Chavez 's date at the Inter American Court for Human Rights

Tomorrow it might be Leopoldo Lopez who takes the witness stand at the Inter American Court for Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica, but the one on trial is Chavez and his methods of destroying democracy.

The Chavez system to use democracy to install his rule for life includes many facets, from cheating in elections to plunder the public treasure to run his "electoral campaigns".  But perhaps the most offensive one is a novel strategy of simply banning folks from running for office, the more popular they are the better to ban.  This is "legally" but unconstitutionally done by simply finding any minor fault during the public office tenure of an opponent and thus have the General Comptroller of Venezuela,. Clodosvaldo Russia, ban that person for a certain number of years from seeking any elected office.  Banning someone from running for office is something that exists in many countries, and justifiably so.  However such political bans are ALWAYS preceded by a fair trial and the ensuing condemnation were the persons involved found guilty.

In Venezuela the novelty was to give that power of diminishing political rights to an appointed crony of Chavez who can ban whoever he wants, even if that person has not stolen a paper clip, even if the state has not suffered any prejudice.  It is is enough in Venezuela that you used money allocated to buy pencils to buy paper instead and off you go into political oblivion.  This of course does not apply to Chavez who can steal, mishandle, give away whatever he wants from the public treasury and Clodosvaldo Russian will make sure that any accusation will never prosper.

This not only happened to Leopoldo Lopez in 2008 but also to hundred of other people, by and large anti Chavez, and I am sure that if we were to look into the few chavistas banned we would probably find a fair percentage of these to be victims of some political motivation rather than any actual stealing.  But Leopoldo fought all the way to the Venezuelan high Court who ruled against him and the other hundreds of guys.  So they went to Washington, the the International Commission of Human Rights where they won their case.  And it is the IACHR who is suing the Venezuelan government in Costa Rica, not Leopoldo and the victims he now represents.

Unless something major happens it is more than likely that the Venezuelan government will lose its case: after all the point here is that no one can be barred from any civil or political rights without a fair trial in a court of justice.  That is not in question.  What the Court in San Jose will settle is that the Venezuelan government can ban from political activity only those who were sent to a court of justice and lost their case, something that did not happen in the hundreds of cases for which the Venezuelan Government is sued for this week.

For one, I cannot see how the Chavez regime can wiggle its way out this time around and that is what makes this case even more interesting: what will the regime do once it lost the case?

The first thing to notice is that for all of its propaganda the regime is taking this case seriously and even as it tries to disqualify the court it is still sending a high ranking commission of lawyers and representatives of Clodosvaldo Russian to defend it. It is possible that a regime that has become so disconnected from international reality and which lives in an ideological bubble might think it can win.  But what will happen if it loses?

In other cases treated at the commission or the OAS court, the regime has simply refused to abide by the ruling.  But that was then and in an era where the MENA countries are walking fast toward democracies and where the star of Chavez is fading, refusing to acknowledge such a major case will come at a high price for the regime, a regime already highly questioned for its lack of independent judiciary.  It is important to notice that if the hunger strike of the students succeeded in one thing last week, it was in exposing that the judicial system of Venezuela obeys the wishes of the regime.  For all the separation and independence of power propaganda, when the regime decided to release political prisoners to end the strike it did so and we never saw a judge visiting the striking students to "negotiate".  The regime is thus reaching San Jose in a very weak position, but also at a time where it is scared and losing control of the situation.

I suppose that the calculation of the regime is that right now, still fresh from the legislative coup d'etat of last December, it needs to save time and refurbish its image and thus plays the game of going and defending its case.  But the verdict will come at the earliest in three months from now and by then the regime will decide whether it is convenient to accept the Court decision.  And I need to yet stress this once more: and adverse decision by the court will be very, very damaging for chavismo and Chavez, whether they accept the ruling or not.  Which means that the calculations of accepting the ruling will be solely based on internal politics at the end of the year as to which affects the most Chavez reelection bid of 2012.  By the end of this year Chavez will not care anymore about international opinion at all, only about what pays off internally.  His cynical calculation is that with oil back at 100, once he is reelected he will try to pull a Qaddafi and "reconcile" with the West, and maybe then accept the negative verdicts he received in international courts.  That is the ways thugs operate.

You read it here first, remember.


I have summarized many of the elements on the above text, but if you want to check it out you can go to the web page that Leopoldo Lopez set on this subject, in English, with plenty of details on that matter.

You can still sign the petition in support of Leopoldo and the hundreds of people that are deprived of their political rights.

Do Russians love Hugo?

Well, not specially. According to the Russian company Medialogija (Lenta dixit), the Venezuelan military caudillo ranks position 37 in the list of most popular world leaders. Hugo is thus much less popular than French president Nicolas Sarkozy (position 16), Kazakhastan dictator Nazarbaev (position 29) and Belorussian dictator Lukashenko (position 33). Position 1, 2, 3 and 4 are for Medvedev, Putin, Yanukovich and Obama.

Ouch, Hugo...that must hurt. You spent billions of dollars on Russian weapons and that is how they like you? You are giving them thousands and thousands of top land in Zulia for them to grow bananas and that is how they appreciate you? Well, on the other hand Russians voted Georgian Jossef Stalin the third greatest Russian of all times. Still: it must hurt.

The rewards of blogging

A must read book,
 if you have not done so yet
Exhausted, on a slow unseasonal rainy Sunday, after a chokefull week of news from Libya and the OAS seat in Caracas, I got a revitalizing moment with one of those rare rewards in blogging.  A reader wrote a comment on a post written in December 2006!  Not that I never get comments for posts older than a couple of weeks (which is normal) but those I get usually come from some latecomer chavista sandalista who is suddenly discovering damaging blogs to its cause.  Besides cursing me there is nothing to write home about.

But today it was different.

The comment in question by Juan Pablo Sans basically congratulated me for my foresight then on the future of Venezuela.  He mentioned an error which I will gladly discuss below.

First I  do not want to use that to claim any visionary special power.  For example, either me or Miguel, to name one colleague, have known long ago the destiny of Venezuelan economy and if there is today a surprise about the situation it is why it did not happen earlier.  Political predictions are more dicey but those in that post have turned out, except for the desertion of PODEMOS and PPT as Juan Pablo correctly underlines.  But then again, as an excuse, I could not anticipate the 2007 referendum.  No one in fact could, even if I was then already prescient about the closing of RCTV.

The regime should have read my post on December 7 and not move on the RCTV closing and the referendum loss that followed.  After all it had all what it needed to enact the laws it needed as it happened after the referendum loss. That became the authoritarian imposition of what could have been a smoother "transition" to communism.  In my defense to Juan Pablo I can also say that part of PODEMOS remained with Chavez and that it took until the end of 2010 for the PPT to break with Chavez.

Yet, I have to admit that it thrilled me that Juan Pablo reminded me of my past posts coming true.  It reminded me also the thrills in my years as a scientist when I was designing bacterial mutations with predicted biological behaviors, and those behaviors becoming at least in part verified.  I suppose that we could say that there is such a thing as Political Science even if it is a highly inaccurate one.  But like any science, if you understand the data, if you follow through, if you remember your historical precedent then you can do some visionary tricks.

Anyway, thank you Juan Pablo for reminding me that all of these years of blogging might be for some good after all, that the record is there and that I may have a lot of "I told you so" in the future, even though the whole exercise has a bitter taste of Cassandra like uselessness.
The fate of all Cassandras, to be dragged from the temple of knowledge by the bad guys
 because the good guys never listened!

PS: to Juan Pablo and other readers.  I remember that the post then got a lot of comments then but they were all lost in the debacle of Haloscan, the system I used then.  Now Juan Pablo is the lone one.  Ironic in a way.


This week started with a message in my Inbox I did not wanted to see: a rejection from one of the institutions I applied to. I was able to apply to only two programs and this one in particular, was the one I had the greatest hopes of getting in. I politely asked the department the reasons of my rejection, if there was something I can do to improve and if they would recommend me or not to re-apply next year. Maybe is not in their policies, or maybe they were just rude; but there was no reply.

To this date, I haven’t heard back from the other program; so given the fact that there’s been more than one month since I sent all the application materials and that some admissions have already been sent; I’m expecting to receive a rejection from them as well.

I started looking for alternative places and programs where my stats could make me look as a desirable candidate with strong chances to be admitted; but those programs have few if none scholarships available. The few that have some scholarship programs include only the benefit of a partial remission of tuition; which is not enough aid for me. So I really don’t know what’s the next step for me, or if there is actually a next step I can take.

At this point I feel a bit tired and frustrated. The application process requires a lot of effort and energy- specially the emotional type – and when it all comes to nothing; you just don’t know what else to do. You don’t know what to tell to those professors you annoyingly chased for months asking for a recommendation. You don’t know what words you should use when friends and relatives ask you over and over again what’s up with your plans. You have always been so centered, so responsible, that they always thought you were smart and you could achieve anything. That the sky was the only limit. They don’t know I’m like anyone else; not bright, not smart, not “special”. I don’t have an outrageous talent. I’m just me. And maybe, unlike most around me and who are apparently like myself; I’m not going to hold a masters’ or a doctoral degree’.

You hear conversations everywhere, between your family and your work place; and the university you went to. Everything leads you to the idea that you are nothing without at least a masters’ degree. I have heard too many stories that start with “Mr. X is an idiot. He couldn’t study anything beyond a licenciatura” or “Nevermind, she’s only a licenciada” (licenciatura is our equivalent to Bachelor’s degree, although it requires a bit more of coursework, usually five years instead of four and the coursework is far more focused). Am I an idiot?

I have always wanted to teach but no serious university, logically, will hire me without at least a Masters. I want to publish. I have so much things written here and there, in English, in Spanish, from novels to essays and topics I’ve been studying at work… but am I going to be taken seriously if the book cover says only “licenciada”?

The clock keeps running and people keep asking what am I going to do with my life. It seems I must have some things defined before I turn 30, but I have none. Maybe it’s due to money, politics, lack of opportunities, a Revolution in the middle, low salaries, high inflation… or maybe is just me who’s trying to adjust to a certain expectation without knowing if this expectation belongs to me or to others; and if I should continue or if I should just give up and look for some other dreams. Maybe is time for me to sit down and think, beyond my circumstances and beyond expectations that were settled even before I was born; what am I really want to do with my life and specially, what can I do with my life? What is the kind of life I want to live? Am I suitable for grad school or am I suitable for something else?

The pressures for a woman my age are subtle, but endless. If I want to be a mom, I should do it in less than 10 years because otherwise I will be too old. My biological clock can’t be cheated. If I don’t get married and settled independently before I turn 30, I’m going to be part of that obnoxious groups of “forever single”. And before I turn 30 too, I should have a more respected position in my work, it will not look good if I still hold the position that a recent Bachelors graduate could hold. Grad school also goes to the list of things I should do before I’m 30. And I’m 26, one day I’ll wake up and I’ll be 30 and there is no way, realistically that I can do so much in so little time. If I keep trying to do that, you will be reading endless stories of – what else? – frustration.

It’s time for me to be an adult, to take failures and live with them. To realize I’m never going to be what everyone is expecting me to be. That I live in a environment hard enough, and sometimes even harder for a woman. I live in a place where women salaries are considerably lower than their male counterparts, where you can’t use a short skirt for going out in hot humid day because man will “compliment” you in a rather disrespectful way, where you are expected to do all the household duties plus go to work while your male counterpart is not forced to help you (thankfully, this is changing), I live in a place where woman most be extra careful when walking alone because they can no only be mugged but also raped; I live in a place where sanitary pads have disappeared off the shelves and there is no one making a big deal out of it.

Maybe is time for me to look for what really makes me happy and do my best effort to achieve it. If it’s grad school, it should come to me; some program, some institution should accept me; some scholarship should be available and I should have merits enough to fulfill it. If It’s not grad school, none of that will happen. Maybe my life won’t be about that. Maybe it’s photography, or the piano, or the paintings, or my writings – the narrative part of my writings, perhaps not much the “serious” studies…- Maybe it’s art or music. Maybe it’s my own business. Maybe it’s a life focused in a family life alongside with my boyfriend and my hypothetical kids. Maybe it’s just something else. Somewhere else. Maybe I’ll be someone helpful, somehow “important”. Maybe I won’t be any of that. Maybe I’ll stay exactly as I am now, irrelevant, oddly normal – except for one person. And maybe it’s enough.

Or maybe it’s just me, whining over and over because of a simple e-mail; unable to know how to deal with a rejection.

Image taken from HERE, no desire to steal anyone' copyright.

Another view of regional preferences...and indifference

You can see here the list votes per state for 2010 elections, according to the Consejo Nacional Electoral. In the first chart you see total votes. Notice how the alternative forces clearly won in the most populated states. That is why the CNE had decided to do a little bit more of gerrymandering in those regions.

And look now at the second chart. Here you have the voting as percentage. You can see very clearly how abstention is the main "force" in many states. Abstention is clearly higher in almost every poorer district. There are many factors at play here: people are repelled by local caudillos that no one there really wanted, people there often think there is no hope whatever they do or they simply care less. Still, one that is often overseen by the top leaders of the alternative parties is that most people in those regions have no transportation means...unless it is a PDVSA bus mobilizing to vote for the military regime.

As I said in earlier posts, the opposition cannot just wait and wish people in those areas don't vote for the PSUV. The alternative forces have to go to those areas. Very unfortunately, some "national" party leaders are actually regional feudal lords (Táchira's governor, Carabobo's governor) and none seems to want to move his or her ass unless he/she is declared the national candidate. As usual in Venezuela, everybody wants to be the absolute leader and almost no one wants to do the hard work that is needed. Alternative forces do not seem to be studying the country's demographics. Most people do indeed live in cities, but "cities" does not mean Caracas, Maracaibo and Northern Valencia.

It is true alternative forces have very little financial resources and it is true Chávez thugs organise mobbing actions everywhere the alternative forces try to spread their message. Still, there is no way around this: the alternative forces must start now to set up networks everywhere in Venezuela. They need to do that on a clever basis. Parties need to merge when needed. They need to send not just "the annointed one", but teams with a common message and a programme. Journalists also have to start asking hard questions to the alternative "leaders". What is the reason for COPEI, Proyecto Venezuela and Convergencia, among other parties, to exist at the same time? What's the different apart from their caudillos? What are the ideological or programmatic differences between AD, UNT, Voluntad Popular and others?

Venezuela is no longer a democracy. It is an autocracy in a very similar way as Russia now. Leaders need to grow up. Most importantly, national teams with a clear message of pluralism and plans for sustainable development need to take hold.

Venezolanische Geschichte für Dummies (II)

I - II

Es ist wichtig, die geographischen Merkmale des Landes zu kennen, um die Entwicklung der Region seit Jahrtausenden zu verstehen. Ganz allgemein kann man folgende Gebiete unterscheiden:

  • Anden und Küstengebiet
Das Küstengebiet ist an sich sehr vielfältig. Im Westen -zB Guajira- und Corohalbinseln- ist das Klima oft sehr trocken. Im Zentrum und im Westen  befindet sich der Küstengebirgszug, eine Fortsetzung der Anden. Die Vegetation ist tropisch bzw subtropisch und die Pflanzenvielfalt riesig. Einige Küstengebiete waren ursprunglich  dichte Mangroven, die für menschliche Siedlung eine Herausforderung bildeten. Dazu gehören mehrere Regionen zwischen Puerto Cabello und Cupira, sowie das Orinoco-Delta. Andere Regionen bildeten vor allem Dschungel oder Wälder subtropischer Art.  Die Anden im Westen Venezuelas zeichnen sich durch verschiedene Klimazonen je nach Höhe. 
Ganz grob gesagt: die Anden und der Küstengebirgszug waren gut für die Entwicklung der Landwirtschaft. Allerdings hatte diese Region kaum Tiere, die gezüchtet werden und definitiv keine, die als Tragtiere fungieren konnten. Die Region ist aber so fruchtbar, dass früher Uramerikaner nur ein kleines Stück Land anpflanzen mussten, um genügend essen zu haben.

Diese Region wurde sehr gut von Humboldt beschrieben. Hier gibt es zwei sehr deutliche Jahreszeiten: eine Trockenzeit, die sehr lange dauert, und eine Regenzeit, die noch regnerischer ist als die der argentinischen Pampas. Die Llanos waren während des Tertiärs von Wasser bedeckt. Als das Wasser zurückging, blieb eine riesige Ebene, die sich von den Anden und vom nördlichen Gebirgszug bis zum Orinoco erstreckte. Unzählige Flüsse überqueren diese Region. Sie fliessen meistens vom Norden und Nordwesten zum Süden, zum Orinoco. Diese Flüsse werden zu richtigen Seen, wenn die Regenzeit kommt. Im Gegensatz zum Nilgebiet sind riesige Areale der Llanos überflutet. Während der Trockenzeit ist alles sehr trocken. Viele Tiere müssen im Schlamm kriechen, um etwas Wasser und Schutz gegen die Sonne zu finden. Der Boden ist extrem sauer und hat weniger Nährstoffe als andere Regionen. Ohne Bewässerungsanlage kann man während der Trockenzeit kaum etwas unternehmen.

Es war extrem unwahrscheinlich, dass Menschen in einer solchen Region jemals Landwirtschaft von sich selbst entwickeln würden. Es ist kein Wunder, dass die Uramerikaner, die bei Ankunft der Europäer da lebten, immer noch vorwiegend Jäger und Sammler waren, im Gegensatz zu denen, die in Bergen und Küstenregionen ohne Mangroven lebten. 

Es ist sehr wichtig, diese Region zu verstehen. Während man in Mexiko und Peru, aber auch in Teilen Kolumbiens grosse Regionen im Zentrum hatte, wo man leicht Landwirtschaft, selbst ohne Bewässerungsanlagen, betrieben konnte, war das in Venezuelas Mittel nicht der Fall. Als die Spanier in Mexiko ankamen, fanden sie grosse Siedlungsgebiete im Zentrum. In Venezuela waren nur die Regionen in der Nähe der Küste und in den Anden dicht besiedelt. Vor allem im Westen und im Zentrum der venezolanischen Llanos - wo Otomaken und Guamos lebten- führten die Bewohner ein karges Leben als Sammler und Jäger, die vor allem in der Regenzeit genug zu essen hatten.

  • Guayana und Amazonas
Diese Region, südlich vom Orinoco, ist extrem fruchtbar. Allerdings sind die Urwälder oft so dicht, dass die Besiedlung keine leichte Aufgabe war. Dazu ist die Bodenschicht mit Nährunstoffen sehr dünn.

Was wissen wir über die ersten Einwohner Venezuelas?


There some people or countries who perfectly match any or all definitions of "enabler":

1.a. To supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity; make able
b. To make feasible or possible
2. To give legal power, capacity, or sanction to
3. To make operational; activate

And some even go as far as matching the psychological meaning of "enabler":  

A family member, friend, co-worker, cleric or other person who, by being deeply concerned for the well-being of a substance abuser, facilitates the person's continued abuse by attempting to help the abuser–eg.: shouldering responsibility, making excuses for him or her, in fact encourages continued alcoholic or substance-abusing behavior.

What is happening in Libya today (or Venezuela for that matter) is yet another text book case of "enabling" in all of the senses above.  As a dual citizen I must start by blaming France as one of the main enablers of hard core repressive regimes, whether the president comes from Socialist ranks or the Gaullist ones.  The coddling of Mitterrand to many an African Dictator is known as much as Sarkozy's entreaties to Libya's Qaddafi once he threw a few million to clean up his act such as paying off a few of the victims of the planes he had shot down.  Was Qaddafi not allowed to plant his Bedouin tent on the Champs Elysees?

It is not only in Libya, as we can discuss at will what on earth (besides the obvious economic gains) pushed France's Alcatel to sell Venezuela a submarine cable that links Cuba to Venezuela, Cuba a country where Internet is censored and where the average citizen cannot afford a cell phone?.  The note I mention indicates that Internet speed in Cuba will be increased by three thousand.  So, does that mean that Yoani Sanchez will be able to blog at ease?  Who are we kidding here?  The French are allowing Cuba to connect fast to Venezuela so political and police control can be done straight from Cuba much more efficiently than inside Venezuela.  Can possibly Alcatel, the French ambassador attending the opening, the French strategic agencies be so oblivious of what is the real reason for such a cable? To bypass any Western Satellite that could intercept messages between the two repressive regimes, and thus repress better, control better the citizens.

Of course France is not alone and we must include as two major offenders the UK and Italy where Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi go hand in hand redeeming Qaddafi once this one allowed them to control part of his oil and buy from them a whole bunch of weapons in spite of his notable terrorist past.

Maybe the US has not been such an enabler of Qaddafi: at least we must recognize that they tried to bomb kill him once.  But the PanAm airline was a US airline jet shot over Lockerbie and it is damaging that the rapprochement was started under Bush junior just as on the other hand he bombed Iraq who certainly did not do anything worse than Libya did as far as sponsoring terrorism (I leave outside the Kuwait invasion because Qaddafi never had the army to invade anyone otherwise I am certain he would have done so long ago).

However in the case of Venezuela and Chavez  the US stands right there as an enabler together with Brazil.  The career of Chavez would have never reached the current stage if the US's Bush and Brazil's Lula had not been so eager to provide him with all sorts of food items so that he could enslave quite a portion of the country through food distribution systems, while buying oil and paying cash.  We had to wait for Obama to hear the White House actively encourage buying less oil from Venezuela.

You may argue whatever you want but Brazilian and US companies knew very well that they were screwing Venezuelan local production and that Chavez was using that for political purposes, though we must admit that concerns like Cargill or Sadia did not brag about it.  It is true that Chavez could have found food elsewhere but only the US and Brazil could provide him with the amounts he needed.  Was it that difficult for Lula to demand some political concessions in exchange of cheap food or political support elsewhere?  It was in fact a perfect enabling triangle: Venezuela sold oil tot he US so it could attack safely Iraq; the US sold equipment to Brazil so its industrialization could advance fast; and Brazil sold cheap food to Venezuela so the oil we sold to the US ended up in Venezuelans toilets. Literally.

Maybe we could discuss here, if you must, what is the real drug: power or oil; and thus maybe question who is the real enabler.  But in the psychological sense the enabler and enabled work together and eventually become one.

It remains that if people like Chavez and Qaddafi have gone as far as they have it is because too many countries abdicated their responsibility and chose to look elsewhere as long as they could get something out of the relationship.  And when such countries are so lenient, so "pretend" that all is not that bad, then the enabled of the world can unite to help each other better in their vices as Chavez and Qaddafi did.  Now Europe is getting ready to pay the price of abetting so many Arab dictatorships, just as soon enough Brazil and the US will pay for their neglect of Venezuela, once upon a time the beacon of democracy in Latin America.

PS: Interestingly both Qaddafi and Chavez with their puffed and distorted faces might indicate that there are also drug enablers in their entourage, which certainly explain the terrible end of Qaddafi and allows us to predict a terrible end for chavismo.

How to make a nation of beggars

Black beans, pinto beans, red beans, green beans: they all grow so easily we used to take them for granted in Venezuela before Chávez came to power. You could do nothing wrong if you were growing beans in Venezuela's fertile land. Now we are importing them from China. We are also importing cereals and vegetables from there. The military regime says it is making Venezuela more secure because it will store some of those imports.

This is absolutely mental. Venezuela importing beans from China is like Spain importing olives from Vietnam

Update: well, actually it is not: you need to wait years and years before your olive tree produces the first olives and olivie trees require particular soils and seasonal temperatures. You just have to wait weeks to see the beans grow and they grow very easily almost everywhere in Venezuela.

The military regime is also letting the Chinese and some Belorussians do the construction work in Venezuela. Why? Because now Venezuelans are incapable of doing that themselves. Productivity is lower than ever.

Weight-ligting and gun-tottering Juan Carlos Loyo, the minister for the "Popular Power for Agriculture and Land" said Venezuela imports no more than 30% of its food requirements. And cows lay eggs. He says Venezuela will now "export bananas". In reality the Chávez regime signed a deal in Russia early last year that would benefit Russian corporation JFC at the cost of Venezuela's private producers. Once Chávez came back to Venezuela, he expropiated the land Russians had an eye on already. So far for food independence. I wrote about that case in Spanish here.

Ecuador of all countries is exporting vehicles to Venezuela now. It used to be the other way around: Venezuela would import some parts, produce some others and assemble them for internal production and for export to some countries in the region. That was before Chávez came to power. The Veniran join venture between Iran and Venezuela to produce vehicles is one of the many forgotten stories of Chavismo.

The regime can still do all this because oil prices are at record levels. Only for some months in 2008 were they higher. And yet Venezuela's total debt in 2009 was 36.35% of its GDP when it was 32% in 2000. As a reference: the OPEC basket price was  $27.6 a barrel in 2000 and $61.01 in 2009. This year the OPEC barrel is giving on average $95.85.

If you read Spanish, check out El País's article for further details on how the regime is wasting the biggest oil boom in Venezuela's history.

Many have predicted the fall for years now but no one ever thought oil prices would keep rising this way. Still, once thing is sure: oil prices cannot keep increasing forever and Chavismo can get less and less for each petrodollar it receives. When the fall comes, it will be disastrous.

If you think the percentage of beggars is staggering in the US, wait until you see Venezuela now

En contra de las inhabilitaciones anticonstitucionales

Leopoldo Lopez esta a punto de viajar para la Corte Interamericana de San Jose como testigo principal en el  caso donde el gobierno venezolano esta demandado por privar ciudadanos de sus derechos políticos sin juicio formal ni sentencia firma.  Como tal va en representación de los centenares de políticos injustamente castigados por Clodosvaldo Ruffian.  Lo menos que podemos hacer por el y los que el representa es firmar una petición que se entregará a la corte el día de la audiencia.

Firma AQUÍ, y visita ESTA PÁGINA para entender el lío.

Von Militär zu Militär: Wie die Chávez-Regierung Gaddafi unterstützt

Hahaha, ich scheisse auf Menschenrechte in Ländern, deren Regierungen mein Kommandant-Präsident verteidigt

Aussenminister Nicolas Maduro musste gestern vor der Nationalversammlung reden. Das ist die einzige Möglichkeit der alternativen Parteien, Minister zu befragen -Chávez ist davon ausgeschlossen-.

Die Opposition fragte, wie die Chávez-Regierung ihre Beziehungen zu Gaddafi erklären konnte. Gaddafis Freundschaft zu Chávez ist genauso bekannt wie die Berlusconis. Gaddafi hatte zB vor kurzem die höchste Auszeichnung Venezuelas von Chávez bekommen und Chávez hatte erklärt, Qaddafi sei Libyens Bolívar.

Maduro sagte nun, Al Qaeda-Gruppen seien für das Chaos verantwortlich und Libyen werde  von einem Bürgerkrieg bedroht. Maduro erklärte ferner, die Nachrichtenagenturen "des Imperiums" würden nur mit Vorurteilen informieren. Der  Aussenminister verglich die Berichterstattung der internationalen Medien jetzt mit der Berichterstattung während der 11.4.2002-Demos und des darauffolgenden Coups in Venezuela. Und dann fragte er, warum die Opposition nicht untersucht, wer Irak, Afganistan und Pakistan bombardiert, als ob das mit Venezuela zu tun hätte.

Chávez oder derjenige, der sein Twitter-Konto verwaltet, twitterte währenddessen folgendes:
"So ist das, Kanzler Nicolás, erteil den ultrarechten Yanki-Knechten noch mal eine Lektion. Es lebe Libyen und seine Unabhängigkeit. Gaddafi konfrontiert einen Bürgerkrieg"

Vamos Canciller Nicolás: dales otra lección a esa ultraderecha pitiyanqui! Viva Libia y su Independencia! Kadafi enfrenta una guerra civil!!"

Ihr könnt Daniels Bericht auf Englisch hier lesen. Ich bin lediglich mit einer Sache nicht einverstanden: Gadaffi verachtet die Menschenrechte, er ist aber meines Wissens und laut Experten wie Scholl-Latour und Robert Fisk gar nicht Al-Qaeda-nah. Gaddafi erwähnte diese Terrorgruppe schon, um Angst bei den Europäern einzujagen -vergeblich. Die europäischen Regierung scheinen nur zwei Sachen im Kopf zu haben: den Flüchtlingsstromm zu verhindern und die Erdölgeschäfte so bald wie möglich zu normalisieren. Das ist aber eine andere Geschichte.

Eins ist klar: Chávez bereitet sich vor für die Zeit, wenn das venezolanische Volk massal protestiert...Volk, das seines Erachtens nicht das Volk ist, denn das Volk ist nur, wer hinter ihm steht.

So wie Gadaffi hat Chávez einheimische - die milicias bolivarianas - und ausländische Söldner - die Kubaner der Sicherheitseinheiten-. Im Gegensatz zu Libyen kann Chávez Venezuela nie ganz abschotten. Das Land war allzu sehr mit dem Rest der Welt verbunden, als er an die Macht kam - dies ist etwas, was viele Ausländer gar nicht verstehen-. Diese milicias werden auch nicht so brutal sein wie die in Libyen jetzt. Und dennoch kann man schon erahnen, wie Chávez sich vorbereitet, um seine Macht zu verteidigen.

Klick hier, um die letzten AI-Berichte über Libyen zu lesen
Amnesty ist wahrscheinlich Chávez zufolge eine Abteilung der CIA

Hier für Robert Fisks Artikel in Libyen

Hier für Al-Jazeeras Bericht über Venezuela und Libyen

Venezuela's government supports Qaddafi: denial ain't a river next to Egypt.....

In what will go for the posterity as one of the shallowest, most vindictive, ignorant moments of the bolivarian farce we will remember the words of foreign minister Maduro today at the Nazional Assembly (sorry, I think I need to retake the pre January 5 appellation becasue only in a Nazional Assembly can such words be uttered unpunished).

The Opposition of course, as any good opposition would do in any democracy, demanded that Venezuela explain its ties to murderer Qaddafi who until not even two years ago was an illustrious guest of Venezuela, deserver of a replica of Bolivar's sword and even, gasp, was qualified as the Bolivar of Libya.

Until now the regime had been mercifully discreet on the events of Libya, denying promptly the Hague rumor that Qaddafi was on his way to Venezuela.  But this has changed today with the simply astounding words of Maduro at the Assembly.  Some of the things he addressed.

He stated that in Libya there were Al Qaeda armed groups responsible for the mess.  Of course Maduro does not explain how come the Qaddafi ridiculous announcement earlier today had any credibility coming from the embattled leader of one of the most Islamic countries of the Middle East, and certainly the most anti Israel and US besides Iran.  Why would Al Qaeda want to overthrow Qaddafi and spend so much time organizing such a stupendous revolt when there is so much work to be done in so many other Arabic countries?

He said that there was a risk of civil war due to interests from oil concerns.  Well, maybe and maybe even certainly.  Except that no country has more than 30% of Libyan oil and it is difficult to see how one country could take over a devastated post Qaddafi country with all of its oil production damaged or shut down, when so many other countries are interested.  No, the real message here is a threat to the opposition, the implication that Zulia is preparing a secession and so any action against Zulia after the Libya example would be perfectly justified.  Yes, it is that simplistic a reasoning in the feverish mind of the Chavez regime.

He criticized the biased information coming from "imperial agencies" which are lying outright.  Maduro also praised the coverage of Telesur as if Telesur had better access to Tripoli than, say, CNN.  We must note today that for some obscure reason the Venezuelan ambassador to Libya reported that nothing was happening in Libya, that all was just fine and dandy.  Which, curiously, does not stop them from evacuating Venezuelans. Yet, yesterday we learned that the Venezuelan embassy there was not planning any evacuation of its nationals like every other country was doing, including, gasp, China who Chavez claims as his Maoist revolutionary friend.  For good measure Maduro compared the flow information in Libya to what has become the only reference point for chavismo, April 11 2002.  Ah!  If they could find a way to annul the words of Lucas Rincon then as to Chavez resigning!

Sensing that his words were not convincing he went on the offensive asking that those who should be investigated are "those bombing Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan". Why that? Who knows!? As if these three conflicts were one and the same. But if any element of his replies screamed of desperation at how to dig himself out of his former support of Qaddafi it was that stoopid comparison.

But Maduro was not alone wallowing in his stinking ditch.  Chavez was following the session on Twitter (has he nothing better to do than follow the Assembly?).  A tweet of Chavez read "Vamos Canciller Nicolás: dales otra lección a esa ultraderecha pitiyanqui! Viva Libia y su Independencia! Kadafi enfrenta una guerra civil!!", Go ahead secretary Maduro: give another lesson to that US sucker ultrarightwing.  Long live Libya and its independence!  Qaddafi faces a civil war!

I do not think that Chavez did write that Tweet and he should certainly fire the person that does his tweets becasue s/he cannot fake it anymore.  Chavez would not have written "canciller Maduro" but plainly "Nicolas" as he does every time.  And also I think that Chavez is scared shitless at this time with the obvious Libyan mirror to the future of Venezuela if he keeps as he goes that he would not write such a stupid tweet.  Probably a Cuban did.

As far as I am concerned at least I understood something about the intense stupidity and bad faith of the moment: the support of Venezuela for Qaddafi these past years was strictly based on his anti US stance.  That was enough for Chavez and chavismo to bond with Qaddafi without any regard whatsoever for the country situation, good, bad, stable, whatever.  It was a Chavez Qaddafi relationship and that was enough.  Now they try to justify it and the only thing they show us is how ignorant of the reality they are, how immersed in ridiculous ideology the regime is today.  Bad omen for Venezuela..

Venezuelan tongues (II)

Imagine you burnt a Library of Alexandria every so many months. Well: that is the kind of information we are losing with the disappearance of so many languages all over the world.

A language is not just an alternative to express the same things. A language is a very complex system people use to shape universal and unique ideas, ideas that in turn reshape the system. A language is a world in itself. Take a look at this riveting video from The Guardian:

Venezuela's main language by far is Spanish. That has been the case for probably 400 years now. Still, there are still many languages spoken by the First Nations. Most of them are under threat.

The present map shows the main native American languages still spoken today in Venezuela:

The main language families are the Arawak family (Wayuu and Warekena, Kurripako and Piapoko) and the Caribe family (like Pemon, Yekuana, Yukpa and Panare). Pemon and Yekuana are like Spanish and French or perhaps Spanish and Romanian. Pemon and Arawak languages are as far apart to each other as possible. And then there are several languages that stand alone. They are like Basque: there is nothing around like them. One of them is Warao and another is Uruak.

Warao is a language still spoken by about 20000 to 30000 people in the Delta. Uruak is a language that is probably extint or about to become extint at this very moment. There are several other languages that are on the verge of extinction in Venezuela. Uruak and Sapé are some of them.

Some two years ago the Venezuelan government finally approved the creation of the Instituto Nacional de Idiomas Indígenas. It exists on paper alone. The laws on promotion of the native American languages have been implemented only so far. We need more than just letting children sing the national anthem in a couple of those languages or to finance for just some time a couple of programmes for children to learn to write some lists of words in their parents' language.

If the government or private organisations wanted to spend just some dozens of thousands of dollars -less than what you need for a fancy jeep-, there would be enough to save one Library of Alexandria and a lot of our unique cultural wealth. We have several Libraries of Alexandria in Venezuela and they are burning right now.

Ps. I have written a bit on native languages in Venezuela in Wikipedia and you can read some of it from here

Libya, Venezuela and the rest

Venezuela's regime goes on supporting Chávez's friend Muammar Gaddafi. Chávez had previously declared Gaddafi was the Simón Bolívar of Libya and he gave him the highest prize there is in Venezuela, the Orden del Libertador. Now you can see how the Venezuelan news agency keeps only reporting Gaddafi's side plus wha Fidel Castro says and some handpicked news on the European-US American reactions. "Telesur reveals campaign of desinformation about Libya", "contradictions within the EU towards Libya" and so on.

You don't read anything about Gaddafi's crimes, about the massacres, about Gaddafi threatening to kill people if they do not surrender. It makes you wonder if Hugo Chávez will also try to use Cuban intelligence people. Cuban security thugs have been in Venezuela for many years now.


William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, was clumsy at best when he prematurely declared Gaddafi was on his way to Venezuela. He probably wanted to use the impressions public had on Gaddafi to remind them of Chávez.

Again, Europe is proving to be unprepared to deal with this kind of crisis. We hear Cameron saying it is naive to want to prevent weapons export to dictatorships. I want him to explain that statement is naive and his not shameful for Britain.

German Thomas de Maizière seems to be more worried about refugees than about anything else.

Just some of the key places now

Red: places that seem to be liberated from Gaddafi's regime
Green: places were fighting is going on

Some of the sources:
The Guardian
Al Jazeera

CNN reporta un Sukhoi estrellado en Libia

Aparentemente según la CNN,  unos pilotos libios decidieron no masacrar la población y estrellaron su avión, un Sukhoi-22.  Obviamente saltaron en paraciadas antes.  Ustedes saquen sus propias comparaciones y conclusiones con situaciones distintas pero no tan ajenas.  Si no saben de que estoy hablando les propongo un blog margariteño y revolucionario, amante de los Sukhoi -33. A ver y  les llega la noticia del Sukhoi estrellado.

Pilieri, the students and our lack of power division.

Before going to work, I passed by the OAS office to see how things were going. Some students are still there with their tents, accompanied by a big placard with one of the most remarkable political prisoner’s photo: elected depute (and Daniel’ representantive) Biagio Pilieri. A 20 year old girl with brackets assured me with a smile that Pilieri is now free as a result of their negotiations and their long hunger strike; suspended yesterday. The strike had, besides Pilieri’ release (which is only partial, as I’ll explain later), some achievements: they set up a negotiation table with the government, some of the political prisoners’ cases will be revised and they were promised to visit a prison

If those achievements were enough to suspend the strike and to celebrate the way these students did last night, it is not for me to judge. Perhaps inside the regime we have, what it can be seen as only small achievements, are actually huge; and hard to get. To fight against this regime you must do it one step at the time. And to keep the spirits alive you probably need to cheer and take account of every single -small or not -achievement. I’m personally against hunger strikes, I respect the ones who do it and I too defend their causes; but I think we can reoccur to other ways of protests without damaging our health this much. Of course, this country situation is getting worse every day and perhaps extreme measures such as this one are needed. I’m just in the hope that we can yet use other was to pressure.

Besides that, make no mistake: the decision concerning Pilieri’ case was a political; not a judicial one. His release is only partial so the government has not yet recognized its mistake. Apparently, he’s still being judge and he has to present to courts periodically. But at least he can take his seat at the National Assembly.

Pilieri was judged and declared innocent. Against the rule of law that says no one can be judged more than once for the same cause; a second trial was opened against him with what it was even weirder, an imprisonment measure. Once he won the elections, he should have taken his seat at the National Assembly, with no possible trials against him since deputies enjoy parliamentary immunity. In violation of all possible rights and principles, this didn’t happen. Same as it was a political decision what kept him facing senseless trials and out of his seat; it was also a political decision to release him.

This clearly shows the lack of independence of powers in this country. One call and he’s in jail, because of the same cause of which has proven to be innocent. One call and he’s free. The judges do not make independent decisions; they just sit and wait for calls from “up there”. Sentences are being made even before trial starts, the president and the ministers state if someone is guilty or not, and for how long should be punished; simply by speaking “their opinion” (their orders) on TV.

Although Pilieri might take his seat, he still doesn’t enjoy the right of parliamentary immunity. He has to present to court periodically which is, by all means, a liberty with considerable restrictions it should not have.

Either way, this is a partial win situation for the opposition: we have the seat we won but it was taking from us at the Assembly and the existence of political prisoners in Venezuela and the treatment they are receiving have gotten international attention. On the other hand, this is a loss- loss situation for the government: the Revolution has been forced to give up on some issues, such as Pilieri after claiming he was a delinquent and all that blah blah… and, although interior Minister’ Aissami has declared that this was an “institutions victory”; for me and for many others, this was a proof that institutions don’t work in an institutional way, but a political one. The small concessions the government gave are by no means a proof of how “democratic and respectful of Human Rights” is; but rather of how trapped it feels for they to admit that they do have political prisoners.

And Venezuela's military junta keeps supporting Gaddafi

Just read the state (i.e. Chávez) Agencia Bolivarian de Venezuela news:

Al Gaddafi: USA wants to do the same thing in Libya as in Iraq.
Al Gaddafi: Foreign Powers are behind protests in Libya
Libyan president invited media to tell the truth
Special UN session to discuss situation in Libya
Fidel Castro warns about inminent plan to invade Libya

And funnily the ABV site also has stuff like

Budget cuts trigger massive protests in the United States.

I used to read Soviet Pravda and Izvestia as a child as those were some of the few means I had in pre-Internet Venezuela for "contemporary" Russian. I think I never saw such a biased reporting in the Soviets' blatant propaganda papers as in Venezuela's state media and that says a lot.

The funny thing: Venezuela's "Information Ministry" claims they had no sources in Libya, but they do not use Al Jazeera sources here, which they were using -albeit selectively- for Egypt. And the Venezuelan government does not seem to have an idea about what Amnesty International has been saying for decades about the situation in Libya.

I know there are double standards everywhere, I know and I have openly rejected the hypocritical attitude everybody has carried out with Libya, but here we are talking about a new level. Daniel wrote some interesting thoughts about why Gaddafi is so desperate.

By the way: here from 3:32 and for a few seconds you will see Gaddafi's closest friends. Chávez is second to the right. That was during the one-week celebration of Gaddafi's 40 years in power.

What fate for Qaddafi?

Well, it seems tonight that the fate of Qaddafi regime is sealed.  The Eastern part of the country seems irremediably lost and the regime has trouble to even mark its presence in Tripoli.  The streets are rife with rumors of mercenaries, which might be true or not but which indicate that the general belief is that the only people left with Qaddafi are his family and those that will be punished in the future Libya. 

All comparisons with another country near you are for you to make, but I can assure you one thing is that if the country I have in mind keeps going on we might not need to wait for ten years to have a spontaneous insurrection here to.

So what will be the fate of Qaddafi?

Now the the UN security council has voted a strong resolution, it is clear that he is on his way to the Hague tribunal sooner than later.  I am not sure that even Saudi Arabia would receive him.  He has only Iran or Sudan as options if he escapes alive from Libya.  Because in my mind, considering how many people have been active collaborators of the Qaddafi ruthless tyranny I am afraid that his end will be a Ceausescu type of end.  If you remember Commie Romania, it was perhaps the worst country in Eastern Europe where only close collaborators of the regime could put an end to it.  Knowing full well what their fate would be in a post Ceausescu country, be they sent speedily the Ceausescus to the firing squad as an atonement. The shock and relief of the citizens was such that no major purge followed even though it was sorely needed.

The violence of Libya this week is a witness of the awful degradation of the country after 40+years of a mad man at the helm, duly enabled by all sorts of countries or people (through drugs or contracts, same difference).  So many people have been oppressing so many people that a massive and quickie atonement measure can avoid a major, major bloodshed.  The skin of Qaddafi and some of his nefarious sons could well do it.  Qaddafi speech today might hint that he knows that this will be his fate and he is trying to make it a martyrdom of sorts.  But after ordering your planes to bomb your citizens, there is no Che historical outcome for Muammar.

PS: as for the coward enablers in the West for Libya oil access, the Tony Blair and Sylvio Berlusconi and other pals, I will hope that an excuse is forthcoming fast with a resolve never to let such regimes prosper again.  At least for once the US is sort of off the hook, as the only country that actively bombed the Jamahiriya and who was among the very last to finally reestablish relations with the regime.

PS2: do you know that a very lose translation of Jamahiriya is Consejos Comunales?  there you go......

A mandatory reading from Gustavo Coronel

Gustavo Coronel writes more than his blog and today the web page of El Universal accepted one lengthy article on the state of the oil industry in Venezuela.  Gustavo Coronel has made a career in PDVSA and the pre PDVSA companies and as far as the reality on the ground I think that today his experience is top notch, beyond numbers and estimates put forth by the regime and even journalists.

Do your self a favor and read "The petroleum policy of the Hugo Chavez government", in English and in Spanish at his blog if you prefer.

On students protests and the Venezuelan English blogosphere

I wish I could have posted this sooner, but I’m unable to post anything while I’m at work. This morning I was able to accompany, briefly, a students’ demonstration that parted from Altamira with the intention of going to the Chancellery. Once in Chacao – less than one metro station away – they were forced to change their route and thus decided to go to the OAS office located in Las Mercedes. State Institutions only hear the claims of the Bolivarian Revolution supporters, if they actually hear any claim. As for the rest of Venezuelans, its doors are closed. If Venezuelans want to protest against the Revolution, they have no choice but to do it away from those institutions of which they should expect an answer to their queries.

The demonstration was in support of another group of students, who were in hunger strike at the OAS office, three embassies and 10 Venezuelan states. The strikers were demanding the OAS’ Human Rights commission to visit the country and evaluate our situation, especially concerning political prisoners. The students in Caracas were supported by students in other Venezuelan cities. This hunger strike lasted 18 days and more than 80 students joined it. A few hours after the demonstration, they suspended the strike claiming the goals were already achieved. I don't think their goals have been achieved at all (I will discuss this later), but for the sake of their health, I'm glad they suspended it. You can see pictures of students cheering after concluding the strike here

Luckily, when I encountered the march, I was carrying my hand camera. I have uploaded a brief video so you can see the mood of the protest. I felt the protesters were both angry and determined to do something. After all, a hunger strike is no joke. When the protest reached the highway, I had to abandon it and take a bus back to work. Here is the video:

The government’ response, at least until today, has been nothing but disappointing. From ministers declaring that students in hunger strike actually sneak out and eat without been seen; to government supporters cooking a barbecue in front of the strikers.

I have avoided talking about this issue because it is a very sensitive and controversial one. Hunger strike is one of the most extreme ways of protest available and it should be the last resource. Hunger strike is not a march, a demonstration, a cacerolazo, a blog or a letter… is an extreme measure which compromises your body. Hunger strikes always makes irreversible damages to your body. I see these students, hardly older than 21, just starting their lives and whom already face, as a result of this hunger strike, health issues that will hunt them for the rest of their lives; despite of the results of the protest. This is no joke and I’m extremely concerned about their health. It is unfair that Venezuelans feel forced to reoccur to such extreme ways to protest in order to be heard. And as Franklin Brito’ case has proven, is a measure far from being effective.

Those students shouldn’t be in hunger strike. They should be dancing, dating, and enjoying the rest of their youth which will not last long. Over all, they should be studying. They should have the right to live a normal life. But that’s a right no one from my generation and the generations that follow has enjoyed.

On a different topic, today I was informed that English Venezuelan blogger’ Miguel, has left the country. He will only make sporadic visits now but his permanent residence will be established somewhere else. If I’m not mistaken he was the first and remains to be one of the most prominent and respected Venezuelan English blogger. The other one is Daniel; who wrote a long post on Miguel’ departure and his concerns for being the only English Venezuelan blogger left in the country.It is painful to see that every day, someone you know - online or not - leaves the country for good.

As for Daniel' post, if you ask, he probably did not mentioned me because:

a) my blog’ style strongly differs from both Miguel’ and Daniel’. Their blogs are intended to be sources of information and smart commentary on Venezuelan situation. Thus they eagerly cover all topics. When I decided to start an English blog, I noticed that all topics were pretty much covered. Plus I lacked of the English knowledge and the experience Miguel – Daniel duo has. That’s why I developed this blog as a chronicle of a life inside the Venezuelan Revolution instead of working as a citizen reporter. With Miguel’ outside this country, I will have change this blog’ approach a little, to cover some topics and events he will no longer be able to. But I won’t publish a word on most economical issues because I simply don’t have the expertise to do such a thing.

b) I have been an inconstant blogger. I do not publish frequently (it was never my intention to do that) and out of fear, I have closed this blog two times. As a result, I’m probably not as trusted as other bloggers and this is a legitimate feeling. I will try to publish more frequently and to avoid the fears of the consequences of my writings. But unlike most politicians here, I don’t feel I can make empty promises.

c)My English is not good. Let’s face it, it isn’t. I already told you under what circumstances I learned this language and continue learning. I fear sometimes not being properly understood or to not be able to explain you things because of my language limitations. A limited English probably influx this blog’ quality, I have no doubts about it.

Either way, If we are able to, we’ll have to support each other in the dark days to come. I also extend this invitation to frequent commenters and unknown readers out there: specially if you live in Venezuela and want to start your own English’ blog, please do it; you are very much needed. I will give you any support/advice/ etc required to start this task. Venezuelan situation requires more than two English bloggers writing from the ground.

Venezuela's brain drain versus "may they all go, we don't need them!"

Blogger Miguel announced he is leaving Venezuela. Miguel is a top physicist and a financial master. He is one of the few with a comprehensive understanding of what is wrong with Venezuela's economic, technological and social development. Most importantly, he is one of the very few who can honestly say what needs to be done.

He goes

  • because the military around Chávez and the pseudo-socialists and boliburgueses are destroying science, technology and Venezuela's economy and Miguel, who has been opposing this, wants after so many years to breathe freely,
  • because Venezuela has now, unlike in 1998, the by far highest murder rate of South America.
  • because the number of kidnappings keeps increasing and people like Miguel -unlike the Boliburgueses- do not have bodyguards, nor do they want to have bodyguards anyway.
  • because corruption has grown much worse than what it was 12 yeas ago
  • because now one cannot develop as a professional in Venezuela but only as a mediocre military boot-licker
  • because the ones to prosper are the military, the criminals and the importers of luxury goods, not the producers, and these last only as long as they go along with the military regime.

I have met many of the very best scientists, engineers, physicians of Venezuela. A lot of them have left the country. A lot of them are thinking to do the same. The military regime still keeps Fundayacucho, the programme for scholarships, but that programme as well as all the rest are so politicized that they have become a complete farce. At least in the Soviet Union there was an increase in the quality of education. Here we see its further degradation.

I have told this to some who are or were still Chávez-worshippers. They laugh and say: "well, they should all go away, they should go, we don't need them!" The guys don't understand they are also cutting the tree branch they are sitting on.

I wish Miguel a lot of happiness in his new homeland. I hope he keeps on blogging in the same incisive way he does now.

Between the Devil and the Deep blue sea, our Venezuelan blogging devil decided to take care of himself. I hope he and so many others who have been so useful to Venezuela will not very far away in the future have good reasons to cross back that sea, back to what once was and could still be the Land of Grace.

The good Devil moves out of Venezuela

Today the Venezuelan blogosphere news is that Miguel has moved out of the country.  Not totally, as he tells us he will keep coming for a few days regularly for work reasons, but the fact of the matter is that from this week on, most of his time will be spent under other skies.  As I wrote a few days ago, we can count him as a chavista casualty, from death or exile, among those people that we will not see around us anymore because of the abject failure of chavismo.  Either way a loss for Venezuela though at least the exiles are a gain for other countries.

I did rely a lot on Miguel.  To begin with it is because of him that I stopped writing about economic stuff since he covered it so much better than I could ever hope to do.  Only agricultural problems were left for me to cover on the economic front since it is my job after all.  It worked out well for us as our blogs were complementary, covering all the Venezuelan reality as we were not in competition, our interests being different.  On search engines, because Miguel has been writing for so many years, he has become the overall  biggest source of visitors for my blog even though we rarely link to each other as many of our readers seem to naturally get into one to go on the other one according to which blog they prefer (probably entering Miguel's first because, you know, he talks about your wallet).

But Miguel also covered many Caracas events that I was not able to attend and now in English no one is left to cover, say, the march tomorrow in Caracas to support the students on hunger strike, something I am sure Miguel would have done his best to attend.  Not to mention that Miguel wrote every week, more than once a week and no other blog in Venezuela has that dedication to replace him in English.  I am alone now with the stamina, and hoping that maybe Miguel's departure will inspire a him or a her to pick up the torch, a self imposed burden, and I know what I am talking of.

Thus the Venezuelan blogosphere in English gets poorer as I am the lone one left here, all of the other have decided to leave the country over the last decade even though they may not have wanted to do so.  How long will I be able to stay?  My business is already under an "expropiese" threat and I know it is just a matter of time until chavismo runs out of things to distribute and destroy, and thus I will reach the top of the list.  Then maybe I will have to leave the country too, nothing left to do here, and certainly with no desire whatsoever to see chavismo destroy my business like I saw them destroying Agroisleña, today the Agropatria of the empty shelves, fired workers and red painted shutters.

I am not mad at Miguel for leaving, or at Alek for not staying after the 2006 campaign, or Quico from not coming back after his Dutch treat, and other whose reasons of writing from overseas are less clear to me.  If they keep writing about Venezuela it is because they love the old country, and are not the mercenaries that we see writing on Venezuela elsewhere in favor of the bolivarian farce, at least when the going was good for chavismo before it became an outright dictatorship. They left because they had to, because no one who leaves lighthearted the homeland will keep writing about it with such genuine passion, to atone perhaps for abandoning it to its fate.

In his "farewell" of sorts note Miguel commented on something very true: our job as bloggers is over anyway.  When we started we were always harassed by a variety of Chavez supporters or criticized by normal guys with the excuse of "how? so many poor, you need a Chavez anyway!".  But this is over.  Now there are only Caracas Rose type of folks left to defend Chavez.  For pay, of course.

We have won the battle in the end as Chavez is exposed for what he is: a fraud.  The narrative is different now, we are mere witness of events that are sure to come one day or the other as finally the people wake up as they did in the Middle East or Eastern Europe.  The inner mechanisms of the countries' psyches work in mysterious ways but the time always come.  Regimes who won or would have won elections at some point in their career, one day are found out to be totally despised as we see in Libya where an amazing spontaneous insurrection show people unafraid to die for freedom.  My only wish for Miguel, and me, and my exiled colleagues, is that we keep enough motivation to write until one day we will write the most exhilarating pages, when the Chavez regime finally crumbles, preferably through elections that it will not be able to resist, like it happened for the end of Ferdinand Marcos, for example.  Because to tell you the truth, I am not looking forward becoming a lone English writing voice under a Libyan type insurrection.....

So the good Devil left and the bad Devil is still in Miraflores.

Qaddafi is not in Caracas, or where is James Bond when you need him?

We can either contemplate the horror of Libyan repression with a hint of genocide, or we can look to the ridiculous.

Let's look at the ridiculous, how the British Foreign secretary allows hismelf to say that Qaddafi is on his way to Venezuela.  Let me stress that, Mr. Hague said such, that his "credible" info seemed to point it that way.  I think that the British secret service needs to clone back 007 urgently.....  Because not only the Venezuelan regime hurried up in denying this thing but Qaddafi claims to be still in Libya (though of course we have no idea whether his recent "broadcast" was actually taped in Libya......)

Quickly, two things here. First, I hope for Mr. Hague's sake that indeed Chavez is getting ready to welcome Qaddafi otherwise his head will run (or some major collaborator that fed him such crap).  And two, it is a mark on how low the Chavez regime reputation has sunk that so many unquestioning people hung themselves to Hague's word and were already spotting Qaddafi shopping in Caracas malls.  OK, I exaggerate but you see my point, I am sure.

Now, in a rare show of support for Chavez, I, for one, do not think that the Chavez regime is foolish enough to welcome Qaddafi, who at this point might not even be welcome in Saudi Arabia.  Sudan for him, at the very best.  Then again Chavez antics  have proven me wrong in the past.

Yet I wish Chavez would welcome Qaddafi because this would only speed up the demise of Chavez as it would be his final break up with the civilized left.  I mean, could even Sean Penn support Chavez with Qaddafi quietly ensconced in Hato Piñero?

Informationsminister Izarra: "libyscher Führer in Tripolis"

Hugo Chávez erhielt im Jahre 2004 den Preis Gadaffi für Menschenrechte

Andrés Izarra, Chávez-Minister der "Volksmacht für die Information" und Sohn des Militärs Wiliam Izarra, schrieb gerade jetzt in Twitter:

"Telesur* berichtet nicht aus Libyen, weil es nicht kann. Medien der Rechten (sic) berichten nicht über Entlassenen von El Universal-Zeitung, weil sie nicht wollen"

Anscheinend hat die regierungskritische Zeitung El Universal, die in finanziellen Schwierigkeiten ist, Journalisten entlassen und darüber nicht gberichtet und Izarra denkt, das sei schlimm und nicht die Tatsache, dass die Regierungsfernsehsender über die Lage in Libyen so lange geschwiegen hätte.

Hier könnt Ihr ab 2:22 hören, als Izarra wie eine Hyäna lacht während der Vertreter einer NGO über die Mordrate in Venezuela redet.

Hier kann man die Seite des wichtigsten Regierungsfernsehsenders besuchen, wo die Chávez-Regierung einen Bericht der Gadaffi-Regierung vorlegt, nichts aber über die Ermordete erzählt.

Hier könnt Ihr lesen, wie Chávez im Dezember berichtete, er würde in Gadaffis Zelt übernachten, um den Flutopfern Venezuelas zu helfen.

*Telesur: Internationaler Fernsehsender der Militärregierung Venezuelas. In Wikipedia steht, es handelt sich um einen multistaatlichen TV-Satellitensender.

Hier auf Englisch

Welcher Regierungschef hat Gaddafi nicht umarmt?

Aber niemand ihn so gelobt wie dieser

And now Libyan air-force shooting at protesters?

The latest chilling news coming from Libya is that the airforce planes would be flying over Benghazi and shooting protesters. Oh dear, that International Court at the Hague is going to get plenty of work to do!  Let's hope that those are totally unfounded rumors because if they are not then this is truly, truly ugly and will have international consequences.  Not to mention possibly genocidal as Benghazies are of a different "tribe" as Tripoli folks.

And is this why Hugo bought Sukhois to Russia?  and Hugo, if this is true, you better do not shelter that creep in Venezuela!!!!!

Chaos in Libya?

The latest Guardian piece is a riveting read, as you will not find elsewhere!

An exciting night! Qaddafi on the edge!

I cannot go to bed without sharing with readers that the Libya events are quite exciting.

At first when this whole business started in Tunisia I was a little bit nonplussed observing dryly, and too fast, that Tunisians were a rather educated country (they all speak reasonable to excellent French and thus have access to more info than, say, Egyptians).  Not that I meant to diminish the Tunisia exploit, a truly admirable saga, but I thought it was a fluke in the most likely country of the Arab world for such a fluke to happen.

Then was Egypt.  I confess that I was a little bit more unsettled for that one.  After all, as the lone country with "normal" relations with Israel, and the host of an Islamic group of certain substance, though without the militancy seen elsewhere, I did not know what to expect and feared the worse.  And yet Mubarak felt, with a minimum of blood price and the Muslim Brotherhood seems far from having won the game, though it has a good starting block.

If for Tunis my surprise was not major, for Egypt it was.  After all if we must rank Middle Eastern dictatorship the Mubarak one was the "best" by far....  but dictatorship it was, and corrupt, and nepotistic and what not.

As Mubarak was shaking I thought that indeed maybe we were living something comparable to the fall of Communist Eastern Europe in 1989, that it was more than journalistic wishful thinking.  And I started looking at who could be next.  My list was short.  In order of priority I thought that Syria could be next, or maybe Algeria though the ruthless civil war of a few yeas ago might not have left much taste for protests.  Yemen I doubted because of the Al Qaeda fear there.  Morocco is way milder than most, and has been taking for a while baby steps towards a more democratic approach, as does Jordan up to a point and some of the Persian Gulf states.  And Iran, besides not been an Arabic country, had apparently repressed its opposition successfully, at least until the end of Ahmadinejerk second term.

Libya appeared as a possibility but not before the second half of the year, and after the fall of at least another countries.  After all we know from experience what a ruthless tyrant Qaddafi has been, and as not too populous country one could expect that enough oil money had been spread around to ensure significant support for the ruling family.

And yet tonight we need to review the whole flow chart as Libya could fall as soon as tomorrow.  Or not.  But what happened in Benghazi will leave permanent marks on the Qaddafi regime that cannot survive long in a country where he has perpetrated what is perhaps the worst bloodshed since WW2.  No matter what happens the Green Revolution is dead and revealed to have been all along a mere ploy to ensure the fortunes of the Qaddafi family.  The people hate Qaddafi enough to receive bullets and after 40+ years of dictatorship this cannot be changed anymore.

So, what next if Qaddafi falls this week?  The influence on other North African nations will be hard to overestimate.  If the king of Morocco moves his butt he may survive but constitutional monarchy, and fast, is his only hope.  Algeria probably will fall though this might take a while as a significant amount of Algerians are too afraid of an Islamist return.  The compromise would be for a speedy "voluntary" departure of Bouteflika on any health excuse and new open elections.

If Libya falls then there is no reason to expect Syria not to fall, by sheer isolation as it will be surrounded by democracies, no matter how imperfect those are.  After all the Jordan King is all but certain to go fast on the constitutional monarchy path, supported by Israel.

I am not talking here of Mauritania or Sudan who are already battling other serious problems.  Iran is not Arabic but it has now been under a theocratic dictatorship since the fall of the Shah and the time of the Ayatollahs is counted.  Iran is not protected from a sudden insurrection Libyan style, the more so that there is probably more misery than in Libya and a real opposition which did not exist in Libya, a unique example of genuine popular uprising.

And thus we are left with the Arabic Peninsula.  I think Saudi Arabia will hold for many reasons: it is the nation of Mecca and the National Pride could be enough to play into the Saud family hands.  Also I think the Saudis have been clever enough to spread around the gravy while keeping more tribal forms that hide better the true nature of the regime.  And no one in the Middle East wants the Saudi transition to be a mess because of its hold on Mecca (except maybe for the crazy Shiites).

The Gulf states are another matter.  They have a significant if not a majority Shia content and that is more to the root of the problem than in North Africa.  The Saudis will not allow for the establishment of Shiite regimes at their very doorstep.  Trouble is ahead.  Kuwait has wisely decided on progressive democracy and it just needs to speed up voting rights and civil rights to doge the bullet.  Oman is a mystery: a little bit too eccentric from the trouble areas with a ruling family that has been modernizing a lot lately, it could dodge the bullet by acting soon.  As for Yemen, the only country where Al Qaeda could make an effective bid, trouble is also ahead as I doubt that Saudi Arabia would allow an Al Qaeda controlled state at its door step.

All in all I feel tonight a strange optimism even though dangerous days are ahead.  After all it is more than comforting that in spite of all the tall tales we have been given about Islam, it turns out that people there also want to be in control of their lives, to have decent jobs so they can afford HD TV and cable once they fill up their refrigerator.  The West might win after all and Al Qaeda could well be on the losing end of this exercise though there I might be going quite ahead of myself as the Palestinian problem does not seem to be helped at all by these events.  Let's see if Israel understands what is going on beyond the knee jerk attitude.  If there was a time to offer to stop Jewish settlements in the West Bank it is now. 

This is for the West and Israel its one and unique opportunity to bring durable positive change to the Middle East before we go to a religious Armageddon (is this the Apocalypse coming?).  The odds are still stacked against us but for the first time odds for improvement do actually exist!  Let's not mess it, the victory of fundamentalism is a possibility but not a certainty.

PS: As for myself if there was one dictator that I want to be hung high and dry it is Qaddafi.  Let's see if this week that dream comes true.