Chavismo's strategy. Well, sort of.....

As slowly but surely I get back into the disaster mentality I thought that to clear up my mind further I should let you know what my thoughts are.  Maybe someone can let me know whether I am getting it....?

There is a method in the madness of chavismo.  That is, to explain the hits and runs that we have been witnessing last week we need to understand that there was already a well planned strategy to block the opposition form reaching power in 2012 (by all means, legal or not), that has suddenly found itself complicated by Chavez disease.  Thus, the distinct possibility that Chavez might be dead, or unable to assume the campaign the way he should, have lighted a few fuses inside chavismo.  We can divide the reactions according to two set of people: those who think that chavismo will remain in office and those who are not so sure of that factoid.

Let's start with that second group.  A panic mode has set among them as all try to secure their financial future least they are kicked out of office in a few months.  The thing is that they are not sure chavismo will remain in office, but even if it remained in office they are not sure whether their "corriente" (trend?) will be the wining one if Chavez is not the next president of a chavismo without Chavez. In fact, even if Chavez manages to retain Miraflores palace they know that major purges are in the making.

This is the main explanation of a recrudescence of extortion practices by the "civil servants" duly prodded by apparatchiks, military and Cubans.  This year we have noticed already more pressures with unfair taxes, customs, inspections, etc, etc...  whose sole purpose is to force the private sector to pay and pay, even if it has to go bankrupt.  My clients have been reporting all sorts of exactions when their business has the bad luck to be in a chavista held town hall.  Inspectors come more often and always manage to find some obscure rule that they reinterpret to their advantage and for which they levy the highest possible fine.  Retroactivity applies obviously since there is no court of justice you can go for redress.  Unless of course you are willing to come to an "arrangement".  And let's not get started on the corruption in Puerto Cabello and La Guaira which is basically stopping imports to Venezuela.  For example I have been told that there is no more mouth wash because the regime has blocked a whole bunch of containers and the owners are refusing to cave in the extortion scheme imposed.  I suppose the containers are ripening under the Puerto Cabello sun.

And there is of course the speeding up of the debt burden of the country with more and more loans.  With the price of oil at 100 these loans are absolutely unnecessary if the oil production were indeed what the government says it is.  The fact of the matter is that these loans are to pay for the electoral campaign by buying votes and creating a brief fake prosperity.  In doing so there will be plenty of chavista that will skim a few million dollars as their cut to distribute the electoral freebies.

In other words we are all perfectly aware that the burden of debt will become unmanageable soon but the regime does not care because many of those who are creating that debt will be either out of office or "retire" and let new chavista generations deal with it.....

The second set is also panicking even though they think chavismo will retain office. The panic issue here is will it be Chavez and if not Chavez who?

This political group, as we could call them, is still going ahead with its plans to make sure the election goes their way except that they are speeding it up, even if haphazardly.  Long term plans of electoral treachery continue.  For example today El Nacional publishes a long study on how the vote of Venezuelan overseas is simply being voided.  No results have been reported since 2006 in the web page of the CNE (you may go an check, as I have often mentioned in this blog).  Also it is often near impossible to register for vote if you now reside overseas.  And in addition big centers where anti Chavez votes are known to reside have single voting stations (Miami)  whereas in Cuba where Chavez gets 100% of the vote there are 4 voting centers for less than 1000 voters.  This is no small matter: the opposotion could lose a potential of anywhere between 50 and 100 thousand votes!  No small peanuts if the election is as tight as it promises to be.

In addition, even though we are in a presidential system where terms are set and thus should be election dates, the CNE is refusing to consider any electoral timetable.  That is, the CNE is waiting for the order from Miraflores to decide when will the election take place, strictly based on polls and predictions as to when the fake recovery, of the country and of Chavez, could help better Chavez chances.  Even though Chavez is president until February 2, 2013, the elections could be held as early as June of 2012 instead of the expected December 2012.  Not earlier because they should be announcing them at least with 6 month notice, I presume.  But I might be wrong and Chavez could well ask the CNE to vote as early as this December 2011 on any lame excuse of his health status "to remove uncertainties".  Crazy?  So was the February 2009 referendum that came out of nowhere in December 2008.

But there are also some other sinister electoral plans going on.  One is the new "just price" decree that allows the regime to control any price, anywhere, at any point of the productive chain.  The real reason here is very simple: to try to block earnings of the major business that could finance the opposition electoral campaign, such as the Polar group.  That law is not for small business like mine though its turn will come soon enough.  The regime does not have the personnel to apply this law to the whole country, but in a few weeks it could train enough creeps to control someone like Polar who could finance as much as 25% of the opposition campaign.  You may recall that this one is already woefully underfunded when compared to the state finances at the service of Chavez.

What has changed from a few weeks ago is that all of these plans are now applied faster as a vote could be nearer than expected. And more will be added such as the demagogic law to force rental units into the property of the renters, for peanuts.  Any demagogic measure will do if the regime thinks it will give it a few thousand votes (or at least make sure chavista voters do not stay home).

Consider for example that Chavez may need (may know already?) a second chemotherapy treatment in early 2012.  He could hold the vote, say, March 2012, secure his reelection and then resigns for the rest of his term to undergo his treatment and recovery.  Once "recovered", he is sworn in for his fourth term.  Do not laugh, the pro Chavez High Court will find a way to make it legal.

We can hope that this sudden panic and thus rush in electoral cheating might backfire (though I do not see the MUD taking much advantage of the situation).  But we should not forget that this electoral panic also goes with the other panic question: who if not Chavez at the top of the ticket?  If chavismo may make a lot of mistakes it could also become very dangerous as it becomes more irrational, if possible.  A deceased Chavez might be even worse than an alive one once chavismo starts slaughtering itself.

We'll see....

Cleaning up the sty in the Land of Grace

We, civilians, need to explain how we are going to get Venezuela out of the mess - even before we vote the military regime out of power. Explaining how we will do it will speed up the process and improve the chances of stability and progress for Venezuela after the change.

Cleaning up: we have to do it on a permanent basis

Countless individuals have proclaimed since colonial times that they were going to fight corruption only to break new records on crookedness once they came to power. One example is that of military caudillo José Tadeo Monagas, who claimed to be fighting for the poor and against oligarcs but who instituted, together with his brother José Gregorio, the Monagas Dinasty and ended up being chased from power with the crowd shouting "death to the thieves". That is just the general rule in Venezuela.

Hero, Dictator, Thief
Can we set up mechanisms that are fool-proof and Venezuelan-proof to fight and actually reduce corruption?

The first thing we need to realise is there is absolutely no mechanism that can function perfectly all the time. Fighting corruption will need to be like fighting a virus: there is a constant race and you have to outsmart the evil creature time after time because it is bound to mutate over and over again. Any system for transparency and accountability has to be reviewed on a permanent basis and the reviewers cannot come from one single party but from the whole society.

Once we understand that, we can start proposing some real rules that may, willy-nilly, force the country towards more honesty.

Let's begin with this:

1) every contract between the Venezuelan national government or any regional government with a value higher than Bs 10000 must be published on the Internet for everyone to see. People would see details about the company and about the state functionaries signing in. No company can get a zillion contracts fo Bs 9999 to circumvent this.

2) FONDEN, the billionaire "Fund for Development", now used as the Chávez piggy bank and Bolivourgeois black box, must be fully transparent. Every piece of information about every dollar or Bolívar spent needs to be put online. Only a small amount of the Defence budget can be hidden from the general public but the accounts about this must be checkup up by a 10-member commission of the National Assembly made up of deputies from the current government and the opposition. The leader of such commission must be elected by random selection and changed every 6 months.

Getting Venezuela out of underdevelopment

Francisco wrote a provocative post some days ago. It was about oil policy and how hard it is to make this a topic of discussion in Venezuela for everybody. Details about what we need to do with oil are just hard to explain to most people. 

He started this topic after some previous posts discussing Leopoldo López's ideas on a future government. López basically wants to let Venezuela produce more oil. He also wants more transparency about its use, more investment, blablabla. The details, though, aren't there.

And the discussion ended up again on whether we should produce more or less oil. What we don't discuss is how to get off oil dependency. Apparently, a lot of people haven't got a clue. The thinking goes around "invest in petrochemistry" and at best "invest in R&D", apart from the eternal "invest more on education".

But nothing, absolutely nothing will change until we start discussing about the details. We need to do that not after the elections but right now.

One of the main topics about which we have to discuss details is how to bring transparency and accountability to investment.

Is there a fool-proof way of doing so? Can we device a mechanism so that those getting resources from the State are not like now the relatives of the president, the friends of the military case or the friends of the party?

We need a plan for accountability and transparency that is so tough a lot of politicos are going to fear a government advoting such a plan is elected but the vast majority of Venezuelans get excited about it.

The aggiornamento of little Red Riding Hood

And thus I am back to the “tierra de gracia” just to find me even more confused than when I left. It seems that a mix of bad polls, better polls through sickness, a new found respect for mortality have played havoc with the regime line and a major mutation is taking place. Or is it?

First, before I enter into the few details I am able to grasp so far, it is important to remember that all of Chavez electoral campaigns have been bipolar. That is, there was a period of “Mr. Nice Guy loves you” followed presto by a “you better vote for me or else”. No matter what the result was, the days that followed the election saw a radicalization of the regime either to cash in the victory or to drive the point that an electoral defeat in no way diminished Chavez power.

In other words, no matter what happens these days, we already know that Chavez functions like the fabled story of the scorpion asking the frog to help him cross the river and stabbing the frog in the middle anyway so that both drowned.  But then again a strategy that has functioned so well should not be discarded: it is not really Chavez fault that the Venezuelan people are stupid enough to keep tripping on the same stone over and over.  And yet....

Suddenly Chavez in his rare appearances is not sporting as much red.  He also says that wearing red is not a sign of true revolutionary spirit (Imagine that!).  Red has started fading from his surroundings.

Then the "patria, socialismo o muerte" (fatherland, socialism or death) is apparently not appropriate anymore.  True, a new slogan is not quite here to replace it, but Chavez considers suddenly that death, well, is a serious matter, too serious to be abandoned to slogans when he needs people to wish him well so that he does not become a martyr of the revolution.  The guy apparently really prefers to weaken his pseudo revolution and stay in office until 2031 rather than become the new Che idol....

And best, now the middle class should be courted more seriously by the PSUV.  You know, they are poor misguided souls that were abandoned while the hoi polloi got the word.  Now it is their turn to enter the bolivarian "pueblo".  That is why, I think, Chavez now wears canary yellow shirts for his birthday.

There is however a problem with all of these good intentions: the scorpion is still so much the same that he already tries to stab the frog before this one even starts to cross the river.  In the same couple of weeks where these transcendental changes take place (with all the irony intended) the regime issued two new decree laws that will destroy the essence of freedom and the meaning of middle class.

First, the destruction of the rental market by forcing owners to sell at vile price their holdings least they are taken outright from them.  For example now rental contracts will be by law for 3 years, and the owner will have to pay for water, electricity and the like.... And kicking a tenant will be achieved only through an expensive legal proceeding, and when you win, execution is only possible after new living quarters are found for the tenant.  No deposits, of course.

The other decree is the "just price" one which gives the regime the power to decide what cost each and every step in any production chain.  That is, the regime does not want to control the final price only, now it will tell you how much you are allowed to make at every given step.  And along the way place business owners in stocks to public disgrace.  Voila!  Il suffisait d'y penser!  And inflation is dead!  So will be our grocery shelves as production will be dead along the private sector.

There is no aggiornamento of chavismo, nor there will ever be one.  The sole, lone, single function of chavismo is to perpetuate in office Chavez, dead if necessary it seems now, so that Cuba and a few allies can keep sucking the blood of Venezuelans.  There are no ideas there, only a goal and a goal can never change: at best it is postponed.  The vampiric blood thirsty red will remain de rigueur.

Chávez discovers America

This was yesterday. Now this is a suspicious behaviour

Now that Venezuela's military caudillo is presumably sick, he is starting to discover some obvious things. For instance, today he came to the conclusion it is "suspicious to be completely dressed in red".

I have written a lot about red as ideological Ersat in our banana republic (like here, here and, in Spanish, here).

The caudillo's followers have to adapt to what their commandant thinks now. They used to think until yesterday that dressing up in red would make them ideologically they will have to check out what the caudillo is wearing.

Venezuela, parasite nation (II)

When you have an oil producing country where the work of a few can provide for billions of dollars, you can keep up millions living off as parasites for quite some time.

In Venezuela half the population has no proper job. They are in the so-called "informal sector", which means they usually have to sell Chinese panties and Spanish skirts or drive a pirate taxi. The panties and the skirts and the cars are bought with those petrodollas. Millions of people are happy if they get food, something to drink and a ceiling. And it is that you don't need much more in tropical Venezuela. There are also a lot of people in state jobs thanks exclusively to their political loyalty. And with oil prices at $100 a barrel, a government can provide for some goodies for all of them, at least for some time, as population keeps growing.

Today deputy Aristóbulo Isturiz -former AD politician, former Causa R politician and now PSUV politician and enemy of AD and Causa R- announced that Venezuelans are invited to go at 2pm to the Bolívar Square in every town to celebrate the birthday of the current military caudillo, Hugo Chávez.

Yesterday the government issued new bonds that need to be sold at a high cost for the nation.  Wealthy profiteers will be able to get the bonds and earn a lot. The military regime will be able to keep the pressure off the currency for some time. The average Venezuelan will have to pay very dearly after the 2012 elections.

But half of those that will have to pay will celebrate today the birthday of the guy who is responsible for this mess. They will do that instead of trying to figure out how to get Venezuela on the road of sustainable development.

This made me think about this:

Don't just look at their legs

These are two red-legged hokeycreepers. The male has blue plumage, the female is green. The picture was taken in Aragua state, in Northern Venezuela.

En la sección "se cuenta y no se cree"

¡A carajazos con Azocar!
(ACTUALIZADO) Por fin micomandantepresidente decidió cumplir y creó un ministerio para los servicios penitenciarios (¿MinPoPoSeP?).  Y, agárrense bien, nombró a Iris Valera como ministra, la mas malandra de todos en la Asamblea Nacional, la que se cae a coñazo limpio con cualquiera que le pise el cayo.  Pues bien, este que escribe aquí piensa que de repente el nombramiento no es ni tan malo.  Total la Iris ya se comporta como un "pran" cualquiera y si existe un cargo público que ella pueda entender y ejercer, ese es el de carcelera.  Reconozcamos que en el pasado ella fue una de las pocas chavistas que se preocupó por la situación de las cárceles, y seguramente está mucho mas comprometida con el mejoramiento del infierno carcelario que su jefe.

Y yo que nunca creí que iba a conseguir como escribir algo positivo sobre la Varela.....

PD: Parece que tambien Primero Justicia esta de acuerdo conmigo en que la Varela no es necesariamente una mala idea para ese anti-cambur (via JN)

This is NOT a joke

Military strongman Chávez creates the Ministry of the Popular Power for the Penitentiary Service. The first minister will be charming Iris Valera.

Farewell fish

Another memorable one
It is not that food is great in France, there is also that rather immaterial aspect of it, how easy it is the relation of great food with the "garçon", the guests, and the scenery.  That is, you can get great meals in natural settings without any sense of the extraordinary, as it you were expected to have great dishes everyday of your life as a matter of fact. As my departure was nearing it was time to start farewells, and to experience this again, far from the affectations of multi-starred joints, or the ignorance of the Caracas "mesonero" who even in fancy joints has little idea of what s/he is serving.

I was treated for dinner date at a famous local eatery, Chez H., specialized in fishy stuff, something that we are rather deprived in Venezuela where fish is deeply fried in the vain hope of hiding the dubious freshness of the creature.  Let's just say that in Venezuela today I only eat fish at Urrutia or when in Margarita.

The menu was rather brief: a half dozen of shell based appetizers (and foie gras, of course), another half dozen of fish entries (and one steak for those in pain) and fabulous deserts to compensate (my choice been a creme de marrons ice cream bathed in Armagnac).  We settled to share mussels and oysters baked with foie gras ans Sauternes (I do not like raw oysters, so sue me!).

Since my relatives have been habitués for decades there, we get special advice when choosing our courses depending of the best catch of the day.  Being only three sitting, a baked turbot for three was the best choice for the night.  One caught, not raised, by the way.  Now, to illustrate my point at the start I include two pictures below, the first one when the fish arrived, and the second one when the "garçon" had finished splitting it into three portions, in a couple of minutes, if that much, as if nothing, not forgetting to carve out the "cheek" of the fish.  I found ONLY 1 spine in my plate......

Bliss....  Not to mention the perfect Pessac that went with...

You may observe from the details that we were on a wooden table, no fancy silverware, rather plain individual table cloths.  What matters is what is in your glass and on your plate.

Simple, straight to the point.

Know thy words!

There is cute test floating around which aims at telling you how many words you do know in English.  Through an extrapolation of easy to more difficult words.  My result is:

Which is quite good for a foreigner, someone who truly learned English in his very late teens and who left for the states for a few years in his mid twenties.  Needless to say that I am off the scale for non native speakers and that I would be in the top 5% if I were accounted as a native speaker.  Now, before you think that I am bragging, having been in academia for a decade and a half in the US, and having my reading 80% in English for the last 25 years give me an advantage.....  but of course, I prefer to stress the "non native" for my daily ego boost.  Now, at a grammar test I might not do so well, as readers often point out obligingly  :)

Cada día nos trae mas pruebas de la idiotez e hipocresía del regimen chavista

Viajando uno se sienta de vez en cuando a leer noticias de Venezuela.  Pues bien, la colección que les ofrezco abajo es como para no regresar mas nunca por la pena ajena...

Empecemos por el rodilla en tierra frente a micomandantepresidente por los cadetes de quien sabe donde.  Total, todos tienen que hacerlo por que sino se friegan y no se gradúan.  Con un click del meñique agranden la foto y observen los detalles:

-Un Chavez regocijado, gozando una bola arrodillando a esos muchachos en pleitesía, justo regresando de Cuba, para que todos sepan quien es el mandón aquí.
- Un Maduro que no sabe que pensar y un Ramirez arrodillado en su mente, atención fija a cualquier pestañeo de Hugo I
-  Y un oficial militar que mira en frente y alto, a lo lejos, para pretender que no se entera de tamaña humillación

En verdad hay fotos que dicen más que pesados libros de análisis histórico-políticos......

Prosigamos con este aporte de Prensa Latina, objetivamente escrita desde la Habana donde ya reposa la firma electrónica de Chavez para que los Castro firmen cual decreto se les antoje.  Una propaganda tan burda y cursi que uno tiene que admirarla de una manera perversa.  Los detalles hablan mas que el conjunto:

- El Bolivar es benevolente en su mirada, los ojos casi húmedos de la emoción mirando a su hijo
- En cambio micomandantepresidente es recio, en blanco y negro, sin cuartel para los malucos
- Y no puede faltar, obviamente, la superposición en primer plano de la única escena heroica rescatable de la debacle del 13 de abril: cuatro guardias palurdos sobre el techo de Miraflores por encima de Carabobo

¡Dios mio!......

Para terminar no dejemos de observar la rápida condena del gobierno revolucionario contra los atentados de Oslo.  Claro está que todavía no aparece la condena a los pre-genocidios de Gadafi en Libia o de Assad en Siria.  Es bien sabido de todos que un fundamentalista cristiano es mucho mas pior que genocidas musulmanes que tiran bombas contra su pueblo.  Con esto el glorioso embuste bolivariano recibe la palma de oro a la mas descarada hipocresía del mes de julio.

A glorious Tour

The 2011 edition was almost perfect.  It had everything: suspense, heroes, drama.  And it had many firsts which make it particularly special.

Cadel Evans surrounded by the Schleck brothers
It had the first Australian to win it, and for that matter, the first southern hemisphere biker to win it.

For the first time it had two brothers in the final podium, the brave Schleck brothers of tiny Luxembourg.

It had a long overdue French hero for a Tour with Thomas Voelcker who managed to hold the yellow Jersey for ten days straight.

It had five interesting stories for the five top runners.  Besides the 4 above mentioned, the 5th position was last year champ Contador who after winning the Italian Giro earlier this year shows that last year he would have won with or without drugs (I think he did not use and I hope a final court ruling due soon will settle that nasty affair once and for all).

But best of all, since I mention Contador, for the first time in years drugs were not the headlines.

After this Year tour the Tour de France is back on track, ready to offer us prime fun in the future.

Bolívar: One of the most damaging personality cults on Earth

Today is a holiday in Venezuela. It is the day our first national caudillo, Simón Bolívar, was born in 1783. Mind: Bolívar had some good ideas - none of them original - and some very bad ones. After he miserably failed as a military to defend Puerto Cabello, an easy job Miranda had given him, after he betrayed Miranda and delivered him to the Spaniards to save his own skin, he managed to lead military troops for some time. He got rid of people who could become a competition to him, like Piar. He also got Venezuela into incredible debts with Britain in order to get enough mercenaries and weapons to further his cause. In the end, Venezuelan troops led the liberation of several lands and Bolívar was acclaimed as "the Liberator", as if hundreds of thousands of others hadn't done more for the same thing - paying with their lives in very violent ways. 

Bolívar did not have much money to pay mercenaries and national military men, so he gave them land and power and in that way Venezuela became the most militarily obsessed country in South America. It did not fight anymore with other countries in Latin America (it couldn't have done it), but its military just dedicated themselves to be declared some sort of superior caste...the inheritors of "The Liberator".

Venezuelan military decided to promote the cult to Bolívar. Pseudo-historians decided to transform Bolívar into a demi-God. This helped them in their careers, specially as the military were strengthened by this. Now there is no Venezuelan with political ambitions who would dare have a more critical view of Bolívar, the caudillo who wanted to rule for life. This has done a lot of damage to the country: every new generation of military and politicos claim to be the "prophets" of this new Bolívar religion.

What would have happened had Bolívar not been born? Nothing, really. We would have got our independence at the same time, a little bit later or a little bit earlier. We would have probably let Bolivia and Peru be liberated from within or by Argentine and Chilean forces. We would have got less debts with the Britons. We wouldn't have had to lose so many lives. We would not have a third of all muninipios called after some military strongman. Other than that, things would have been probably more or less the same.

Today Chávez felt the need to come over to Venezuela for the usual rites of worship. Here you see some of his very kitsch tweets on Bolívar today:

"I talk to you Venezue,My People:Let's make Bolívar live now and forever in us, in our ideas, our behavior each day"
"Let'sSingWIthPabloNedura:Everything has your name, father, in our home, everything that is ours comes from your life, your inheritance is our daily bread"
"Sunday 24 July, bless you, day of God we declare you, day of Fatherland, day of Subleme Birth, let's sing to Simón Bolívar the Eternal"

Venezuelans are with Norwegians

My support, like that of many Venezuelans, goes to Norwegians, among whom I have several friends. They are a model of a society we all can learn from. They have shown what good will, honesty and perseverance can achieve. On Friday they were by hatred, by intolerance, by brutish prejudice, but they stood up and they will get stronger.
Extremists of any kind have no place in Norway. Don't underestimate Norwegians. They will prevail.

These events call us to bring about not parallel monologues but real debates in a climate of respect. That is what extremists hate the most.

From Oklahoma to Oslo

The type of terrorism which devastated Norway yesterday must be searched in Oklahoma almost two decades ago.  The constant negative ranting of some media (Murdoch?) and some politicians (Chavez?) eventually give rise to crazies like those who did these attacks in the name of race or pseudo Christian principles or who knows what... Terrorism is terrorism and having as a first reflex to look for the Islamist connection is not the best move (Aznar?).

No country deserves a terrorist attack whatsoever.  But when we look at what happened in Norway which is almost an ideal democratic working welfare society one has to pause and wonder....  From Baghdad to Oslo are we suffering from a mere statistical increase in terrorism or are we truly creating it?

My heart goes to Norway which for some reason is the country where one of the three top per capita readers  come to this blog.

She got post from Venezuela

Back in 1933, Venezuela's post service was better

And a new record was broken. The postcard was sent from a secondary city in Venezuela on 1 February 2011. It arrived in Paris on 15 July of the same year. International post arriving in Paris takes on average about two days to get to the average household anywhere in France. This means the card took about 5 months and 13 days to go from the post office in Venezuela to France. The postcard was supposedly sent by air mail. We hear all the time post gets lost for years in the US in France or Britain, but that is rather the exception. Venezuela's post service is getting more and more Bolivarian by the day.

Ten years ago the same postcard would take at most 2 weeks to go from Venezuela to any place in Europe. Now we are back to the times of the Colony when Alexander von Humboldt would send letters from a mission in Apure to his friends in Berlin and just hope for the best.

Wie Venezolaner den Sozialismus des 21. Jahrhunderts lernen

Das Auslandsjournal hatte gestern eine Sendung über Gewalt in Venezuela, genauer gesagt über den Secuestro Express. Hier könnt Ihr sie sehen (ab Minute 13:18).

Einiges stand nicht da: die Entführungen betreffen meistens Leute der breiten Mittelschicht (also ungefähr alle, die ein Auto, ob uralt und runtergekommen oder nicht, haben) und der Oberschicht. Das ist etwa 30% der Bevölkerung. Die anderen, von sehr arm bis Untermittelschicht, müssen zwar kaum Entführungen fürchten, sie werden aber umso häufiger ausgeraubt. Die Leute in den Slums können auch viel leichter Opfer von verlorenen Kugeln bei den unzähligen Droggenkriegen werden.

Noch ein Kommentar: die Mordrate in Venezuela ist seit 1998 nicht um 70% sondern um über 300% gestiegen, wie man das aus UNODC-Daten (von Venezuela selbst geliefert) entnehmen kann. 

Ich würde sehr gern vom Herrn Dieterich mal wieder hören, wie es war mit dem Sozialismus des 21. Jahrhunderts. Irgendwie muss die Kriminalität in Venezuela ausschliesslich mit dem Kapitalismus, mit trojanischen Pferden und mit fünften Kolonnen zu tun haben. Forget about Chile.

An die useful idiots, die immer noch die Regierung der Militärs in Venezuela unterstützen sage ich: bitte, kommen Sie nach Venezuela und bleiben Sie wirklich im Land ein Jahr lang...ohne Leibwache - auch ohne PSUV-Führer.

The Vin, this is what´s for lunch

It is easy to forget how intimate is the relationship between the French and wine, to the point that wine is making its way more and more into the "aperitif" hour at the expense of horrors such as Pastis.  After all, French wine production keeps improving and so French people do feel like drinking more of it.

Every year new fashions start and some stick.  One that is developing is the Bordeaux "clairet" which is not a rosé, God forbid!  I suppose Clairet is a throw back to older times when the British called clairet the wine they got from Bordeaux.  Or some of it anyway, but what did they know?  The thing is that clairet is a great invention for summer, and in Bordeaux much better than those generic rosé that harass our taste buds.

But when serious fare is at stake for lunch, like lamb chops, we revert to nature and nothing less than a great Pomerol will do (or course  my very unbiased opinion).  It comes with accumulated dirt from a real "cave" which even dusted off leaves marks on the label.

Die roten Puppen entpuppen sich als Parteifanatiker...und mehr

Nun hat das Oberste Gericht die von ihm kurz davor angenommene Anklage gegen den Oppositionspolitiker Henrique Capriles zurückgewiesen. Der Grund? Die Chávez-Partei, die Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas (in Wikipedia zu Vereinigte Sozialitsche Partei Venezuelas umbenannt) hat jetzt gesagt, der Anklager wäre kein Parteimitglied und die Partei würde diese Anklage nicht unterstützen.

Anscheinend hat Chávez gedacht, es ist noch keine richtige Zeit, um Capriles zu neutralisieren.

Der einzige Grund, um die Anklage zurückzuziehen, ist also nicht ein Urteil über Gültigkeit, sondern der Willen der Partei.

Die Opposition organisiert sich aber weiter. Nun haben wir folgende "Präkandidaten":

  • María Corina Machado, unabhängig (man fürchtet aber, dass Acción Democrática sie unterstützen könne)
  • Leopoldo López, für Voluntad Popular...der aber wahrscheinlich nicht kandidieren darf, wegen Gerichtshofs
Die Chávez-Partei will aber auf jeden Fall, dass das Oberste Gericht den populären Bürgermeister von Petare, Carlos Ocariz, politische Rechte aberkennt. Man weiss, dass er ein möglicher Nachfolger von Capriles als Gouverneur vom Bundesstaat Miranda sein könnte. Man weiss auch, dass viele Armen im Westen Caracas die gute Regierung im armen Gebiet von Petare sehen und darüber nachdenken, wie es wäre, wenn sie auch so was hätten.

Le hideout à la française

You have to give it to the French for most original an secluded hide outs for small cottages with all the comforts of life.

El Chigüire nails it: Adan Chavez to be named "designated driver

Elias Jaua, the man that Chavez left in charge, sort of, made a maiden speech of sorts where he was visibly VERY drunk.  Either that or his brain aneurysm was bursting....  The video has been circulating for a couple of days already but the interpretation of Chigüire bipolar was best to report here.  do not miss it even if you do not speak Spanish: the slurry is easy to catch.

Le French vélo

This is my old bike, the one I had when in college in France, too many years ago to dare confess the number of decades.  Since I left France and entrusted her to my relatives it has managed to survive, though a tad rusty with faulty brakes that should be changed outright.  Yet, I still find her, somehow not giving up on me.

Weather has been terrible lately, something some of you may have guessed since I keep posting.  But rain in France is soft and if you do not mind hiding under the slightly jutting roof of a closed fish store, you might survive the humidity and keep riding a few minutes later, until the next squall.

Cold and rain have never stopped me.  I cherish them and would have rode more if it were not that I did not feel like buying the needed outfit which is long, very long gone from the wardrobe I also left in France with the bike.  Eventually, drizzle can soak you.  All are covered and shivering but I still ride with my sunglasses, in shorts and shirts as if nothing, enjoying my preferred outdoor temperature, 18C.  When I lived in the states biking season stopped for me in November and sometime could start as early as late March.

But then again I am French and we, as a people, are second only to Dutch and Danes in our love of biking, in the constant presence of biking in our everyday life, the more so in summer holidays.  We shop with our bikes, we go to work with them, we ride them for relaxation on week ends, or exercise maybe, we fall in love with other bikers.  And of course, we watch the Tour de France religiously.

We also learn to ride on our elders old bikes.  The one I learned to ride with was probably used by my dad during  WW2.  A heavy contraption with no gear that gave me great legs at the end of summer.  There are no hills in this area but the roads are rarely flat, and distances long.  I think a couple of relatives learned with my bike, though it is a big frame one so kids could not use it.  I was never told, it was a given it would happen.

My bike is a Peugeot with ten gears though I have not dared use them this time around.  After all, the weather has barred me from rides longer than 10 minutes stretches and I need to recover my legs fast as biking is impossible for me in San Felipe.  My bike is also a "half race", that is, a light frame but not too light and thus sturdy enough for my big frame.

It is a very un-american looking bike.  It has fenders on each wheel.  It has platforms to carry things (with rubber bands in the front bag, a red one so faded that it has a strange fuchsia hue).  If I lived in France by now it would have a basket in front or carrying bags on the bag, maybe both if I lived in a small town.  All bikes in France have fenders, except those of the Tour.  All bikes in the US look strangely naked for our eyes, making us wonder what silly Americans do when it rains.  And then we laugh when we see their mud splattered backs.  All US bikes we see seem to us very impractical.  It also has lights, with a dynamo to generate the juice, no batteries required.

And yet it is not quite your average French bike since it has what is now for me very uncomfortable running handles.  In France, 90% of bikes you see in streets have nice, high handle bars that allow you to ride in an almost vertical position.  But when I bought it I was into long Sunday rides, or fast dashes to downtown from campus to buy books at my favorite libraries.  I did not do that mistake in the US and I got then a stately UK bike, a Raleigh, with high handle bars.  I brought it back with me to Venezuela but never use it: too many potholes, too much insecurity as such a bike forbids me to ride alone in San Felipe's streets.  They would rob me of it just for its exotic look

I love my bikes and if I ever can retire in France, or at least spend a couple of months a year I will bring my Raleigh and restore my Peugeot, the former for my shopping at the open air market and the second for long bike rides on the amazing amount of bike paths that exist today in France, at least in touristy areas.  That is if my health allows though the Raleigh one I may be able to ride into my sunset.

Why should I buy a new bike when I am already blessed with two bikes with a soul?

Bolívar, Chávez and the Colon

Reseachers paid by the Chávez government were going to reveal Simón Bolívar's real cause of death on 24 July, the day he was born. Last year Chávez had made a real show when he ordered Bolívar's exhumation.

24 July is still some days away, but we already have some leaks. In Últimas Noticias we hear Chávez Bolívar suffered from a problem of the colon. According to these researchers, Bolívar had a colon problem and his doctor, Próspero Reverend, gave him enemas four times a day, which led to "hydroelectric inbalance" and to Bolívar's untimely death.

Rumours tell us Chávez has colon cancer.

Esa es Venezuela.

Le French non-crime wave

What is wrong with this picture?

It is late evening, it is low tide for a few more hours, and these two boats (among hundreds) have their auxiliary motors ready for the picking....  And nobody steal them. (and no, there are no cops stationed on the beach all night long).  In fact, in this particular resort you only see cops when there is an accident, a home burning up, etc...  Year round residents sleep often forgetting to lock up their doors, even in the mid of tourist season.....

Compare with this video from a Spanish TV show picked up by megaresistencia.  As your summer homework, meditate how can Venezuela ever recover from chavismo.

Sorry, I am on vacation and no translation. But the guys are 1) downloading every single item of their boat ashore for the night 'cause someone else will do so if they leave them inside. and 2) the other guy curses madly Chavez and "consejos comunales".

The top of the pearl

Cerro El Copey is the highest point of Margarita (Pearl) Island. It offers a magnificent view up to the Venezuelan coast. It offers also the only source of drinkable water for the island. The Cerro El Copey is also a national park. Unfortunately, it is being destroyed by illegal urbanization and pollution from untreated waste.

This mountain was one of the first geological formations Europeans saw during Columbus' third voyage, the time when he came in contact for the first time with continental America (just a few kilometres to the South)

Chavez leaves Venezuela for Cuba and deliberately tightens the colonial link

As any serious commentator expected all along, Chavez left for Cuba to continue his cancer treatment (we only know he will undergo chemotherapy but we do not know for what type of cancer, for how long, how advanced is the metastasis, etc, etc...).

The reason why Cuba was the ONLY choice for Chavez is several fold:

  • Only in Cuba chavez and the Castro brothers can control to a large extent the flow of news, decide what picture is released and when. After all, with Fidel diseases they have gained ample experience on how to manipulate public opinion with morbid imagery.
  • Since no more surgery is expected for the time being, Cuba has at least one world class facility which is reserved to the high ranking Cuban officials (the rest of Cubans can go to their rotting health care centers).  What Chavez needs that is not in Cuba is medicine which can be bought from anywhere it is needed (for that he has the Venezuelan checkbook of state); he can bring in any doctor he wants (for the right amount from the same check book he can get  90% of the specialists in the world who cannot pass on the opportunity of adding his name to their client list while touring Cuba for the kick of it).
  • Since Chavez is now pathologically insecure about his surroundings he can only trust the Castro brothers to cover for him since he knows that they are the most interested people in the world that want his recovery so he can remain in office and keep sending the stipend.
Thus anyone who entertained the idea that Chavez would go to Brazil was deluding himself and ended up a fool, including the Brazilian hospital of Sao Paulo who was hoping for a big publicity stint.

In a way I am not going to begrudge the right of Chavez to get treatment wherever he wants to.  I am not even going to question the expense since it is international practice that the head of states tabs is picked by tax payer, in Washington DC, Paris or Caracas.  I would still point out that Chavez could have received health care in Caracas of at the very least the same quality than in Cuba and probably at a much lower cost, with 99% of world specialists willing to go to Caracas.

No, the problem here is not what Chavez does for his recovery which I hope will succeed so he gets one day to face trial for his crimes.  The problem here is that leaving Venezuela he went yet further in demonstrating to us that Venezuela is a mere Cuban colony.  Two items for my point, the second one infinitely worse than the first one in its symbolism.

The succession internal war seem to have started big time inside chavismo.  Thus there is a definite need for the Cuban masters to put an end to it, least they lose control of the situation as Chavez starts suffering from the secondary effects of chemotherapy.  Of all the few things Chavez did or said during his rather breif return the most important one must be a warning to his PSUV followers that local "caudillismo" had to be erased in full.  In fact, the limited powers he delegated to Jaua and Giordani (V.P, and finance minister respectively) seem to be enough to bring back to order potential dissidents while he is away, much more than for effectively running the country during what we assume will eb an absence of several weeks.  For example Jaua can continue on his own expropriation.  The symbolism is clear, whichever does not toe the line of waiting patiently and calmly for the return of Chavez, be it opposition or chavista, will be expropriated on the spot.  Let's be clear on that, any expropriation in the next month will not affect in any way the economy of Venezuela which is already a wreck, only the political effect of expropriation matters today.

Also, in the same announcement Chavez insisted on the need of ideological training for anyone within the PSUV who wants to go any higher.  In other words, the transformation of the PSUV into a bona fide communist party is retaken and reinforced, a sure sign of orders from Cuba who understands that a solid communist party in Venezuela is the best way to ensure its interests if Chavez croaks, in 2 months or 2 years.

The second thing Chavez did that is truly shocking for me, is that he discarded the constitutional provision that Caracas is where laws are made in Venezuela.  Not only he said that going to Cuba was not going to another country but to "la patria grande" (the enlarged fatherland?) but he created an electronic signature that he will use from Havana to make legal any law or decree issued during his absence.  That is right, an electronic signature that can be manipulated by anyone while he passes out during chemo, manipulated by anyone from his entourage, the Castro brothers or any Cuban officials the Castro brothers may use to that effect.

Does anyone has still a doubt as to whom is ruling Venezuela?  That we are are a self declared Cuban colony?

Le panier de French plums

Ha!  Summer goodness!

Since there is no "where is Waldoniel" this year (sorry AIO) maybe we can have a prize for whomever can identify the three fruits in French and in English.  A big smooch if you manage both (PS: "plums" is not enough...)  And yes, what you see in the background is low tide, so yes, I am also into fishy stuff....

Reforzando los controles coloniales sobre Venezuela

Cuba está muy preocupada por su avanzada colonial en América del Sur. Las cosas no van bien allí. El Virrey se enfermo justo cuando la colonia está teniendo serias dificultades en mandar los debidos cheques mensuales a la metrópoli imperial, La Habana. Así, había que tomar medidas antes de los indígenas se vuelven aun más inquietos de lo que ya son.

En primer lugar, el virrey tiene que ser estrictamente manejado. Sus dolencias no se pueden dar a conocer a todos y cada uno. Sus viajes de salud tendrán que ser en La Habana donde es más fácil ocultar los efectos secundarios de la quimioterapia. El problema es que los amos no han encontrado aún a alguien de confianza para que lo sustituya, o con la habilidad política suficiente para asegurarse de que los regalos sigan llegando, y para asegurarse de que los nativos sigan creyendo que todavía son una nación independiente.

Por lo tanto como una segunda medida Cuba pretenderá que el Virrey todavía está mandando, mientras que un equipo de radicales permanece en Caracas para gestionar el día a día. Puesto que todo está dicho en la jerga orwelliana, por radical que debemos entender ultraconservador ya que el equipo incluye el hermano del virrey a la cabeza del grupo que quiere mantener sin cambios la relación entre Cuba y Venezuela, las personas que NO pueden tolerar que Venezuela se convierta en una nación independiente.

En tercer lugar hay una necesidad de reforzar el control sobre los indígenas. Estos se encuentran bajo la extraña impresión de que siguen siendo un protectorado y no una colonia por completo. Bajo los sistemas de protectorado los amos todavía asocian hasta un cierto punto en la administración local un numero de nativos, entendiéndose que la Independencia es sólo "temporalmente suspendida". Esto podría haber sido cierto en Venezuela hasta hace unos años pero desde el año 2007, a mas tardar, Venezuela es una colonia, desde ese año donde una minoría se sintió habilitada para imponer su voluntad sobre la mayoría. El desafortunado efecto secundario de esta confusión es que todavía hay formas de transmitir noticias y opiniones, aunque se autocensuren en gran medida; y hay elecciones, incluso si los resultados son cada vez más manipulados. Así, las nuevas medidas para poner en la cárcel a quien dice la verdad y a quien saca buenos puntos en las encuestas de opinión, amenazando al sistema colonial cubano.

Tightening the colonial control over Venezuela

Cuba is very worried about its colonial outpost in South America.  Things are not going well there.  The Viceroy is ailing just as the province is having serious difficulties in providing the monthly stipends due to the imperial metropolis, Havana.  Thus measures had to be taken before the natives become more restless than what they already are.

First, the Viceroy needs to be controlled tightly.  His ailments cannot be let known by all and any.  His planned health trips have to take place in Havana where it is easier to hide the side effects of chemotherapy.  The problem is that the masters have not found yet someone reliable enough to replace him, or politically skillful enough to make sure that the stipends keep coming, and to make sure that the natives keep believing they are an independent nation.

Thus as a second measure Cuba will pretend the Viceroy is still in charge while a radical team is left in Caracas to manage the day to day.  Since all is said in Orwellian jargon, by radical we must understand ultra conservative in that the team left in charge with the Viceroy´s Brother at the helm is comprised of people that want to keep unchanged the link between Cuba and Venezuela, the people that cannot tolerate that Venezuela were to become an independent nation.

In third there is a need to tighten control over the natives.  These are under the strange impression that they are still a protectorate and not an outright colony.  Under protectorate systems the masters still associate to a certain level the natives to the local administration, Independence is just "temporally suspended".  This might have been true in Venezuela until a few years ago but since 2007 at the very least Venezuela is a colony, the year when a minority felt enabled to impose its will over the majority.  The unfortunate side effect of this confusion is that there are still ways to convey news and opinions, even if self censored to a great extent; and there are elections even if the outcomes are increasingly rigged.  Thus the new measures to put in jail whomever says the truth and whomever does good at opinion polls threatening the Cuban colonial system.

Brasil o cuba para la quimioterapia. ¿Y Venezuela?

¡Ay Hugo!  Bastante has jodido a Venezuela que no puedes tratarte ni siquiera en tus super CDI cubanos que nos clavaste.  Déjame ver si entiendo bien el asunto.

No confías en ninguna clínica privada venezolana.  ¿Sera porque todos los doctores buenos ya se fueron de Venezuela?  ¿Por que será que se fueron?  ¿Será que les robaste su futuro profesional?

Ninguno de los hospitales públicos te sirve en Venezuela.  ¿Por que?  ¿Será que los dejaste como cascarones vacíos, hasta de aspirina?

¿Y los famosos CDI cubanoides? Una tal fulana nos decía en televisión que ella y su familia habían decidido dejar la medicina privada para irse a los CDI a tratarse mejor.  ¿Que es de la vida de esa fulana?  ¿Será que también se fue a Cuba contigo a tratarse?

Te compadezco Hugo, porque ademas del dolor de culo que te estas gastando, debes tener un dolor de alma, si es que tienes una.  Mucha amargura debe darte saber que hasta los chavistas mas verracos y también los mas bolsas deben de empezar a preguntarse por que ellos tienen que calarse la medicina venezolana mientras a ti el estado te paga una fortuna por un arreglo de culo quien sabe en que otro país....

Venezolanische Diktatur agiert wie erwartet: sie will Capriles jetzt beseitigen

Chávez Marionetten beim Obersten Gericht haben eine Anklage gegen den oppositionellen Gouverneur vom Bundesstaat Miranda, Henrique Capriles, angenommen. Grund? Angeblich Korruption. Wir hatten dies seit Jahren erwartet. Die Militärregierung will so schnell wie möglich den populären Politiker der Primero de Justicia-Partei beseitigen, damit der angeblich kranker Kommandant Hugo Chávez keine nennenswerte Rivalen hat.

Was werden die demokratischen Regierung nun sagen?
Oberstes Gericht Venezuelas

Le Bastille Day that nobody calls that here

I have not been in France for a July 14 for so many decades that I dare not count.  I think it was probably during my last college year when my siblings came over to spend summer here after I graduated.  Since then I have avoided France in Summer, the more so that my relatives happen to live in beach resort areas which become hellish in July and August.  France is best from me late spring or early fall though I do not mind it at all in winter.

Then again, after today I might have to reconsider some, or at least plan for vacations finishing on, say, July 15.
"le 14 Juillet" as we call it has become in a way an embodiment of French art de vivre (nobody here talks about the Bastille take over of 1789 like in the US where people would come to me to wish me a happy Bastille day leaving askance the first few times).  It is not that the US July 4th is unpleasant: I did enjoy very much a few of them, but the US celebrates its birthday, its independence, whereas France commemorates the revolution  (of which the Bastille take over is just a revolutionary date among many others, bloodier ones at that).  A commemoration is different than a birthday and as such over the years July 14th has become more a day to celebrate "Frenchness" rather than to debate the merits of a particular date.

Celebrating Frenchness includes celebrating the Republic, its secular nature, and thus the day starts with the military parade at the Champs Elysees, always an impressive affair.  There is something about the French flair for military parades that makes even an anti-military guy like me stop and take notice.  One cannot help but be impressed when the French Republican Guard, on horseback please, with adequate blaring brass included,  trots down to the Place de la Concorde where the president and his guests await.  The video below gives you a modest account, but toward the end you get to see some of these horseman, but sideways, not frontal as TV showed live.

Un défilé du 14 juillet endeuillé -
Les cérémonies du 14 juillet, dominées par l'émotion au lendemain de la mort de cinq soldats français en Afghanistan, ont débuté jeudi à 10H00 sur les Champs-Elysées, en présence du président de la République et de dizaines de milliers de personnes.

By the way, for US readers, the military parade was marred this year by the death of 4 more French soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday, suicide bombing.

Every year the parade has a theme and this year it was the French rescue corps, namely the fireman and even more to the point the Paris ones, "les Sapeurs-Pompiers" who also happen for Paris to belong to the armed forces of France.  At the end of the parade they offered a show which looks a lot like a corny gymnastics show, except that you need to realize that the type of activity shown in the video below are actually possible because of the required fitness state of these Sapeurs-Pompiers.  In other words, these guys in tights can actually give a run for their money to the more burly New York Fire department.  And if you think that the ladder moves were kind of dumb, well try to do them on your own and add a fire in front...

L'animation de clôture des sapeurs-pompiers de... par chartrestw

But this being France, the military parade run like its trains and at noon sharp it was all over so people could take care of the real business at hand: lunch.

In the US outdoor grills or BBQ are the norm.  Steak or at least burgers.  In France this is rather different although the al fresco idea is retained.  But unless we are in the great outdoors, we sit at a table and the meal is fully cooked gourmet fare, even if some stuff might be thrown on the outdoor grill.  And this set up being an invitation at relatives having lived in Venezuela, well, there is also a hammock in the background.

And if US football or baseball is not a tradition here at all, we do have the Tour de France which blessed us this year with the privilege of having a Frenchman hold onto the yellow shirt even though he was expected to lose it today. After all it was the first mountain stage, at the mythical Tourmalet no less, where classifications starts to shift mightily. But the guy had enough time scored ahead that he was able to hold for one more day to his jersey, to the delight of his countrymen. This live on TV while you recover from lunch.

The amiable day, of a particularly nice summer day everywhere, not too warm, ended up with fireworks, held almost everywhere, according to the means of the village or city. Being a rather nice resort town, from the beach we had a nice display. But across the bay we also saw two other fireworks taking place...

The last tradition is a main square public dance that lasted, civilizedly, until 2 AM, no more. But we also had "les forains", other street bands holding smaller dances at different street corners, etc... I had forgotten how much French like to dance (not me). Of course there is a bevy of stands selling from ice cream to crepes, while most restaurants and bars remain open at least until midnight, giving us a very nice street fair that lasts for several blocks.

Indeed, such a nice and amiable way to spend a holiday.

PS:  And no comparison to Venezuela where July 5th is a boring affair where the lousy military parade is mandatory on all TV networks, cadena.  If Chavez were not sick we would have had to endure yet another lengthy and insulting speech.  Here, Sarkozy in electoral year did not even send a short national message.  Civilization and barbary illustrated.

Cronicas Beatas (Chavez is a born again Catholic)

Do not miss Bruni's post over Chavez going from Catholic Church excoriator in chief to what we call in french "grenouille de benitier" (baptismal font frog).  What a difference a well placed cancer makes...  And if you do not speak Spanish you can use google translator, and regardless of google, comparing the videos of Chavez taking communion or cursing the church is self explanatory...

Where rain is scarce and winds blow hard

The Dividivi (Caesalpinia coriaria) is a tree-like shrub that originally grows in the barren, extremely windy coastal areas in Northern Venezuela, Colombia and the islands closeby (like Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, which were part of the Province of Venezuela until the third decade of the XVII century).

The pods can be used to get tannin, a very versatile compound. Locals also treat a lot of ailments with different parts of this plant.

When Juan Martín de Ampués and later the Germans under the Welser arrived in Venezuela, this was one of the first trees they saw in the very arid region of Coriana, now around Coro, in Falcón.

Venezuela circa 2016?

You may want to read the Economist article below of a road trip in Zimbabwe, between Harare and Bulawayo. Then think that my regular road trips between San Felipe and Caracas are looking more and more like those road trips in Zimbabwe, time extension included, except that I do not get to drive past the estates of Chavez familiy.....

Voluntad Popular' Elections: Democracy or not?

There is a political party, a new political party, that everyone is talking about. Most of my politically – interested friends from my university have dropped their parties to join Voluntad Popular. They say this is the first truly democratic party of the country. Why? Because they recently celebrated internal elections to all charges of the party’ structure. Nothing new here, except for this party invited everybody – I mean every single Venezuelan able to vote even living outside the country – to participate on those elections. There are articles and tweets praising this nouveau move. And when I see my friends’ Facebook status, congratulating themselves for being part of Voluntad Popular, naming the word democracy too many times; I wonder if this is democracy at all. Or if this is just another populist move.
We have to start speaking about Voluntad Popular’ creator and main leader: Leopoldo López. He’s young and handsome and has both a great and a rather shameful record. Great: he was Chacao’ major (the smallest and richest municipality of Caracas) and proved to be a great manager. Not so great: Chacao is relatively easy to rule, he needed more harsh political experience but the people mistakenly believed that what it was good for Chacao, was just as good as everybody. Shameful: he left the political party on which his leadership was born: Primero Justicia after a well knowing fight. Then joined a second: Un Nuevo Tiempo and shortly after, he also abandoned that party.

Then he created Voluntad Popular but he was not honest at first: he claimed his organization was not a political party but a “social movement”; hence keeping an anti-political speech. Then Voluntad Popular officially turned into a political party. The fact that he changes his political affiliations just as he changes clothes, make me think that team work and Leopoldo are not matching words. Plus, make me suspects that he goes more for opportunities than values.

In the meantime of all this process he was inhabilitated to run for public office. The government presented corruption charges against him but no one believed them (at least I don’t) because the government disabled many other opposition candidates to run for any public charge as soon as they got popular enough to represent a threat to them. So it wasn’t about corruption, it was about the fact that Leopoldo could beat a Revolution’ candidate. Either way this political inhabilitation is still current. The country is waiting for a decision of the Inter- American Human Rights court in Costa Rica in September on his inhabilitation. But so far, he cannot run for presidency next year. Hence, he can’t be a candidate for opposition primaries.

Unable to run for primaries, what it was left for Leopoldo and his new movement? As a strategy he did something that soon proved very effective: Voluntad Popular would have internal elections and in those elections anyone could vote. Political participation in all its purity. But there are forms of participation that are just fake and this is just one of them.

As a Venezuelan citizen, to vote in Voluntad Popular’ election is just as logical as to vote for the authorities of the Country Club (a social club on which I’m not a member and that I have visited perhaps twice in my whole life). Voluntad Popular’ leaders will have no actions on their voters what’s so ever unless they actually belong to the party. Outside the party, any other voter was just a propaganda tool to engross numbers that really do not represent much. I don’t understand how putting our noses in the internal affairs of a group is equal to democracy.

What amazes me is that the people who’s strongly supporting Voluntad Popular’ moves, are the same who fiercely denounced the Law for the universities’ project. The project after many protests, did not pass. One of it’s main proposals was to allow almost anyone able to vote – despite of its affiliations to a certain university – to decide on the university authorities. The idea was crazy and wrong in so many levels. And I wonder, isn’t Voluntad Popular elections the same idea? The same argument that goes “voting more and having a wider electoral universe is equal to participate more, equal to have more democracy”? Isn’t that exactly the constant Revolutionary move to maintain its democratic facade that we have rejected over and over again?

It scares me to see how theories, arguments, justifications that I thought were Revolution’ only property; now are used by the opposition. Which makes me think that democracy has been lost forever, even in hands of those who I thought, were supposed to rescue it.

Le bowl de cheries

Life can be a bowl of cherries.

Granted, it does not happen that often but it can happen.  It does not need to be a the Ritz Carlton of Maui, it does have to happen in the splendors of Alaska's wilderness.

But a real bowl of French cherries, in season, next to a chaise on a balcony overlooking a small resort town street, with your kindle at hand, on a very mild summer afternoon....  well, it does not get better than that.

The more so if it has been 2 decades since I was last time in summer in France.

Venezuelas königliche Familie oder Gruppenbild mit Kommandant

Hier könnt Ihr Venezuelas ein Video mit dem "comandante-presidente" sehen, nachdem er aus Kuba zurückkam. Kitschiger geht es nicht. Im letzten Teil erzählt der Kommandant, wie er eine Trophäe seiner Zeit als Amateur-Baseballspieler zurückbekam, denn viele Leute sehnten sich danach, diese Reliquie zu ergattern. Fremdschämen heisst "vergüenza ajena" auf spanisch, "Chávez" auf venezolanisch.

aus Daniels Blog geklaut

Mapping for Venezuela

Maps are have power, and give it to those who know how to use them.  Thus we must welcome and mightily praise the initiative from Christian Font, Dorothy Kronick and Javier Rodriguez Rivas to design, for whatever reason pushed them, an electoral map of Venezuelan electoral results since 1998.

For sure, there are still plenty of bugs in that map such as pesky borders that do not match, or perhaps the wish to incorporate too many details rather than separate the type of maps altogether.  For example I would have preferred a plain national map for the country at states levels, and a set of 20 something individual maps for each state which could carry all the data.  But I suppose that for any cartographer the temptation of trying to encompass everything in a single map for visual effect is irresistible.  Unfortunately for Venezuela it is impossible to achieve because the population unbalance, and the political polarization make whatever electoral victory visually unsatisfying if it does carry at the very least a 30% of the rural districts.  Then again since I am one of the lone voices that specializes in the Venezuelan Poduncks voting patterns I might be biased in my comments because of my needs.

Thus we have now a new tool that is bound to get better with time and that will save people like me a tremendous amount of grief while building up excel sheets.  Although I have a few minor points of disagreement with the way data is calculated (wisely based on ESDATA among other things) the general patterns are clearly set and allow to anyone with minimal interests in Chavismo electoral history (besides fraud, vote buying and the like) to see how the electoral landscape of a country can evolve under populism.  As an example on how this can be used, and its limitations, I have picked up the electoral picture of Yaracuy, my home state, in 1998 and 2010.

With this map we have the general frustration that I experience whenever I see such type of maps: WHY, O WHY?

Indeed, it is very difficult to convey the reasons why there are such electoral changes in a region over 12 tears even within an extended legend at the foot of a map.  And the more so when that map is national as I already pointed out above.  Well, maybe I should not be so tough because after all it still leaves me with something to do :)  But I suppose my irksomeness (word?) comes that I know that too many people will go no further than such maps and say " Whoah! look at how mighty Chavez is" when in fact he is in a serious popular decline since 2007.  And since I cannot force them to read my blog or similar material, well, that is the idea they stay with.

Coming back to Yaracuy.  San Felipe and Yaritagua (why the missing data on Yaritagua when I have seen it elsewhere?) are the only urban areas of Yaracuy.  San Felipe because it is the state capital and crosses the 200 K mark and Yaritgua because, well, it is becoming kind of a dormitory for much greater Barquisimeto rather than a genuine urban area.  But if San Felipe remained more or less anti chavista, deeply rural Farriar went Chavez through and through and stayed there (Nirgua should be redder than it shows because there inner chavista divisions might be misinterpreted as being opposition, but that is another story).

The thing is that in 1998 the Eastern parroquias and municipios (district and counties) of Yaracuy were sugar cane dependent and very assisted by the administration of Eduarod Lapi.  This was unacceptable for chavismo which made a strong effort to liquidate as many sugar plantation it could and revive the racial  hatred of an area.  This was done though a signficant penetration of Cuban advisers who could easily disappear in the extensive rural area that the San Felipe governor had no means to survey adequately.  In 2004 Lapi was finally ousted.  by 2006 all the main sugar farms had ceased to function, by 2008 replacement cutlrues had mostly failed and today, well, Farriar and its neighboring areas are deeply dependent of misiones and thus vote very, very red.  In 1998 I would easily go for a Sunday ride in the beautiful areas of Eastern and Northern Yaracuy.  Today it has been at least three years that I have not dared drive around there on a lonely week end.....

Thus a map can tell you the extent of chavismo's success in reaching certain political goals, but it cannot tell you the whole story.  Chavismo understands quite clearly that and if one were a total cynic one would blame the team for creating such a map that I am sure might end up being used for chavismo's propaganda sooner than later.  But I am not such cynic and I am glad that these guys did such a hard job to get the project started.  My congratulations to them and my offer to help them in any way I can.