Ist der venezolanische Caudillo todkrank? (denn die Toten reiten schnell)

Meiner Meinung nach: es ist völlig egal. Ihr könnt Daniels Meinung hier lesen. Ich bin mit ihm völlig einverstanden. Seit 1999 hörten wir zumindest 3 mal im Jahr, dass es Mordanschläge gegen Chávez ("magnicidio") geben soll. Da diese Meldungen so langweilig wurden, benutzt man jetzt die echte oder imaginäre Krankheit des Caudillos, um Mitleid hervorzurufen.

Das ganze ist eine Seifenoper, wie so üblich in Venezuela.

Die Militärregierung hat nun die Reederei, die die Fähre zwischen Margarita und dem Festland betreibt, enteignet. Warum? Die Regierung behauptet, man hätte Kundenbeschwerde bekommen. Was ist wirklich geschehen? Wahrscheinlich wollen die Militärs eine bessere Kontrolle der Insel. Wieso nur?

Just some groovy music

It's not from Venezuela, but from Senegal: Baobab. The Senegalese music was greatly influenced by Caribbean music (mainly Cuban, but not only), which in turn was the product of African music with an European touch.

I had the privilege to talk to a couple of these musicians. They are not just brilliant but also extremely friendly.

The Chavez cancer circus show

I really do not understand how people let themselves be played around with Chavez cancer.  I mean, is it not obvious that for a couple of months now he has started using his disease has an electoral card?  He has little to show for 12 years of rule. The cancer seems almost a godsend for him as it allows him to play it for the masses as a victim, or a superhero that comes form the grave and what not, incubus included.  That it is successful or not is not the issue, but that he manages to distract political discourse from his failures to his diseases is no mean feat.

Today we had yet another episode as El Nuevo Herald in Miami tells us of kidney failure in Chavez.  That as a consequence of his chemotherapy Chavez may have some temporal kidney problem is not to be surprising.  But El nuevo Herald, as it has done in the past, and considering its Cuban Exile influence, tried to grab the headlines   And succeeded.  It also succeeded unwillingly in giving Chavez an opportunity to promptly attack the private media as congenital liars.

Why do we (well, not me) succumb so easily to such manipulations?  Why do we need to discuss, even to dismiss it, El Nuevo Herald? I even had a reader who sent me an article he published in Facebook on this subject.  The fact of the matter is that I have come to think that Chavez and his Cuban "image" advisers are trying to play all us by releasing true and false "leaks" and see where that does lead them.  Thus in an effort to calm all of you and to try to make you concentrate on more important things such as Venezuelan disaster, the opposition primary and other such assorted worthy undertakings, I am going to list some simple rules to help you keep your mental compass on the fixed North of your choice.

The transition will start only when it starts.  Miguel pointed out that the main thing to watch for is the change in vice-president.  I semi agree with him in that Jaua, obviouly not the successor of choice for Chavez or the Cubans, will leave the vicepresidency anytime soon anyway to run for Miranda Governor.  What would be at the very least equally interesting is who succeeds him.  If it is Maduro then the transition has started (though a couple of other names could be possible depending if they want Maduro to run in lieu of Chavez, for example Jose Vicente to run the country while Maduro runs the campaign, though very, very unlikely). If it is anyone else it means all and nothing.

This is all an internal matter of chavismo.  All the rumors that circulate are more directed toward any possible succession war inside chavismo than any attempt at stirring the opposition into some crazy maneuver.  We are not in 2002 anymore.  The opposition has no way to trigger a coup today.  If there is such a thing as a coup it is a product of Chavez succession wars when one side of chavismo does not get it and cannot accept that another side gets it.  That the coup-mongering side tries to co-opt some inside the opposition is purely cosmetic.  NONE of the main presidential contenders in the opposition would support a coup since it looks more and more likely that the winner of the primary in February will be the winner in October 2012.  Why risk it all to please some corrupt military inside chavismo?

There is panic inside chavismo.  This is of course due to Chavez obvious diseases (whatever incubic cancer this one is in the end).  But it is also due, and people do not realize it quite well, that no matter where in chavistadom you are located, come October 8 2012 there is absolutely no job security for you.  If the opposition wins, it is clear that a boatload of office holders will join the jobless lines.  But if chavismo were to prevail there is little more security.  If Chavez could not run, then if you were not on the side of chavista winner (Maduro, Cabello, etc, etc...) you are in trouble.  But even if Chavez were to be reelected there is little job security because considering the economical situation of the country a few thousand to hundred of thousand of public workers will be laid off.  They all know that and right now there is an effervescence of corruption to finish to pay off debts before October 2012.  When such things are at stake do not be surprised that generating wild rumors inside chavismo is also valid warfare strategy to survive by flushing out the competition through their perceived reaction to rumors.

MY ADVICE?  Stay put, relax, make some popcorn and watch.  If you must, the only worthwhile rumors to follow show up in Venezuelan English Language blogs, Tal Cual or Globovision.  El Universal is too serious for rumors even though it hosts Boccaranda....  The rest, you may consider at your own risks.

When "revolutions" die

All revolutions die, eventually, and the more so if they are fake revolutions.

The "bolivarian" one started its demise the day it lost the students of Venezuela, the very group that should have sustained its, intellectually.  Since then it has been a long drawn agony, marked by increasing violence, corruption, drug trafficking and what not, to become what is today a mere narco-state in the making.

It is thus only fitting that the other "revolution", the one that was propped by Chavez, the one that actually had at least some genuine revolutionary pretense, the "indigenous" revolution of Bolivia would find its demise in the repression of indigenous people.  What they did to the Amazon natives in Bolivia who protested on ecological and native rights, has no name.  It is not that so far it has caused the resignation of several high ranking officers (at least in Bolivia they still have enough shame that they resign), it is that an indigenous president is at the helm when indigenous folks, not of his tribe, are repressed.

It does not matter what Evo Morales does from now on, he might close all media in Bolivia if necessary, his revolution is near dead.

Caracas or Venezuela, 5 thousand or 17 thousand murders, whatever


Here you see a BBC video on Caracas' crime. The BBC journalist Jonathan Dimbleby (which I wrongly took for Will Grant) goes around with the Caracas policemen in one of their night patrols.

At the beginning of the video Dimbleby says there has been over 17000 murders in Caracas last year. In reality the number should be for all of Venezuela. This blog has a lot of posts about crime. I know the level of violence and lawlessness in Venezuela just horrible. Still, I find it is a real pity a journalist from such an organisation as BBC juggles in such a careless way with numbers.

If you want to see a more careful report on crime in Venezuela, you can check out an old post by Rory Carroll, who did deliver a good picture and a more in-depth analysis. Rory used the low range (14000 plus) but he correctly refers to the country, to the city, to ratios and to the fact stats in Venezuela are usually a mess. Perhaps the journalists from the BBC could learn a bit from him.

Ps. I still find it annoying they don't send a BBC journalist who speaks some Spanish. After all, Spanish is the second or third most widely spoken language on Earth...and it is not as if Spanish were so hard to learn for someone whose mother tongue is also Indo-European.

Leopoldo Lopez throws the gauntlet at Chavez

Leo's lectern
Leopoldo Lopez today announced officially his candidacy for president of Venezuela, for October 2012 vote. And he made it clear that his adversary was Hugo Chavez, not the opposition primaries. As the event would go on he would often enough remind people of his commitment to a new Venezuela, to opposition unity, to the decided challenge to Chavez (not necessarily chavistas).

Having covered the travails of Lopez with the IACHR extensively gave me an invitation to cover the event.  Not to mention that I was already at the start, when Voluntad Popular was launched as a movement.  I suppose that being the last English writing blogger in Venezuela made it my duty to go and cover the event today instead of a well needed rest.  But it turned out to be quite interesting and worth the time, my first ever candidacy launch!

Going to mainstage
The day was cloudy which was as well.  Saturday being shopping day in Chacaito parking was hell as attendants let people over-park.  I was thus stuck in a basement for half an hour besides a car of cheerful VP guys waving a flag.  But I got enough of waiting for a spot to open, left in a huff and went to park several blocks away.

Vendors ready!
The event was on Tamanaco street of El Rosal, a rather small venue, but then again it was not a mass rally.  Indeed, what I attended was a rally of the faithful, of dedicated people who in two years managed to cobble together a political party and get a candidate with world wide exposure as the guy that took on Chavez in-justice system, and won.  Well, won the credit anyway, the material victory still up in the air, depending on whether Chavez will risk blunt repeal of the IACHR.

El Pueblo of Voluntad Popular
The rally must thus not be judged on the extent of the crowd but rather on the enthusiasm.  After all it was Leopoldo speaking to the faithful and a turn out of several thousand (maybe 5?) was good enough as long as they were all cheery.  They were.

My first observations as slowly but surely I made my way to the stage were on the very mixed crowds, clearly cutting across social lines,and, shall we dare to write it, racial lines.  I think chavistas must be starting to feel scared that so many of what passes for its captive electorate is now showing up at opposition rallies.  In fact, it almost felt like a chavista rally of years ago...  I am including a few shots of thew crowd for you look by yourselves at the great mix of folks.  And as usual, by the way, click to enlarge and get the details.

The atmosphere was festive indeed, with plenty of interesting folks to look at such as this drummer from Zulia?  Barlovento?  I did not ask, too much noise already.  Elsewhere folks organized impromptu dancing, or something.

But the atmosphere was also festive in a different way when I finally climbed on the "VIP" stand: plenty of opposition figures were at hand, from all colors (except Primero Justicia who should start getting over the desertion of Leopoldo by now).  There was the mayor of Baruta, Gerardo Blyde, UNT.  There were several Assembly folks (Cocchiola of Valencia, Stalin of Caracas, etc..) and even another candidate, Diego Arria.  Apparently they all came not only for courtesy but to show the strongest support to Lopez in his fight against the regime in forcing it to abide by the IACHR ruling.

The view from the grades was good enough and it helped me accept the fact that once up there, I could not escape until the speeches were over.  But in the end I did not mind, the allergy that I developed to political speeches under Chavez turning out to be a Chavez allergy.  Leopoldo does not do small talk.

Street Dancing
The show started with a long motivational video that reminded us all the troubles of Leopoldo and the program of VP.  Well done, with proficiency.  As the array of cameras held by long beams roved all around to film the crowd and its reaction.  VP seems to have the means to rent stuff now.  Or is it that Venevision is trying to make a come back by helping Lopez, as rumors have it?  At this point I really do not care as to who finances whom now, the time of virginal politics is long gone and anything is good enough to get rid of Chavez, who on his side has absolutely no qualm in using all the state apparatus and finances for his campaigns.  Let's keep that in mind, shall we?
The view from my stand (Globovision's Roland Carreño on top)

Leopoldo made his entry after the video, alone with wife and daughter.  Big ovation, and then he was alone on his pulpit (seen above, as I went backstage at the end).

The usual chavista chopper
His speech was really more geared at the press and public opinion than to his followers and thus there was a an occasional lack of synchronicity between Leopoldo's sometime fancy words and the reaction of the crowd.  Thus not as much roaring as I was expecting (though it started well when Leopoldo repeated his "Chavez, are you afraid of me?").  Or maybe it was some lack of experience yet: after all Leopoldo has been building VP almost one to one and only now he is starting to address larger rallies.  There is training curve, even in politics.  But besides this qualm of mine, the speech was solid, maybe with a couple of unnecessary and untenable promises but with other strong points that really had an impact.
More "pueblo"

The first one is the announcement that Leopoldo Lopez, if elected, will be a one term president, will seek to go back to the traditional one term presidency of Venezuelan democratic history.  This is big for me because Leopoldo has indirectly admitted that an eventual governemt of him will be plagued by hard decisions and as such he is already aware that reelection will not be possible.  I like very much that realism as to the Venezuelan situation.  I have to praise him for an almost  self offering as a sacrificial victim.  This is a statesman speech such as they are woefully lacking among other candidates, as I already noted.

Confetti rain
The second highlight was the real show stopper, the roaring moment.  That came when Leopoldo addressed the injustice now prevalent in Venezuela and he must have touched a raw nerve with the attendance. Indeed, even though he has become himself the poster boy of those who have no option but seek justice outside of Venezuela, it is also true that chavismo abuses are now having a toll at all levels.  Not only the abuses of the public workers who now are unaccountable of their actions, but also the everyday abuses by chavistas at the Communal Councils, or the Reserva, must be hitting a lot of people in the crowds that attended today.  Amen of the utter lack of justice for the victims of the high crime rate of Venezuela.  VP could do worse than have its focus group centered on this.

Once the speech was over, in good US style, a confetti rain fell over Leopoldo who was joined again by wife and daughter.  After that Leopoldo got down to press the flesh, something he has got excellent at, what he does best in fact.  I even made a short video of the moment.

PS: On an unrelated note.  When I was leaving I found Diego Arria giving an interview to state media guys.,  I think it noteworthy because they came without badges or anything that could identify them, even though the guy with the mic is a well known prankster of sorts that came from Avila TV, I think, and who does infamous shots for La Hojilla.  As far as I was told, they never went in to cover the event.  Then again they might have heard how the surveillance chopper of Chavez was booed and preferred to stay put, hunting in the back.  For a hint at how the launch of Lopez will be covered by state media you may read this RNV snippet....

Yet Arria had no qualm talking to that guy and keeping his cool.  Still, a couple of minutes later some woman started bitching at them.  I am sure she will be on VTV but not Arria who did not say something outrageous (for their taste).  While the women bitched, Arria was calmly buying an ice cream cone to a street vendor and I went to talk to him.  Maybe another political event for VN&V to cover soon?

Diego Arria "cornered" by VTV

Venezuela at the end of 2011

The situation

Venezuela is not getting the money it should get from the the oil industry because PDVSA is in bad shape, corruption keeps growing and the president, who rules Venezuela as if it were his personal farm, is ill...or terminaly ill, or faking to be ill, depending on whom you ask.

We read that Akhmadinejad is not coming to Venezuela because Chávez is too ill (his chancellor, Maduro, said it is "waiting a few weeks for the completion of the healing programme".

The country is experiences protests everywhere. People protest and often don't know what their ultimate plan is. They want the State to help. Sometimes they want security, which is very much their right. Sometimes they want help in social housing, which is very much fair. Sometimes they want houses for free, which is not stupid and can only be possible in a place where most follow a cargo cult. Sometimes they want the government to improve their conditions that deteriorated after some of them asked the government to privatize their companies. Sometimes they are fed up of the way in which health services are collapsing. A lot are angry because blackouts and general electricity shortages are our daily bread. People close streets everywhere, burn tyres, make a lot of noise and the ones who suffer the most are other civilians. The mood is bad. The honchos in power are fine.

Daniel wrote about how the government wants now to limit profit in Venezuela to 10% while that same government is overpaying Nicaraguan and Iranian and Chinese exporters for political reasons. Inflation is almost 30%.The IMF predicts GDP growth of 2.7% and the Venezuelan government annouced that as a big achievement, but that is only because most people don't know how to interpret GDP growth. Venezuela has a population growth that is almost 2%, it has had over 15% more revenues due to higher oil prices since 2010, it is the slowest growing country in South America. You can't compare 2.7% of Venezuela with 1% for Germany.

The Forecast

What can you expect in the coming three months?

A lot depends on Chávez's real or perceived health status. Beyond that, we can expect the following:
1) the Chávez honchos are again increasing the personality cult around Chávez. This will reach even more mental levels in the coming months.
2) more money will flow from Fonden and other state resources to the Chávez campaign.
3) the regime will put more efforts on trying to use Leopoldo López to divide the alternative forces.

At the same time we will see an increase in the competition between the different pre-candidates for the opposition. If this is carried out in a fair manner, it could benefit democracy in Venezuela. If not, obviously, we will have more military government to come.

Expect Russia and China to meddle more and more in Venezuela's affairs. Venezuela means too easy money for them. The Chinese can become more flexible when it comes to accepting a regime change. The Russians know they will lose one of their best buyer of weapons. As the CEO of Rosobonexport, Anatolii Isaikin, declared, Venezuela was one of the five countries on which the Russian merchants of war count, together with huge China, India plus Algeria and Vietnam.

I take this picture from Miguel's you see Venezuelan chancellor in a "mass" organized in Mannhattan to pray for the caudillo's health

She is a commerce minister, she surely passed Eco 101. But Eco 102?

Worn out lipstick included
Meet Edmée Betancourt.  She is the commerce (and trade?) minster of Venezuela.  I heard that she is rather affable in private but prone to rather outrageous/militant public declarations.  But the one of this week deserve a special consideration because, well, if she really thinks so then she is either an ignorant or sabotaging Chavez.

As you may know, or not, it does not matter, that the regime has decided to go around price controls of essential items by simply deciding that all products must have their cost calculated and the government will decide how much more they can charge.  among the many outrageous declarations on this thing we can mention the one of Juan Carlos Loyo that people will be able to update their cost anytime courtesy of a web page from the government and thus ask for price increases as necessarily.  This in a country of very faulty internet, even faultier official web pages and this coming from a guy who has no qualm in paying countries such as Nicaragua coffee up to100% above Venezuelan coffee which price has remained blocked for years....  But I digress...

The thing is that Edmée thinks that 10% earnings is quite fair.
Todo esto se tomará en cuenta para poder estimar cuál será el precio máximo de un producto. Por supuesto que habrá un precio determinado de un producto en la matriz de costo. A partir de allí es cuando se fija cuánto será el precio máximo al público. Yo opino que una utilidad razonable de una empresa puede ser de 10%All will be taken into account to determine what will be the maximum price of a product.  Of course there will be a determined price of a product in a cost matrix (WTF ????? Editor's note).  From there it is that we will fix the maximum price to the public.  My opinion is that a reasonable earning for a business could be 10%. 
Such things cannot be made up....

That you sell a million trinkets or half a dozen heavy machinery in a year, 10% is fine.
That the inflation of a country is 30% does not matter, obviously.  You can absorb the 20% loss of capital.
That banks could pay me more than 10%  interests should not be an incentive to sell my business and put the money in the banks.
And the 10% earnings should certainly be an incentive to keep working, amen of all the fun that can be found battling SENIAT, LOPCYMAT, Inspectoria del Trabajo, Min Ambiente, etc, etc... amen of outright expropriation risks

I better stop.

Endorsing times?

Yesterday my very estimable colleague Juan Cristobal asked in the comments whether I was endorsing Leopoldo Lopez. Fair question since I have been writing a lot about the Inter American Court proceedings that Lopez won brilliantly (even if it will do him little good it seems). Unfortunately the answer is not direct. 

My nature forbids me to endorse anyone in politics, or at least not heartily. Mostly all my voting decisions have been difficult, in France or Venezuela (or the US if I had been allowed to vote then). Only since 1998 my head was clear, my decision neat and precise: anything but Chavez, at any election that this creep or his minions or his referenda were proposed. My record low, so to speak, was April 1999 when I was in the 10% of those that voted against electing a constituent assembly. To this day, the only true anti chavista and possibly the only true democrats in Venezuela are those who went to vote NO that day in spite of Chavez rising tide or the first "abstention" movement of our recent history. I recall my last minute frantic call to convince at least my brothers to go to vote NO, only one did..... That I have been proven right since is of little comfort.

Since 1998 all my voting decisions have been based on which way is best to get rid of Chavez who has been a cancer on the country (kind of interesting that he is suffering of cancer himself and that he uses it to screw Venezuela even further as if it were our fault he got cancer; but I digress). In other words, I will support, heartily, anyone that has a reasonable chance to oust Chavez through the ballot vote, the only way we should remove Chavez from office if we want to avoid lingering peronista-like syndrome for Venezuela. In 2002 a more or less forced destitution was still an option as Chavez then was at his historical low and there was an argument that the 1999 constitution changes were illegal. But such an option is ruled out today now that the regime as managed a permanent polarization of the country and has created an ideologized group that will take years to educate back to the ways of democracy. Now, mere application of the 1999 constitution would be an improvement over the present situation.

The first real choice we had was in 2006 when we had to chose between Petkoff, Borges and Rosales as the unity candidate against Chavez. My choice then was Petkoff even though I did write a lengthy article on the validity of the three choices offered then. Once Rosales got the opposition nod I endorsed him fully which alienated me, for good, from one of my colleagues that had soul searching misgivings only well suited for those who have the luxury of living abroad.  Warts and all we had all to support Rosales.

The situation today is different since there will be primaries in February and in theory we can chose the unity candidate and my blogging could actually play a role, the tinniest, smallest, role for sure but a role in supporting a given horse.  And even though I have written extensively about Leopoldo Lopez plight, that should not be interpreted as an outright endorsement.

Let me explain first one thing: the tale on how Leopoldo took on the chavista judicial repression machinery and exposed it to the world, and even to too many Venezuelans that should have known better, is riveting, to say the least.  I would be remiss if I had not covered it in detail.  After all, other colleagues were writing on fiances and fraud, someone had to cover the story from early on.

This being said I do have three candidates for the primaries.  If they were today I would vote for Leopoldo but I have not closed my options on Maria Corina Machado or Diego Arria even though I have all but ruled out Capriles and Pablo Perez.

Let's start on why I have ruled out Perez and Capriles.  There is something that I do not like in their campaign, a feel of "chavismo light", a belief that chavistas could come to them just because they promise to keep the best of Chavez and make it better.  The premise is wrong on so many levels that I do not want to get started on that.  The main sin for me of these campaigns is that they are doing great disservice to the country by sugar coating the reality and waltzing around the tough decisions to be made in 2013.  It is almost the best recipe to send people back in droves to Chavez or some chavista, just the way they did go back to Carlos Andres Perez in 1988 for all the wrong reasons.   Nearly unforgivable for me there are the many mistakes along the way such as the long drawn out discussion between Perez and Rosales, or the twitter major faux-pas of Capriles.  It is not that I do not like them, after all I did write a rather glowing review of the a Primero Justicia congress, and I have more than once apologized for Rosales missteps.  But this time I have a choice.

I regard Lopez, Machado and Arria as my favorites right now because each one of them is doing what is right, what needs to be done if we want to do more than just beat Chavez in 2012.

Diego Arria has probably no chance and he has to suffer to get his 100K signatures so that the MUD will let him run as an independent.  But he is the perfect president for a transition that will last at least a couple of years, when the new government will need to negotiate tough agreements with all sorts of countries that have screwed up Venezuela and that will demand payment.  After all, they signed with Venezuela, not with Chavez, and it is not their fault if we were stupid enough to put Chavez in office.  Diego Arria has the experience for that and the contacts.  And he also understands that micromanagement does not work and he will hire the people to do the job wherever they are needed.  I sense that last part from no one other candidate except a little bit from Leopoldo Lopez even though many accuse him of autocratic tendencies of his own.  And if you think that I did not cover Diego Arria, think again: I covered extensively his fight to preserve his farm and his principled position against the regime (which did not do him much good).

Maria Corina Machado has already proven herself to be a good political manager when she was at SUMATE.  Since she is at the National Assembly she also has proved that she is a political animal, not a perfected one yet but a very fast learner.  And even though I covered her less than Arria or Lopez, I have dedicated a whole blog to the survival fate of SUMATE, a blog that may be mercifully dormant but ready to restart as needed.  Also, she speaks her mind and is not afraid of often  saying stuff that is un-PC.  Never mind that her rather Quixotic campaign is serving at least a major prupose: exposing the machismo inside chavismo where women occupy high positions but rule over nothing.

Leopoldo Lopez is easier to explain since I have done a lot of coverage on his adventures lately.  However I need to insist that he is doing something right too, creating a political party from scrap, which included extensive participation from its followers.  True, Primero Justicia does it also but not at all to the level that Voluntad Popular has dared to do. As such Voluntad Popular has had the benefit of attracting a lot, a whole lot, of the best and brightest of that student renewal that we saw in 2007.  Look at them then and look at 70% of them today organizing Lopez political activities.

Today, as I wrote, I would vote for Lopez but Arria and Machado I keep following and I can still go for them.  There are three long months of campaign and any one of the three can start failing... or be barred from running.  In fact, since either Machado and Arria are collecting signatures and since Chavez will likely bar Lopez, I might not be able to vote for any of them!

Speaking of this, since I consider that it is important that Machado and Arria go all the way to February to move the debate away from the "I am more efficient than Chavez". I will urge you to bring your signature to Machado or Arria.  Either one and you are not obliged to vote for them, but please, make sure they do participate in the February vote.

Since this is internet you can help Arria by going to his special Facebook page where you can download a form to support him and send it for free if you are in Venezuela.  I think that since the Tascon List this is a hard way to go, but if you live outside Venezuela or your name is already on the Tascon list, what do you have to lose?

Same thing for Maria Corina Machado who has a slicker web page. She gives you the option to download a form and mail it or a list of points where on occasion volunteers collect signatures.  And you can also mail them for free.

Still, to conclude, I need to re-assure readers who follow other candidates that if Capriles (you know who you are) or Perez win the primary this blog will instantly serve their electoral effort as if I had rooted for them from day one.

Education for Venezuela, the Miranda model

I have to say Henrique Capriles' efforts on education are starting to pay off. Whereas the military government in Venezuela is focusing on buying weapons, Capriles, who is a candidate for the 2012 presidential elections and current governor of Miranda, has been concentrating on improving schools in his region. It hasn't been an easy job, specially as the national government has been sabotaging all it can.

I have been personally involved in promoting the PISA programme in Venezuela. The Chávez government has ignored repeated calls to bring Venezuela to PISA as this would bring quite some transparency to Venezuela. It has been a frustrating thing to try to convince Chávez functionaries about allowing an open debate and research on education quality. The Miranda government, on the other hand, decided to meet the challenge and let pupils from Miranda take part in this international evaluation programme, just as most other American countries and other nations are doing.

Very soon we will get the results for Miranda's pupils. I imagine the initial results will be poor, but this is no surprise as Venezuelans' school levels were among the lowest in Latin America in 1998. The very low education levels in Venezuela were one of the main reasons, together with the oil price cycle, why the military came back to rule Venezuela in the first place. But now there is a new development. Very soon we will see how the central Venezuelan region of Miranda compares with the rest of the world...and we can build upon that and very soon all Venezuelan pupils will also join the PISA project.

Which picture inspires you more hope for the future of Venezuela

You want to know why the Venezuelan regime is so upset about the IACHR ruling favoring Leopoldo Lopez?  Consider these two pictures this week end, of a Chavez on his way to Cuba for more chemotherapy, waiting for  Evo Morales, threatening right and left, or that one of Leopoldo running in a half marathon.  There is part of your answer.

Chavez adrift

Chavez left for Cuba Saturday.  We must wonder about his disease induced insanity.  He has been accumulating all sorts of mistakes and has not been dealing quite well with political adversity.  He is letting his emotions rule and that can only complicate his political fights.  One has a sense that he stopped caring and that he just wants what he wants.  A little bit as the old Far West saying "let's see how many I can bring down with me".  Or something to that effect.

First there is that insistence in supporting Gaddafi against all logic even as the guy is AWOL and even as the last main backer, China, dropped him by recognizing the Libyan rebels.  To this, Chavez can only manage to convoke an ALBA summit of his cronies and issue a common support declaration that has no echo anywhere, and even less at the UN.  The only thing it manages is that the hubris of Chavez is forcing other countries into further international humiliation and discredit.  They may be sensing that as they only sent their foreign ministers to the Chavez presided summit.  This "summit" is not a matter of foreign policy, it is a matter of Chavez personal bond with Gaddafi.  As such he has no qualm in bringing down Venezuela and the ALBA in this farce.  More than ever we are confronted to the fact that Venezuela has long ago ceased to have a foreign policy and that this one has been replaced by a Chavez likes and dislikes policy.

On the internal front Chavez is aware of his personal weakness, even if he acts at it as if he were not seeing the white elephant in the living room.  He knows he could get really sick suddenly and he is trying to secure his hold on power.  But his problem is whom to trust.  From what we see it does not seem there is anyone he can trust, even in sickness.  People are pushed on and off from the front scene while he retains Jaua as his vice president.  But the latest promotion of his foreign minister Maduro who has started doing all sorts of things except foreign-ministering seems to point out that he will be the next Vice President and thus the one in charge shall Chavez weaken further.  This is strange, that a civilian may get the nod, because on the other hand Chavez keeps increasing the military hold in public administration.  Venezuela looks and works like a military regime now and that Maduro might be the next in line were Chavez to falter is curious to say the least, almost as if Maduro was his own less bad choice.

The Maduro/Military possible contradiction is an example where Chavez should make a choice and does not.  But when he makes a choice it might even be worse for him.  The very latest one was him declaring Saturday that the Inter American Court is worth nothing.  That can only mean that legally or illegally Chavez will bar Leopoldo Lopez from running in the 2012 elections.  Politcally one cannot understand his motivation.

Capriles Radosnki is leading high in polls for the February primary.  The second one is Pablo Perez.  And  Lopez is a distant thrid.  Even if that distant third could be improved readily if Lopez were to be allowed to run, it still does not imply that Capriles will lose in February.  It is in Chavez political interest that whomever wins in February does so with less than 50% of the vote and the best way to do that is to let Leopoldo run.  I doubt that he could go above 50% by February even if he were to win as either Perez or Capriles are bound to make further alliances to push away any challenge to their now established leadership, even if theirs  is rather locally based.  A Lopez banned from election will be forced to support either Perez or Capriles, become the king maker and ensure that whomever he picks up will win handsomely in February.  Does Chavez needs a real unity candidate?  Can Chavez personal hatred of Lopez blind him so much?  In fact I will go as far as suggesting that Chavez would have an easier time to beat Leopoldo than Capriles or Perez in October 2012 as these ones can probably rally better the left overs of AD or COPEI around their names than Leopoldo can.

And thus we must conclude that Chavez is adrift, hitting here or there, depending on whatever medication or treatment he is receiving at a given time.  While the country crumbles without him worrying much.  And him worrying even less about the well being of Venezuelans who as far as he is concerned have betrayed him.

For your Sunday reading: how ideologies messes up countries

Juan Forero has slowly but surely evolved into a serious critic of Chavez, like in today's Washington Post, contrary to other pro Chavez writers who are exposed as frauds such as Johann Hari, be it in the Economist or in blogs that know better than the Hari of the world.

Forero's comparison of Venezuela's hubris with Colombia's realism is damning for Chavez.  He does not need to delve much in what is in stock for Venezuela: trends like the chart on the right tell it all.

The Mountain of Life

In the Northwestern part of Amazonas State, not far from the Orinoco, you can visit the Autana mountain or Mountain of Life. The mountain is made up mostly of horizontal sandstone shields, mixed with karst, which is quite a strange thing, as karst shows up mostly in limestone formations.

The Autana rises only 1250 metres above sea level, but it looks pretty impressive as the jungle around is rather flat. This is the beginning of the amazing Guayana shield, which stretches for hundreds and hundreds of kilometres towards the East. To the West and North, going over the Orinoco, you have lands that belong to the Llanos. 

The Piaroas are some of the main native American groups still living in this area. They speak a language that is completely unrelated to any other language but one.

Chavez leaves for Cuba, leaves clear orders

So Hugo left today for Cuba for his 4th cycle of chemotherapy.  His last one he hopes.  He takes along his sidekick Evo.  Probably to receive both of them fresh Cuban orders while he is hooked up to some IV drip.  First question: since the third cycle was done in Venezuela, why the need for the 4th one in Cuba?  Second question, when will the Venezuelan people be allowed to go for free to Cuba for their own chemotherapy, if needed?  Not that they are receiving it for free in Venezuela, mind you1

But I digress.  The point is that Chavez is pissed off after a bad week and left with a flourish of insults, wishful thinking and threats, all in a single cadena.

If the wishful thinking was for his health (he looks worse and worse) the insults were for the Inter American Court for Human Rights who gave him a major defeat yesterday.  So he did what comes to him naturally, to a bully: I am not playing anymore, you do not exist "es un cero a la izquierda" (a Zero).  That means, obviously, that the Luisa Estella's high court received its marching orders to decide ASAP, preferably while he is in Cuba, that the IACHR rulings are invalid in Venezuela.  It is important to pretend that the court is independent: that is why it will most likely rule against the IACDH while Chavez is in Cuba.  Luisa Estella must be busy this week end writing whatever comes off her arse.

The threats were for the banks and bourgeoisie.  Apparently if the private banks do not stop swindling "el pueblo" then he will nationalize them.  Another stupid question if I may: if the banks are indeed swindling el pueblo why is there not some judicial proceedings against them?  Is expropriation a mere form of economic "inhabilitación" a la Leopoldo Lopez?

Oh dear, we are not done paying for that civil rights victory yesterday.....

PS: I wonder what many countries will think of Chavez insults to the IACHR.  The court had a very significant role in helping the victims of the military years there and when they read stuff like that in their media they certainly will wonder about Chavez education and sanity...

This is the lawyer of Chavez defending what cannot be defended

Escarra, a most ignominious character, has jumped from the National Assembly to become a few days ago the lawyer of the state, Procurador de la Republica, which in bolibanana parlance means that he is Chavez lawyer, making sure that he gets away with as much as possible.  He gave an interview yesterday in Telesur, unfortunately for many readers here, in Spanish.  But for those of you able to grasp enough, a few choice picks of Escarra, revealing how deeply morally and intellectually corrupted men like Carlos Escarra become when they decide to serve an autocrat.  It also allows you to observe how "moderate" chavismo in TeleSUR works out and allows you to imagine how it plays at home in unmoderated state media....

Minute2:30 : He says that PDVSA funds were given to Leopoldo to found PJ as a political party.  False, it was to create an ONG which became over the years PJ more becasue of Chavez regime than any previous intent (Capriles, to name one, was COPEI at the Congress of the time, to name a notorious case).  Never mind that PDVSA has given since billions for Chavez campaigns but Escarra thinks we are all idiots.

Minute 2:38 : he accuses Leopoldo of robbing moeny, using even the word "chorreó", larceny in Venezuelan argot.  False, of course, becasue if the regime had any proof of Lopez stealing for his own profit it would have been able to jail him without any trouble and you would not be reading these words today.

Minute 3:25 : running already short or real arguments Escarra goes the chavista way equating "negligence" with "idiocy" (brutalidad) in managing legal recourse in Venezuela.  That is, Escarra calls Lopez and idiot for not knowing how to file a lawsuit inside Venezuela.

Minute 3:35 : he contradicts himself, coming from defending a resolution against Lopez from the Venezuelan constitutional court to stating without even batting an eye that Lopez went to the IACHR without exhausting all recourse in Venezuela.  I suppose he means that he did not ask for a rendez-vous with Chavez, the sole recourse left in Venezuela after the TSJ constitutional court....

The rest is irrelevant tchach trying to point out that Lopez was not even bale to get a real party off the ground, that Escarra himself got more votes in his district than Lopez nation wide, etc...  As if Escarra actually thought that "his" votes were his indeed and not Chavez...  Delusion, when you hold us in your throes....  But in minute 4:25 he calls him a thief outright, "ladrón", withotu any proof of course, as already discussed above.  you need to wait for the end, if you have the stomach for Escarra to see that in spite of all his bravado he knows the regime is in trouble when he goes into a confusing discussion that Venezuela will follow the ruling of the IACDH but will not unless it will in case it decides it will not depending on what it will do or will not do.  He seems sadly lost hismelf....

Luisa Estela, leete bien el párafo 226

Aquí, clarísimo, lo que Luisa Estela tiene que leerse de la decisión de la CIDH publicada hoy.

226-  Sin perjuicio de ello, conforme lo ha establecido en su jurisprudencia previa, este Tribunal recuerda que es consciente que las autoridades internas están sujetas al imperio de la ley y, por ello, están obligadas a aplicar las disposiciones vigentes en el ordenamiento jurídico. Pero cuando un Estado es Parte de un tratado internacional como la Convención Americana, todos sus órganos, incluidos sus jueces y demás órganos vinculados a la administración de justicia, también están sometidos a aquél, lo cual les obliga a velar para que los efectos de las disposiciones de la Convención no se vean mermados por la aplicación de normas contrarias a su objeto y fin. Los jueces y órganos vinculados a la administración de justicia en todos los niveles están en la obligación de ejercer ex officio un “control de convencionalidad” entre las normas internas y la Convención Americana, en el marco de sus respectivas competencias y de las regulaciones procesales correspondientes. En esta tarea, los jueces y órganos vinculados a la administración de justicia deben tener en cuenta no solamente el tratado, sino también la interpretación que del mismo ha hecho la Corte Interamericana, intérprete última de la Convención Americana.

Luisa, si no lo quieres acatar, machete, pero no vengas a llorar después.

Las perras falderas ya ladran

[Actualizado] Pues no tuvimos mucho que esperar y ya las perras falderas del regimen han ladrado. Parece que la decisión del CIDH  les cayo mas pesada que masticarse sapo de jardín.

Empecemos por la contraloría de la república, reseñada en Prensa Latina que dice, por ejemplo, entre varias banalidades y mentiras esta perla de resumen: "En ese sentido, el texto de la Contraloría General manifestó que los hechos irregulares cometidos por López están comprobados y el inculpado no demostró su inocencia."  ¡Pero es que Leopoldo López no niega los hechos!  El problema es que él y medio mundo niega que fuesen crímenes ya que él no se embolsillo nada, y que el estado no ha demostrado que se cometió un crimen.  Eso solo lo puede establecer un juicio formal y este nunca tuvo lugar.

El siguiente ladrido vino con rapidez de la Fiscalía General de la república que nunca pudo, o se molestó en montar un expediente para llevar a juicio a Leopoldo López y la gran mayoría de los inhabilitados.  La Fiscal nunca se paseo por esa inquietante, de que si hubo crimen, de que si se puede demostrar, de que si se merece castigo, de que si la fiscalía cumple con su trabajo por la cual pagamos impuestos y que por lo tanto, si no cumple, también debería ser inhabilitada la fiscal ya mismo, en este instante, por incapaz.

En la Defensoría del Pueblo ya se ladró hace unos días.  Y si no se ladró hoy es porque seguramente la defensora está mas preocupada por los derechos de cinco cubanos en los EEUU que por los derechos de millones de venezolanos.

Todavía falta le ladrido mayor pero no se preocupen, que ya nos dio un anticipo con la ayuda del pillo de Jose Vicente.

Pero seamos justos, también hay perros falderos ladrando. Y muchos(as) que faltan por ladrar.

Actualizado: ya la Defensoría de Chávez, perdón, del Pueblo ladró. Ya cumplieron todos.  ¡Tirales galleticas Hugo!

The regime, it is pissed off...

Based on the first reactions of the regime to the IACHR ruling on the Lopez case the least we can say is that they are beyond miffed, they are pissed. That is not a surprise. However what is a small surprise is the infantile arguments they are advancing. Let's start by the official communique from the foreign ministry which, we may assume, the official position of the regime. I am posting it below as lifted from their site.  No translation, no time, use Google, but yes to the lies, contradictions and mistruths in it.
El día de hoy, la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos ha dado a conocer, a través de medios de comunicación, un pronunciamiento que había sido anunciado durante meses por voceros de la oposición política venezolana, y que recoge un conjunto de decisiones que el Gobierno de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela no duda en calificar de políticamente parcializado. 
First lie: it happens that the IACHR first releases its rulings to the parties involved, and only when all have recieved the ruling and had time to read it it is published offically.  That is, the IACHR is not making a media show the Venezuelan regime woudl like us to believe.  That indeed the regime did not receive an official mail notice is possible, but the regime was notified at the very least through and e-mail and pleading ignorance only makes the regime look even more ridicule in front of other countries that do receive occasional rulings of the IACHR....

Este pronunciamiento, que presume la existencia de una jurisdicción extraterritorial al pretender imponerle a Venezuela decisiones que son de estricto orden interno, constitucional y legal, y solo dependen de los órganos del poder público nacional, será referida por el Gobierno de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela a los órganos del poder judicial, para que analicen su pertinencia constitucional, una vez que sea notificado oficialmente. 
What we have here is a clumsy way to pretend that Venezuela is above the ruling while still sort of conceding that they need to review it.  Constitutionally the argument does not stand as the constitution of Venezuela is precise on the constitutional prerogatives of foreign treaties (and this one was ratified again AFTER 1999, when the new constitution went into effect).
Como es sabido, la Contraloría General de la República, en aplicación de las leyes venezolanas en la lucha contra la corrupción, ha procedido durante varios años a aplicar sanciones de carácter administrativo a centenares de funcionarios públicos, por lo cual el Gobierno Bolivariano rechaza las pretensiones de quienes en Venezuela aspiran a tener una licencia abierta para violar las leyes, cometer delitos y ser protegidos o perdonados por el solo hecho de pertenecer a la oposición contrarevolucionaria. 
I will pass on the argument that people like Lopez right to a fair trial is subordinated to an administrative decision.  What is interesting here is that the bureaucrats and minsters could not resist to qualify the opposition as "counter revolutionary" as if that had anything to do with the issues at hand.  That is, if indeed Lopez is a counterrevolutionary why is he not in jail, a concentration camp or even in front of a firing squad?
 Es por esto que el Gobierno del Presidente Hugo Chávez, frente a esta posición política de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, exhorta a todas las instituciones venezolanas a ratificar el compromiso previsto en la ley para castigar la corrupción y actividades relacionadas con este delito, y rechazar las maniobras nacionales e internacionales que pretenden victimizar a dirigentes políticos señalados por hechos irregulares en la administración pública, con el propósito de presentarlos como perseguidos políticos. 
Blah, blah, blah....  the government pretends to have demonstrated with the above paragraphs that it is a poltical position of the IACHR.  Maybe it is, but it is clear that the regime has yet to advance a single convincing argument of such a "political position". 
Con este tipo de decisiones, como la adoptada por la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, se da un claro estímulo a los actos de corrupción, no sólo en Venezuela sino en cualquier país del mundo. 
This one I translate because it is too good to be true!!! "With these types of decisions, such as this one of  the IACHR, a clear stimulus to corruption is given, not only in Venezuela but in any country of the world".  This for a country where corruption from the regime is front page news everyday, where the mere scandal of PUDREVAL shames any previous corruption scandal in our history (and of many other country history).  these people really have no shame!
Igualmente, el gobierno venezolano procederá a seguir denunciando a la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos como un organismo que recurrentemente se extralimita en sus funciones y que, de manera regular ha tomado posiciones de parcialización política en contra de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela. 
The IACHR has it against Venezuela, etc...  Usual paranoia of the regime, go to the next part
Finalmente, el Gobierno Bolivariano quedará a la espera de las decisiones que de manera autónoma tenga a bien tomar el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia sobre este tema, en estricto cumplimiento de la constitución y las leyes de la República. 
The Venezuelan high court will decide anyway.  And since we know who is included in it, how they were named and how they announced their verdict in advance we know what Luisa Estella will say any time soon...

Dropeth the shoe: IACHR to Venezuela "let Leopoldo run". Big victory for Human Rights!

And thus the long awaited ruling arrived on the very last day.  I need to read it for further comment but the result is as expected: Venezuela did violate human rights by condemning people without a trial.  Period.

Leopoldo López 
LO LOGRAMOS, se hizo Justicia. ESTOY HABILITADO. Un triunfo de todos los que hemos luchado por los derechos y la justicia. Gano Venezuela!

Now, for your own amusement you may either read the El Universal article, or the semi hysterical piece from the state TV, VTV, who has nothing better to do but drag out an old picture of Leopoldo waiving a gas mask to resit the attacks of the Venezuelan Nazional Guard.

It is just starting, get the popcorn and watch the government bend and twist over and over to justify what cannot be justified.

Meanwhile let's congratulate Leopoldo Lopez who had the courage and the stamina to take over the chavista system and brilliantly succeeded in unmasking it.  That does not mean that Chavez will let him run next year but on the international arena chavismo has probably never been as crudely exposed as it is with this sentence from the IACHR

Der Interamerikanische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte und Venezuela

Der Lateinamerikanische Gerichtshof für Menschenrechte hat sein Urteil bekannt gemacht: die Chávez-Regierung darf Leopoldo López seine politischen Rechte nicht mehr entziehen. Leopoldo López darf bei den 2012-Wahlen kandidieren - wenn die Chávez-Regierung internationale Menschenrechtsnormen respektiert. Schon davor hatte die Chávez-Regierung und die Richter des von ihr abhängigen Obergerichtshofs erklärt, dass sie darauf pfeiffen. Es stellt sich die Frage, ob sich Chavistas wirklich weiter isolieren wollen.

Them red laced boots

La Patilla has a good one, an analysis of a picture from yesterday's visit by a Chinese mission.  I will let you judge about their comments on the aluminum foil covered glass of water, or the jar of Chinese traditional medication.  No, no, what I liked were the red laced well polished military boots.  One cannot come up with stuff like that...
PS: or maybe, following how Juan noted how the Chinese are screwing us up, the red laces are there to distract us from that fact.

Systemic pillaging in Venezuela: it could have been me

Starting pillaging of a cooking oil truck
UPDATED  In yet another notable "fait-divers", a whole bunch of trucks were pillaged Tuesday night along a few private cars.  This hit home really hard because it happened on a road that I use at least 4 times a month, and that I used last Tuesday afternoon at the same time as it all happened Wednesday late afternoon.

The road I take most of the time between Caracas and San Felipe is the one that goes through Morón, a godawful joint that we call Mojón (turd).  Moron was "founded" at the crossing of the road from Puerto Cabello to Coro, where the branch to Barquisimeto and the Andes start.  It grew with all sorts of squatters (invasores) since the oil industry created a few complexes in the area.  All anarchic of course, over the decades.  Sure enough, it is one of the districts where chavismo gets some of its highest percentages (often above 80%).  The current mayor, a certain Matson Caldera, looks like the kind of guy you would not want to meet in a dark alley.  Yet his personality cult is well advanced, next to Chavez in all sorts of billboards.

Making progress, womenfolk helping, broken oil bottles on road

Not surprisingly since it is a district taken for granted by chavismo, it is also one of the most neglected with extensive slums at each entry of the town (town for lack of a better word to describe a ramshackle of who knows what).

Tuesday, the people from those shanties who probably do not pay for electricity to begin with, were incensed because yet another blackout had lasted for more than half a day.  In the hot and humid climate of the area where no refrigerator can hold cool for more than a few hours without power, it was indeed a problem for these people, even if electricity is stolen by most of them.  So they did the most sensible thing: they blocked the second most strategic road of Venezuela for several hours refusing to lift the barricades until power was restored.  That trucks and drivers also suffer from blackouts was apparently of no concern.  That they could have set seat in front of Matson' offices either did not come to mind, or was too far to walk to, or simply they did not want to jeopardize the occasional free Mercal bag.

Almost done!  No more oil shortage for Moron! 

Sure enough, when the night set, they started pillaging the trucks, women and children giving a helping hand to the males of the pack.  For good measure many cars stuck for hours in a road which was blocked both ways were also relieved of wallets and cel phones.  Shooting was heard but no report on its results.  Twitter was aflame last Tuesday I was told, in the twitter traffic addresses.  The Carabobo state police is the only one that showed up, woefully outnumbered.  No Nazional Guard was seen, even though any opposition rally is quickly surrounded by it in massive shows of strength.  See, el pueblo is allowed to pillage.  What else can we deduct?

Suiii, Suiii, stealing pigs on motor bike barefoot!
Note that none of the pillagers looks particularly malnourished or close to starvation state.   In fact many are rather chubbified.  Which did not stop them from stealing livestock...

Morón shopping spree
That is what 12 years of chavismo did to the country, a descent into anarchy and barbarism.  While now I need to make sure that I always drive through that area before noon.....  because the could have been me is the piglet there, as we are all in Venezuela now, sitting pigs/ducks wherever we are.


Apparently light is not coming back yet, at least not to all sectors of Moron.  Looting spread even to some stores in Moron,  Eventually the regime was bothered enough to send the army in to control the situation.  It is simply unbelievable that it took the authorities so long to react, letting Puerto Cabello police deal with it, eventually, we are told, arresting 19 people.  By the way, I could not find any declaration from the mayor, Matson.  Maybe he is on vacation? (sorry, I did find one 30 min later: he is actually critical of CORPOELEC, he has no choice I guess if he does not want to get lynched by his (ex?) electors)

And of course nothing on the state news.....  It is all a media manipulation and all of these people are paid actors.

Photo Credit el Carabobeño.