahr 2002, als er einer der vielen Dissidenten, Luis Miquilena, ersetzte. Er war wieder Innenminister für einige Monate im Jahr 2008.

Spiegel berichtete, dass Ramírez Chacín häufige Treffen mit der FARC-Guerrilla in seiner Hacienda im Grenzgebiet hatte.

Den Emails von Reyes zufolge soll Ramírez Chacín Interesse gezeigt haben, mit der kolumbianischen Guerrilla Wissen über Guerrilla-Krieg auszutauschen.

Der Militär organisierte auch zwei Freilassungen von Gefangenen der FARC. Hier sieht man ein Video, wo er mit den FARC-Guerrillas spricht: "wir folgen mit Interesse ihren Kampf. Bleiben Sie stark! Seien Sie vorsichtig, Genosse!"

Rodríguez Chacín hat Ländereien in Barinas, nun anscheinend unter den Namen seiner Töchter (u.a. Fundo El Cristo). Es wäre schön, wenn er vor dem Fernseher sagen würde, wie gross diese Haciendas sind.

Er ist immer noch in der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Venezuelas sehr aktiv.

Things that bother you even if far away

Yours truly is on a business trip out of Venezuela.  Busy as he is, there is no time to read the papers and he limits himself to Miguel's blog.   Well, one read about the dismal scene of Chavez threatening the president of Banco Provincial was enough to wreck my productive day.  In that truly deplorable scene, for a piece of paperwork Chavez is threatening (taking away?) the Banco Provincial of Venezuela.

I am not letting myself be ensnared by the details of the case: there is one item that is trtuly, truly distrubing me.  Chavez speaks over the phone with his unfortunate victim (on cadena?) and after a few threats the guy demands to be put on audio too so that the country knows what he is saying exactly to Chavez.  And Chavez refuses.  The country can only hear the words of Chavez and what Chavez choses to report from the victimized part.

If that is not the hallmark of a totalitarian dictator, then I do not know what is it.

The End of one of my life' stories

(The next personal note, more than an apology, will explain you why I haven’t posted anything lately)

Only trouble one can’t find a solution is death. Only thing life has for certain is death. Death can come slowly, as for an elderly person, tired of living and ready to reunite the ones who had lost in the past; leaving enough memories in those who leaves behind. But death can also come quickly. It can even surprise the most alive person you have ever met. It can surprise him in the garden, one Sunday morning just after coming back home from a soccer game. One normal day. One heart attack. One free fall and that’s it. Just fifteen minutes between saying “I feel dizzy” and leaving the world; just like a García Márquez’ novel. Without warning nor preparation. Without saying good bye.

That’s how I recently lost a very dear and close family member. I don’t think we are still fully recovered from the shocking events; and even less we are accustomed to his absence. What we have for sure is that life has changed completely and has taught us some lessons in the road. I still think God should figure out other ways to taught us some lessons than to take us away the privilege of having someone we love around. But like one of my uncles said “God’ time differs of our time, we are unable to understand it and it is useless to try doing so using our yet limited human logic”.

Our complicated, modern lives, are filled with many spheres. There is the work sphere, the political- country sphere, the world sphere, the one filled with acquaintances we mistakenly think they are “very important to us” and so on. We easily get lost between those spheres and do not realize what’s really important. We spend an incredible valuable amount of time, worrying about little relationship fights and quirky looks at work. We spend nights awake imaging possible catastrophic events out of political decisions being made here and there, away from us. We invest another amount making sacrifices to reach higher and higher: studying, then working, then doing off curricula activities during the weekends to engross our CV, then applying to grad school… And between this and that, we lose our perspectives, we do not realize what’s really important.

We think that what’s really important is going to be there forever. That you will always be able to gather the ones you love for a barbeque or that you always have time to simply live, smile and have fun… “but right now I have to take advantage of this opportunity…” You think they are going to last forever and they are always going to be there for you. That you can always knock at their door and they will open his arms to welcome you.

But that’s not true. While we are busy caring for other “important” things, time goes on and does not ask nor waits for you. Time is an independent entity. Time is not concerned about you, whether if you are ready or not, if you have shared enough with them or not. One sunny day time simply ends.

I’m sorry. I’m grateful for the time we shared together but I’m sorry for the time we missed. I’m sorry I skipped so many lunches, trips and meetings you invited me to under the same old excuses. I’m sorry sometimes I didn’t stayed longer at the ones I did went. I’m sorry I locked in my room studying while you were home. I’m sorry I answered you the phone impatiently because you were interrupting something. I’m sorry I criticized you as much as I did, because I took your jokes too personal sometimes. I was never mature enough to admit you did made laugh, a lot. I’m sorry I never realized of how much I loved you, until it was too late.

If I only knew how this story was going to end, I would had acted differently. I would have rushed to take us a picture together the last time we were dancing an ugly Vallenato; just one you and I, laughing. I would had pay more attention to your work, which I never did because I was too proud to respect it enough. I would have come to appreciate your terrible cooking.

I promise to never lose again my priorities. I promise to always keep in mind what’s really important. I promise not to waste my time worrying about little fights, silly work issues, and even, yes, politics and our not so dear revolution (you hated it as much as I do, that’s for sure). I promise to not take family and the ones I love for granted. Because life is brief and does not have guarantees for anyone; not even for you who always seemed the healthiest, happiest, youngest and most alive of all of us. I promise to learn from you; from the good, bad, and ugly things you did; from the tiny footprints you left in pictures, videos, writings and memories.

I promise to embrace life as it comes, even considering that life, as I know it; will be completely different from now on.

Gegen die Wand V: Immer weniger useful idiots für die venezolanischen Militärs

Daniel Duquenal hat vor kurzem einen Post über die verschwindende Anzahl von ausländischen useful idiots der Chávez-Regierung geschrieben. Mir war das auch aufgefallen. Ich habe ihm gesagt, dass die venezolanischen Botschaften immer mehr Schwierigkeiten haben, Leute finden, die für die Militärregierung in Venezuela sprechen wollen.

Eva Golinger, die vor kurzem mehrere Millionen Dollar von der Regierung bekommen hat, um ihre Correo del Caroní-Zeitung - Propaganda pur - weiter zu veröffentlichen, scheint auf der Suche nach Übersetzern für ihre Artikel zu sein. Viel mehr kann sie nicht tun.

Und sonst sehe ich nur sehr alte Artikel von "unabhängigen Beobachtern", die die Anhänger der Militärs wieder aufbereiten, denn immer weniger Leute mit Autorität wollen über die Farce in Venezuela schreiben. Die Chávez-Regierung muss, zB, sich auf den EU-Bericht über die 2006-Wahlen beziehen (und nur auf Teile davon) und vor allem auf den Bericht des Carter-Centers von 2004, um "democratic credentials" bzw einen Persilschein zu zeigen.

Was wird die Militärregierung tun? In Venezuela werden wir weiterhin sehen, wie Chávez und seine Clique mehr Macht zu sich nehmen, mehr Leute schickanieren und Richter weiter unter Druck setzen. Wir werden zugleich sehen, wie die Chavista-Regierung bedrohliche Worte für Andersdenkenden benutzt und noch mehr. Darüber hinaus werden wir sehen, wie Chávez wieder nach aussen über "Dialog" und Zusammenarbeit sprechen wird. Will Grant von BBC wird wahrscheinlich darüber berichten und sonst nichts.

Nun hat Chávez eine neue "Idee": Gran Polo Patriótico. Alle Parteien, alle Organisationen, die für Venezuela was machen wollen, sollten unter seiner Regie stehen. Diejenigen, die nicht nach seinen Spiegelregeln tanzen wollen, werden als Verräter bezeichnet.

Die Venezolaner wollen Pluralismus haben

Am 23.1.1958 musste Diktator Marcos Pérez Jiménez nach Massenprotesten aus Venezuela fliehen.

Als Militär und Putschist von 1992 Hugo Chávez 40 Jahre später bei den Präsidentenwahlen gewann, lud er den im Exil lebenden Pérez Jiménez ein, nach Venezuela zurückzukehren. Pérez Jiménez ist dieser Einladung nicht gefolgt, weil viele Venezolaner, dazu selbst viele Gruppierungen, die mit Chávez in Allianz waren, protestierten.

Chávez hat aber immer den Diktator gelobt, der viele Menschen -darunter echte Sozialisten- foltern bzw ermorden liess. Da Chávez aber weiss, dass die Venezolaner den 23.1 als Befreiungstag feiern, wollte er auch diesen Tag benutzen und die Geschichte neu erfinden.

Und so haben wir heute in Caracas zwei Demos: die alternativen Parteien marschieren auf einer Seite und die Unterstützer der Militärregierung auf der anderen.

Wenn irgendein Europäer sich wundert, wieso ich die jetzige Regierung Venezuelas als Militärregierung nenne, braucht er einfach folgende Punkte zu berücksichtigen:

1) Der Präsident ist ein Militär und ehemaliger Putschist
2) Die Gouverneure von Yaracuy, Aragua, Vargas, Mérida, Apure und Bolívar sind ebenfalls Militär und Putschisten (sie waren in den blutigen Putschversuchen von 1992 beteiligt und das gegen eine demokratische Regierung, die sowieso 2 Jahre später zu Ende gehen musste).
3) Die Gouverneure der Bundesstaaten Barinas und Falcón sind der Bruder bzw die Tochter von Militärs und Putschisten
4) Viele Abgeordneten der PSUV (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas) sind auch Militärs und Putschisten.
5) Die Top-Offiziere der Armee, die nun alle Chávez-Freunde sind, haben öffentlich erklärt, dass sie keine Regierung der Opposition akzeptieren würden, was absolut verfassungswidrig ist.

Und nun sagt der Militär Chávez, dass der "Puntofijismo" -die Zeit zwischen 1958 und 1998- die letzte Diktatur Venezuelas war. Der Putschist sagt auch, dass "die" -und damit meint er alle alternativen Parteien, nicht nur AD und COPEI, sondern die Parteien, die seit 1998 entstanden sind, wie UNT und PJ- nie wieder an die Macht kommen werden.

Chávez erklärte nun, dass er 2012 wieder gewählt werden wird. Er regiert seit 4.2.1999.

Ich frage mich, was die Europäische Union von den letzten Aussagen des Lukaschenkofreundes denkt. Vielleicht wollt Ihr an einige EU-Abgeordneten mal fragen, was sie denken?

The "23 de enero" goes international

Or at least it tried.

Today we commemorate yet another anniversary of January 23 1958 when our one before last dictator was routed.  Of course, since we are officially in a dictatorship since the end of 2010, XXI century style but dictatorship nevertheless, today was a good opportunity to restart the public resistance movement that was stunned last December.  In past years it was always rather difficult to mobilize people to hit the streets on January so I am not expecting too large a turn out, but that is not the point.   After all the opposition turn out will be bigger and more spontaneous than the one of chavismo who has been unable to deal with "23 de enero" as a most anti fascist date!  Thus silly comparisons of "my turn out is bigger than yours" are truly pointless today, even if the opposition where to smash in numbers chavismo.

The point today is that it is the starting block for the opposition campaign to try to unseat Chavez in 2012, not only in Venezuela but also overseas.  On this respect the organization "un mundo sin mordaza" has been trying to stir some demonstrations outside of Venezuela with reasonable success considering that a world in crisis has little time for failed democracies like ours.  Their site promise us a full report eventually but meanwhile you can have a preview in Globovision of small but significant rallies in many cities while I do not detect anything from chavismo outside of Venezuela.

I find it very encouraging.  With a few more months of work and organization we can expect significant rallies of Venezuelan and their foreign supporters in major capitals.  I would suggest to set a goal for July 5 which is the bicentennial of the formal independence.  Overseas we can reclaim that date in the name of freedom for Venezuelans.  After all slogans such as "Viva Venezuela, Fuera Chavez" cannot possibly be considered treason....

English language chavismo in the web on the decline

Out of idleness I decided to visit some of the English language sites in the web that support Chavez.  My last visit was to Venezuelanalysis sometime at the end of 2010.  The other sites?  Who knows, I forgot.....

Oil Wars which was the lone consistent blog has its last posting on July 6, after months of irregular postings, and a refusal to break up with chavismo once and for all.  Unable to support chavismo anymore and unable to go back to democratic causes I suppose that the editor thought it best to drop the whole thing.

Borev was some ersatz humor blog which was way more vindictive than humorous.  I, for one, never found it amusing but it might just have been a question of taste since I do not get Chavez "humor" either.  Whatever, its last post is from March 2010!  Borev was rumored or even proven, I forgot, to be financially supported by the Venezuelan embassy in Washington.  I let the reader guess on such implications.

And there is of course Venezuelanalysis, the Greg Wilpert joint that he even used to publish a book out of his columns.  The site presented itself as a kind of e-magazine but lately it was goign downhill.  I think I read somewhere that Wilpert had moved to the US as he is married to some Venezuelan diplomat.  That would  explain the decline of a site who at least had the decency to link to opposition sites such as this one (though you had to work at finding the link whereas yours truly has its reciprocal square on the right side).  Apparently the site was left in the care of a single person and simplified greatly its presentation (it is a strange coincidence that a regular harasser of opposotion sites disappeared when Venezuelanalysis went to that simple mode, curious, no?)  Now, things seem to revive some to the point of recovering some of past presentation dash and even, hold tight, advertising for a part time journalist position!  Note that the socialist site offers no benefits with the position........ 

Outside of Venezuela the lone energumène of note was Calvin Tucker who used to work for London's Red Ken and even threatened me of judicial pursuit because apparently he wants us to believe that all paid expenses trips are not subsidies.  Or something like that, I forgot, I am still waiting for the subpoena.  He has a 21 century socialism site which is not dead but which seems to concentrate its activities on other countries than Venezuela.  I suppose that his team is looking for a more reliable sponsor than Chavez....

And I have saved for the last the very best.  Eva Golinger does have a blog in addition of editing the English version of the Correo del Orinoco propaganda sheet.  Her blog is unreadable, kind of niña rosa as we would call it in Venezuela.  Thus it has probably be a year that I have not visited it.  Well, I was rewarded.  Not only the woman is still at it, but she even publishes an interview that Reuters made to her.  I suppose that no one else wanted to talk to Reuters who is somewhat discredited in Venezuela.  You do not need to read the whole thing, the very first few lines are enough to take the full measure of the brunette bimbo:

The Salon Eliptico is reserved for the most important and prestigious events, and only two people from the U.S. have ever spoken there. One is me and the other is John F. Kennedy

You cannot make up things like that!  I am still crying with laughter!

PS: The Salon Eliptico refers to the event last November when Eva asked publicly Chavez for laws and actions to shut up people like me.  You know, your standard fascist proposal tot he beloved great leader.  I was wondering a while back why Reuters had stopped citing this blog (they even posted some of my posts!).  But now, if they prefer to publish such type of interviews I understand why and I even think it better to be ignored by them.  ¡Que raya!

And now Chavez promotes anarchy

As Aesop already said, the tongue is the worse.  And when it is attached to an incontinent Chavez the damages can be terrible.  In his Friday cadena Chavez said that his supporters should be looking for empty lots that could  be used to build refuges for the 130,000 homeless people left by the rain.  Sure enough, within hours, in the wee hours, well organized groups carried by state vehicles arrived at the Chacao townhall to seize some of the rare empty lots left there.

Chacao, not Baruta or Petare or Libertador, Chacao, you may note, just in case you also missed the words of Chavez to the effect that the rich took the best land of Caracas and forced the poor to move up the hills.  It was no accident that the organized land grab headed for Chacao, in a clear ploy to terrorize the anti Chavez groups (even though plenty of chavista, including Libertador mayor, live in Chacao).

But Chacao was not going to let it pass and it sent its municipal police with some regrettable incidents to lament.  Then again, how can you not expect such incidents when the original red shirted aggressors come in the middle of the night to plant havoc in Chacao?  Apparently the more moderate faction within chavismo did react and as I type it seems that all is back in order, though the ominous warning now stays there for all: Chavez will not be afraid of anything to destroy his opposition and remains in office.

From this scene we must retain the following:
  • There was nothing spontaneous.  In fact, some of the "homeless" were Chacao residents!!!!  We can even assume that chavismo knew what Chavez was about to do and they had been getting ready to act after Chaevz cadena.  Can we harbor doubt as to Chavez previous knowledge?  How many similar plans are in the works as we get closer to the 2012 vote?
  • We can also retain that the regime is absolutely unapologetic for not having learned the lessons of 1999 and 2005, to the point of trying to shift the blame on anyone.
  • We can verify once again that the regime has absolutely no care for urbanization, rational planning, linking jobs to habitat, etc...  Some of the business and lands taken over not only are not very suitable for housing complexes but they also diminish the job offer in the area.  So yes, refuges will be resettled but with what utilities?  with what jobs?  with what services?
The regime is indeed reaching new lows of "all is politics", aggravating any social tension instead of trying to resolve them.  Then again, Chavez has nothing else to run on but social hatred.

The alternative forces at the Venezuela's National Assembly

If you speak Spanish, you can watch María Corina Machado, the one the military regime considers as CIA-agent.

She quotes from state sources and shows how the regime contradicts itself in the most pathetic way. She also goes into very clear detail to dismantle the shameless propaganda about health and education and housing and employment.

Bravo for Corina.

Ps. You can read my latest post (en español) on how the Chávez regime misses a big opportunity to support national sustainable development with the housing projects that now only foreigners seem to be able to perform.

envoyé par noticias24. - L'info video en direct.

Los culpables de la dictadura: Eladio Aponte Aponte

El caso suyo se expone mas difícilmente porque su acción no es tan determinante y compleja en el establecimiento de la dictadura como la de sus compañeros de esta lista.  Pero usted si merece un lugar especial en esa lista porque usted representa lo que es la justicia en un sistema dictatorial: jueces serviles que no vacilan en emitir juicios que favorezcan al régimen, sin la mas mínima preocupación en cuanto a legalidad y derechos humanos.  Ya hay muchos como usted en Venezuela pero usted es preeminente porque desde la Sala de Casación Penal que usted preside usted da el ejemplo, o mas bien el mal ejemplo a seguir.

Ya no se cuentan sus pronunciamientos particularmente crueles e injustos cuando se trata de lo que ustedes consideran enemigos del régimen.  Se ve claramente en usted que la larga práctica de la justicia militar lo dejó amante de dichas dictaduras y adepto a sus métodos.  Debo confesar que la premura que exhibió en trasladar el juicio de Biago Pilieri a Caracas para juzgarlo por tercera vez, por la misma ofensa, con el claro objetivo de que esta vez si salga culpable a toda costa, deja pasmado a cualquiera con el asombro.

Pero no se preocupe, jueces en la historia que se comportaron como usted, condenando sin consideración alguna a gente inocente, o no, siempre terminan en el banquillo de los acusados.  El asunto, por si usted no lo sabe, ya no es si Pilieri u otros que usted condenó son inocentes o no.  El asunto es que el proceder suyo es el de una dictadura de tinte totalitario donde se condena a la gente que se necesita condenar por razones políticas.  Es esa mecánica material, esa des-humanización de la justicia, con el toque militarista de acatar sin chistar, que hace su crimen tan despreciable, tan vergonzoso, y tan merecedor del castigo que usted seguramente recibirá el día en que la justicia verdadera regrese a Venezuela.

If you do not support Chavez your verdict will be guilty, guilty, guilty!

If there is anyone that still thinks that there is a free and independent judicial system in Venezuela, please, shut up!  Do not offend our intelligence!

A few days ago I did explain the case of Biagio Pilieri, the sole opposition representative from Yaracuy, barred from sitting in the new national assembly AGAINST the constitutional provisions, and about to be judged for the third time for the very same offense even if the first two verdicts were not guilty.  But when the regime wants you in jail, it will get you in jail.

Today I must report of scathing evidence that underlines how corrupt the judicial system of Venezuela has become under Chavez.

First, as I explained before, Venezuela does not have a jury system but has a two escabino charge which means that two people randomly selected from electoral lists must follow the trial and have equal vote as the judge on the final verdict.  Well, what we learned today is that the two, THE TWO ESCABINOS of the latest Pilieri trial, the double jeopardy one, are publicly on record stating that they were voting not guilty and the judge requested them to review their decision or something of the sort.  Apparently when the judge realized that they were indeed going to vote not guilty she simply called in sick and the trial was taken over by the TSJ, Venezuelan supreme court, and a third trial, triple jeopardy, was decided to be held in Caracas instead of Yaracuy.

To add insult to injury, there is a third escabino who acts as a substitute and only votes if one of the first two is dismissed or impaired to vote.  Even that third one agreed with the other two principals that the verdict should be not guilty.  Unanimous jury verdict we call that in civilized countries.

In other words, the judge refused to make public the decision of the jury, notified Caracas, and was removed from the case WHILE THE HIGH COURT OF VENEZUELA ANNULLED THE TRIAL AGAINST THE LAW, CHANGING THE VENUE OF A THIRD TRIAL.  What is not clear at this time is whether the judge called in sick not wanting to be blamed directly for such an abuse of justice, thus pushing the decision on Caracas.  After all the Afiuni example is for all to see.

And yet, yet, there is yet more insult to the injury.  At the time of the TSJ intervention we were told that one of the high court judges of that penal chamber did not participate in the vote due to a "justified absence".  Well, that "absent judge", Blanca Marmol de Leon, sent a note to the TSJ direction saying that she was "absent" because she was not called to rule on the decision, that she was perfectly available but not informed.  In other words, she was not absent, she was, I guess, "absented".  In that note she also protests some vices of form which cast more than serious doubts on the TSJ ruling.

So there you have it, how justice operates today in Venezuela: if your cause is annoying to anyone high enough in the regime you will be declared guilty, one way or the other, no matter how many of your legal and human rights need to be violated.

The real Chavez is never far under the surface, even Cohn-Bendit knows that

It was not too long until the fake meek words of last Saturday were blown away.  Tonight as a matter of fact when Chavez announced that the enabling law would not be returned for revision at the National Assembly.  In one of his editorials Teodoro Petkoff was sort of looking at Chavez's Saturday performance as a possible sign of more flexibility; but tonight Chavez made sure to let us know that war is all that he has in mind and that the enabling law will be used, among other things, to destroy the rental market and private construction sector.  Considering the more than proven ineptness of the regime at building houses (amazingly also recognized in tonight's cadena by Chaevz himself) we can only suggest to newly married couples to learn to shack it up and tune it down at their parents home.  That, or learning to assemble zinc and cardboard shacks to shag.

If one parable has been proven over and over by Chavez, it is the frog and scorpion crossing the river.  Or in more realistic words, what this blogger tells you over and over: too many chavistas will have to go on trial once the regime is over for them to allow any transition.  Chavez words last Saturday where for the consumption of the foreign press and attending ambassadors, as I noted in the Google news section who listed all sorts of beaming foreign correspondents that Chavez was going to resend the enabling law in May.  But for the Venezuelan public I am surprised that it took until today for Chavez reminding us that nothing had changed.

But there was a delightful moment this week, from the European Parliament, nothing less.  There was a fierce debate as Hungary's prime minster, Orban, fresh from presiding over the enacting of a restrictive freedom of the press law came to present Hungary's plans for Europe as they preside it for the next 6 months.  Hungary and its government have been receiving quite a lot of flack from that law. I am in no position to judge how dangerous it is but my guess is that it is less coercive than the one in Venezuela voted last month but already too much for Europeans to stomach.

Cohn-Bendit, as reported by El Pais in Spain, intervened in the debate with a strong criticism of Orban and accused him of being some European Chavez.  Since Cohn-Bendit is a Green French representative at the European Parliament I took the trouble to find his exact words in French:
"un Chavez européen, un national-populiste qui ne comprend pas l'essence et la structure de la démocratie"
 That is: an European Chavez, a national-populist that does not understand the essence and the structure of democracy.

There you have it, one of the clearest appreciation of chavismo you can find in recent memory, and from someone with leftist impeccable credentials, as far back as May 68.  Real leftist democrats like Liberation and Cohn Bendit were the first ones in France to have discovered the true nature of Chavez, as the right wing French and Le Figaro still manages after all these years to wiggle on occasion, I suppose hoping to help French business get fat contracts....

What I am trying to tell you is that this is big, that if Cohn-Bendit has incorporated anti Chavez rhetoric to the point of spitting it in an angry debate at the European parliament it is because Chavez image in Europe is, well, totally screwed.  Now we are waiting for the last democratic leftward bastion to join the anti Chavez chorus:  too many Liberals in the US who for some reason still cannot seem to make up their mind over Chavez.

Humboldt in Venezuela 2

The Pico Humboldt is the second tallest mountain summit of Venezuela. It rises 4,940 metres above sea level, which is not much for the Andes, but higher than the Mont Blanc by over 100 metres.

Good old Alexander von Humboldt was not on that side of Venezuela, although he did write a bit about the region and he investigate a lot about the rest of Venezuela. He very much deserved a peak and a river and a couple of other items called after him.

The Pico Humboldt has 2 of the 5 last glaciers in Venezuela. Chances are those glaciers will be gone by 2040. You can read some practical studd about how to reach the Pico Humboldt here (in Spanish).

The first person to get to the top was Venezuelan scientist Alfredo Jahn. I will write more about Jahn later on.

With friends like these... A real conservative in Iran?

We, in the West, tend to focus too much on political appearances.  Not that I am trying to excuse Ahmadinejad (often reported in these pages as Ahmadinejerk), but at least he is showing more ideological consistency than Chavez does.  And he might be doing, at least on the economical aspects of his rule, more of the needed right stuff.

I wonder what Chavez will think of this New York Times article where it is clearly shown that if Iran and Venezuela share an anti US stand, totally irrational at least in the case of Venezuela, that is pretty much where the basic similarity ends.  The article explains to us that now that Ahmadinejerk/jad has defeated his opposition from both sides he has embarked in an economic plan to curtail a whole bunch of subsidies in Iran.  And he seems to be getting away with it, which is worrisome for the West as it can only strengthen the position of Iran at any nuclear negotiation table.

We are not talking here of cosmetic measures, of a little financial tweak here, a little savings there.  The Iranian regime has in the past few moths almost multiplied by 4 its gas price, tripled the price of bread and put a significant cost on water.  And hold tight: privatizations of state held industries is in the cards!

Now compare this to what Chavez has been doing with an economic situation which might be significantly worse than the one in Iran (official inflation in Venezuela is more than double the official inflation of Iran).  A couple of weeks ago Chavez not only backed down on an increase in sales taxes (good, for once!) but even a meager 20% increase in electricity rates was postponed (even though the bulk of chavismo electorate does not pay electricity as it merely steals it).  In Iran electricity went up three times, if we are to believe the NYT report.

Certainly from a distance it is not for me to decide whether the measures were good for Iran.  But what I can tell you is that the lack of measures are bad from Venezuela.  In particular the subsidy in gas price which varies according to accounts but which is generally estimated at 9 billion US dollars!  Imagine what Venezuela could do if that gasoline subsidy were to be reduced even by a third alone!  The savings would be a number in the range of the budgets for education or health care, and that portion right now goes, literally, up in smoke, instead of refurbishing all the Venezuelan hospitals.

Thus Chavez good brother friend, Ahmadinejad/jerk  is showing himself to be quite the little neo-liberal and if he succeeds and along the way gets some agreement with the West over his nukes, well, ask me if he is going to worry about Venezuela when we go down under once and for all.  Chavez should be told that recent converts to the benefits of austerity are the most fanatics and the less likely to show sympathy for the Chavez plight coming from his irrepressible wastefulness.

Venezuelans, (and some of) the First Americans

Paraguaná is a peninsula in Northern Venezuela. It is very close to Aruba, an island the Dutch took over from the Spaniards in 1636.

The peninsula is a very interesting place. The strait connecting it to the rest of Venezuela also goes through the magnificent Médanos de Coro National Park. It was visited early on by the first Europeans in South America, including Amerigo Vespucci, who would later give his name to our double continent.

In the northern part of the Paraguaná Pensinsula we have the Taima-Taima region. Here Jorge Cruxent, a Venezuelan-Spanish archaeologist, discovered some of the oldest remains of human presence in America. If you want to read more about that discovery, check out this site. Very shortly said: that discovery together with another one at Monte Verde, Chile, led scientists to rethink the population of America. Before those discoveries, most archaeologists thought humans had only arrived in America after the Late Glacial Maximum came to an end. Now we know humans populated America during the Late Pleistocene.

It is a real pity that the whole archaeological site and the discoveries kept in a private museum have been so deglected.

Chávez and dialogue

A few hours after Chávez came back to power 13 of April 2002, after the Carmona coup, he declared a call for dialogue and reconciliation. The mood remained like that for some days, while he recovered and felt back in power.

Chávez has repeatedly said after that he does not want to have a dialogue "with the bourgeoisie", which is basically anyone who opposes him. He has declared there is no other project, no other solution, no other anything than his self-proclaimed revolution.

And yesterday, forced to talk in front of people who do not follow him and do not applaud to every whim of his, he declared to want to have a dialogue.

We can be sure of one thing: Chávez is not honest. My guess is the 1992-coupster will get into tantrum mood in 2 weeks time at the latest.

Still, we have to challenge him to make good his promise. That is what the alternative parties are doing now.

Julio Borges declared "we are taking Chávez's word and we will remind him every day about keeping the dialogue going"

Borges also said the Mesa de la Unidad was proposing a schedule for the Chávez's ministers to answer questions on the National Assembly. This will be fun. I wonder if the PSUV honchos will accept an open debate or just limit themselves to a monologue.

Keep tuned.

Something in tattered sheep clothing

no more clapping: the opposition is back
It is difficult to make sense of Chavez show yesterday.  I mean, it is often difficult to dig though the alluvial mass of Chavez speeches to figure out what he really means to say: swallowed in a sea of anecdotes from his life, drowned in an abundance of invectives against his foes, real or imaginary, swamped with irrelevant facts, or those you know are untrue, you never quite know how to manage your political compass.

But yesterday was something else.

Chavez is mandated by the Constitution to appear in front of the National Assembly once a year to offer his account of achievements.  That he has done stuff is certain, that some are actual achievements is another thing.  But at least for the last 5 years he had a submissive assembly that applauded til' their hands bled to any silly data or joke he uttered during a speech that lasted at the very least 4 hours.  In cadena of course, that is ALL radio and TV in Venezuela had to transmit the simultaneous broadcast of someone behaving very unpresidentially.

Now this year was different.  See, there would be sitting in front of him 67 people that would not applaud at all.  In an institutional way they may politely clap as he entered the half moon of the Assembly but that would be all.  On the other side, the government in full and the 98 chavistas would have to clap even harder to compensate.  The expectations were great, considering that also the other "powers" of the state must attend as well as diplomatic representations and "notable" figures.  Remember, in previous presentations we even got an endorsement of the Colombian FARC with the consequences we all know.

First, Chavez spoke for a bout 7 hours.  Needless to say that I did not have the stamina to listen to it, plugging in for a few minutes here and there.  But that was enough to get the tone, the more so that one of my plug-in was when Chavez explained vehemently that he was not a communist and that private enterprise had a bright future with him....  Yes, I know, I am still looking under the chairs trying to find my jaw.

And yet there were other noteworthy announcements behind the sea of usual rhetoric and worn out cliches.  For example Chavez said that he would return the enabling law by May, that is, using it for only 6 months of the allowed eighteen.  He said that the laws belonged, after all, for the assembly to discuss, and that the opposition was welcome back for that....  even VTV felt compelled to publish this call to the opposition and show the above picture in their site.

What gives?  Well, first you would be a fool to take Chavez words for real intentions.  In ten years we are more than used to his two steps forward one back strategy.  Second, the enabling law will be valid for another 5 months so he can do all the damage he needs to do before returning it and pretend to be a democrat.

And this is the key because his arrogance yesterday was tempered by the reality that the enabling laws and the other laws voted last December are felt in Venezuela and outside as coup, as a naked power grab, and an undeserved one to boot.  There have been huge floods in Colombia, there are now huge floods in Brazil and we do not hear of a single enabling law over there.  At home, it is clear that many of he laws passed last December were those expressly forbidden to the government in 2007 when it tried to get them through a constitutional reform.  Chavez has pollsters and he knows that his numbers have been going on downhill since last September and that this Christmas season was the saddest in years.  Why?  not really because of the lack of money, after all there was at least the very minimum of hallaca and partying, more because the understanding that chavismo was never going to get enough and people simply lost interest for partying, and henceforth interest for Chavez.

Thus it is time for damage control and yesterday, even though Chavez repeated his usual cliches, he had at least to pretend to make a few concessions.  In a way it worked as many foreign correspondents welcomed the announcement that in May the enabling law will be over.  But none of them seems to worry about what he will do in the meantime.  And to Chavez distress now there is a credible opposition that demands to Chavez to prove his "good" intentions of yesterday by revoking the enabling law right now, with the unquestionable argument that the opposition will gladly vote all the necessary and reasonable laws to deal with the emergency, without the need for an enabling law.

Maybe Chavez can still play the silly portion of the foreign press but it is clear that the opposition representatives that endured the 7 hours speech of yesterday are not going to be so easily assuaged.  Making his new dictatorship work is not going to be as easy as he thought and surely news from Tunisa were not encouraging.  The sheep clothes worn yesterday were not very effective at concealing the reality.

News from The Land of Grace

The Guardian's journalist Rory Carroll wrote an excellent and well-referenced article about prisoner-for-Chávez María Lourdes Afiuni. Spain's minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, had said there are no political prisoners in Venezuela because "international organisations have not classified any prisoner in Venezuela as political prisoner". I hope she reads that article and takes a couple of seconds to click on the reports from HRW (which Chávez denounces as CIA-branch) and Amnesty Internation (which he still hasn't accused of being part of Her Majesty's Secret Service).


Yesterday, Chávez gave his yearly report to the National Assembly. Unlike in other countries, in Venezuela the president does not have to answer to any questions there. He just has to talk. This time, the 1992-coupster talked about "reconciliation and dialogue", which is the kind of thing the alternative forces have been demanding for years and Chávez has rejected time after time. He calls everyone who thinks differently from him "bourgeoisie" and those who think like him "the people". What he said at the National Assembly yesterday is the kind of talk he gives when he feels weak. He was probably afraid of any public reaction from the 67 deputies who are not under his thumb, as the speech was live. Chávez is usually kept very far from people who reject his government -including the 52% of the population who voted against his party in 2010- and this scene was an unsual scene for him. In reality you can count on it Chávez just wanted to avoid any "situation". He won't change a tiny bit: once a lethal coupster, always a lethal coupster.


I expect the government to finally do more construction work this year. Most of it will be carried out by the Chinese and other foreigners as corruption among Chávez's employees makes any public work more inefficient than ever.

The government will be able to do that as oil prices have gone up even further last year, to 26% of what they were in 2009. That will enable the construction of some Potemkin villages. The government announced it will build over 150,000 flats or houses for 2011, but we are to take this with a pinch of salt as it has made that kind of promises for many years now and it has built much less than in the years of the "IV Republic".

The government will try to canalize people's frustrations by allowing more takeovers of private property by some and by more expropriations in order to give a quick solution for a few and hope for more.

One thing I find worrying is the government's obsession with building more and more houses in the Caracas valley and along the Northern part of the Ávila (aka Waraira Repano) National Park. This is not sustainable.


The average OPEC basket price for 2011 is already $91. It was $12.98 when Chávez was elected. Chances are oil prices will keep going up. It is a matter of time until a big fuel source shift takes place. That won't happen in the coming 5 years but it will probably happen before 2025. The Venezuelan red-red government could not care less about the "far future". That's way beyond the 2012 elections. Still, what Venezuelans do in the coming years will be fundamental to avoid any major social catastrophe before that turning point in energy use arrives.

And just as I posed this I see Miguel on The Devil's Excrement has posted this on oil production in Venezuela.

Renault Fluence Z.E.
China denies spying on Renault

Guess the country!

This sunny and warm country has been ruled by a family over more than a decade.  The regime speaks about the people and empowerment and modernization and gives lots of visible role to women.  Yet rampant corruption is reported at all levels and even more at the level of the presidential family and its entourage.  In fact through wikileaks the local US embassy reports how the president's family and entourage muscle they way into any private prosperous business.  Eventually popular protests became so strong that eventually the president was forced to flee the country for an Islamic country willing to hoist him.  Which country am I talking of?

If you answered Venezuela you were wrong, it is Tunisia.

OK, OK, so I admit that I forced my hand a tad here.  But did I?  Are we not seeing in Venezuela the sudden rise to riches of too many people who in 1998 had to take public transportation?  Is it not corruption an everyday affair now?  Are we not seeing more and more public protests?  Add a decade more and some more wikileaks releases and you are almost there.

May this serve as a warning to Chavez and his corrupt entourage: reckoning always come.

Internet, media and Venezuela

Venezuela's military regime boasts about the great progress on Internet coverage in Venezuela. It often says before Chávez came to power coverage was very limited, very slow and so on. Chávez's apologists (like in German the Amerika 21 site) often repeat the same story.

What the regime does not say, though, is that the Internet, even if it was a rather old idea, only started to catch up after 1995, for several technical and commercial reasons that have nothing to do with Venezuela.

Here you see the world internet host growth since 1981:

Based on the users' estimates plus population estimates, we can get the map you see below (shades are wrong according to my percentages). I simply reused the Wikipedia map and drew on it the latest percentages for internet coverage for South America. Venezuela is in military green.

As you can see, Colombia, Surinam, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have a greater coverage than Venezuela. Venezuela's GDP per capita is clearly higher than that of Colombia thanks to the huge amounts of oil under Venezuelan's soil, if nothing more.

About two thirds of Venezuela's population do not have Internet access yet. Most of those without Internet access cannot watch channels or listen to radio stations critical of the Venezuelan government, in spite of what US Mark Weisbrot, a staunch defendant of the Venezuelan military government, writes. You get out of the main urban centres and it is mostly Chávez media for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What Mr Weisbrot calls "independent private media" broadcasts mostly Colombian music, soap operas or baseball games.

Newspapers? Oh, just check out the national coverage of critical newspapers and just reading habits of the average Venezuelan.

If you haven't taken part in the new poll about what kind of topics you want to read more about, please, go to the right and choose the ones of your choice

Do you speak Spanish and want to know what Chávez's ministers stand for?

If you speak Spanish and you can understand Venezuelan slang, you should simply take a look at André Izarra's tweets. He is the "minister for the Popular Power of Communication and Information of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela". That is the same guy who was laughing with a very high pitch when an NGO representative was talking about the murder rate in Venezuela (from 00:37, specially 1:21). Warning: the tweets become rather repetitive after a while. Just take a look at what Izarra says about the others.

A question to BBC, The Guardian, El País, CNN, Le Monde: what do you think of that minister? Well, that's just a sample. You will certainly see a lot among other groups not supporting the military, but the red-clad Chavistas are definitely "special".

Triple Jeopardy in Venezuela: my representative, Biagio Pilieri, will go on trial for the same offense a THIRD time

Preemptive statement: before you read this post you need to be aware that Biagio Pilieri is not my favorite person in Yaracuy, and that I voted for him last September because he was the unity candidate of the MUD.  And even if I were inclined to vote strictly on personality I would still have voted for him because the PSUV candidatures were way worse that Pilieri e.g.: (Braulio Alvarez, pleaaaaase....)

Thus this post is not in defense of Mr. Pilieri, though he deserves it, it is an illustration on how abject the judicial power of Venezuela has become.

Mr. Pilieri used to be the mayor of Chivacoa and he was defeated 6 years ago in the post recall election landslide when even Lapi, arguably one of the most efficient governors of Venezuela was barely defeated (he is currently living in exile, by the way).  Along Lapi went down the drain a lot of mayors and local elected officials, including Pilieri, who was not such a hot mayor even though he did build a new decent bus station.  In 2008 he failed to recover his seat and even got a lower percentage than in 2004.
In other words, for last September vote Pilieri was not a good candidate for the MUD. But since Yaracuy is such a mess due to the terrible political errors of the divided opposition in 2008 (PJ battling Convergencia)  and since CONVERGENCIA demanded the top of the ticket risking once again a division,  I guess they preferred name recongition even if that name was a drag on the ticket.  Indeed, as I predicted, the MUD fared badly in Yaracuy and got only 1 in 5 seats when "specialists" in Caracas were talking of a sweep for the opposition....  In delayed hindsight I think they probably said that because they knew better and they had decided not to fund the local campaigns and so excused themselves by saying that it was a shoo in, that the local candidates needed no help.   Well, I cannot be any more charitable than that.

Mr. Pilieri was placed on top of the ticket for another reason: he had been accused of some corruption during his tenure as mayor of Chivacoa but the trial had not been able to prove him guilty.  The system declared him innocent but for some technicality they still manged to retain him in jail!  Of course, the reasons were political because he might have been a drag in Chivacoa but elsewhere he was kind of the heir of Lapi.  And the new governor who is absolutely lacking in charisma, and who is doing personal business diligently I have been repeatedly told, certainly does not want any opposition leader to emerge and threaten his hold on the state.

So Mr. Pilieri was one of the famed political prisoners candidates, placed on the lists to gain their release, something that I am also on record in opposing and something for which I have been proved right.  But I digress.

Sure enough, once elected the regime refused to recognize his automatic constitutional immunity and they only accepted to give him "casa por carcel" which means he could not leave home.  And they decided to proceed to a second trial on the same offenses!  Double jeopardy, something that is highly frowned upon in any country where there is a real judicial system.  It is not the fault of the defendant if the prosecution screws up its case and unless buying the judge by the defense is not proven, well, too bad.

We must note here that in Venezuela there is no trial by jury, that only some trials are performed with 2-3 "escabinos" who vote with the judge to decide the verdict.  This is, believe it or not, an improvement, because until 1997 the judge or a panel of judges decided on all cases.  The "escabinos" are kind of a jury, from the people, drawn by lot, and of demonstrable objectivity and capacity to understand the case at hand.  I understand that they can be more active than a mere juror and their vote counts as much as the judge.  The first trial of Pilieri was already with escabinos who voted not guilty!

As the date to seat the newly elected Pilieri was coming the judicial system proceeded on yet another speedy trial, Cuba/Stalinist style, through Christmas, setting up a special court even though normally the judicial system of Venezuela is on holiday for routine trials!  And yet there seems to have been a problem because as last week sentence was about to be handled the judge suddenly claimed to be ill and missing the tribunal without  return date!!!  Rumors were strong that once again Pilieri was about to be declared innocent and that was simply unacceptable by the regime after all the the illegal tricks it used to retain Pilieri in jail.

It is to be noted that it is still very difficult to completely fudge a trial in Venezuela because the accused party can hire its lawyers and they talk to the press.  That does not stop some judges from doing gross miscarriage of justice as the recent case of the other representative on trial from Zulia showed us.  The guy was even dragged to court sedated and the judge allowed anonymous "witnesses" declaring incognito their face hidden by a mask!!!!!  If in that trial it was possible for the judge to get away with it because supposedly it was a murder trial and reprisals were feared (witness protection program Venezuelan style), and administrative trial in Yaracuy is another matter and hooded witness would not do.

So today we just got news that the High Court penal chamber (Sala penal del TSJ) has annulled the second trial and has ordered it to be done again, but this time in a Caracas circuit where it is hoped, I suppose, that more impressionable escabinos will be found.

Triple jeopardy!!!  And even including old workers of Chivacoa town hall who do not have the means to sustain a trial in Caracas!!!


Of course such an aberration must have deep causes and I can only speculate about it.  So, in no particular order:

  • The regime cannot accept that it committed a mistake and thus Pilieri must go to jail and be removed from the national assembly.  The paradox with such a stubborn position is that what was an error from the opposition to nominate Pilieri might turn out to be a gain in the public opinion as making a martyr of Pilieri, even in Chivacoa.
  • Pilieri must have had some powerful enemies in Yaracuy because such a vindictive judicial action can only take place because national and regional political/economic interests are touched.
  • Who might be these enemies?  They can come from the local followers of Maria Lionza cult which happens to be centered outside of Chivacoa.  Maybe during his tenure Pilieri might have crossed some local superstition and those people have long arms, demanding followers in Caracas to avenge them.  Or it can be a political vendetta from the current governor but I do not see it because Julio Leon came into office after Pilieri problems had started.  Such enmity would be of an economical nature as maybe Pilieri trumped a sweet deal of Leon or his family before he became governor?  And we cannot forget that the TSJ head, Luisa Estela Morales is from Yaracuy and she has herself quite a checkered past in this state and Pilieri could well be a reprisal for some past snub.  
  • Awful local politics if you ask me, politics that Pilieri does not even dare to address, kind of omerta style if you ask me....
  • It still seems curious that the trial is sent to Caracas so suddenly and one can suspect that the Yaracuy judge decided not to do the dirty work of Caracas interests and forge an outright fraudulent sentence.  That is, it is one thing to bias the trial on favor of one side, but it is another thing when the bias failed and then you are requested to forge the sentence outright.  Since human rights violations never prescribe the local judge might have decided to bail out and let Caracas do the dirty work.  she just needed to claim sick and take an undetermined leave of absence letting the regime's urgency make its move.


Obviously, this is another example on how the judicial system exists in Venezuela only to serve the regime interests.  

But I would like to add a foot note.  The sentence just published by the TSJ page is very incomplete so we do not know why the decision.  The defense certainly did not ask for the annulment and the defense had no leeway in making that trial fraudulent since the opposition controls nothing of the judicial system.  This is a regime internal problem.

And yet that sentence is signed by only one of the three judges of that TSJ court, the one most closely identified with the regime, Aponte Aponte, author of many questioned and questionable sentences.  In that court there is also judge Marmol de Leon who is the lone critical voice left in the TSJ and she was absent "with an excuse".  I, for one, would love to know why Marmol de Leon was not there to review the case.