Preventing murder: looking ahead in Venezuela

Regular readers know for years I have been keeping track of crime in the central state of Carabobo. That chart you see above shows, on the right side, the amount of murders that are likely to take place in the coming months. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow I will get some statistics about the total of murders for July and we can start seeing if the statistics are correct. In yellow you have a confidence value of 95%, in orange of 85%. 

It doesn't need to be like this.

If the Venezuelan police had better education levels, if the minister of justice had the right experts, if we used state resources not to buy fancy planes but to get the right equipment for police and the right material for prisons, we could get those numbers down. Since Chávez is in power the murder rate in Venezuela has more than tripled. It's time to change that.

Venezuela in Mercosur

Today Venezuela gets into Mercosur. Is it good for Venezuela? No, it isn't. Mercosur stopped a long time ago being what it was intended to be, a vehicle for economic integration. It is now mostly a playground for Brazil and a political pet project for the military in Venezuela. 

Argentina's economic policies are so bad that in spite of record commodity prices the country is becoming less competitive by the day in any else. Brazil is the   big winner because it is employing very aggressive expansionist policies and no ideological rubbish in order to do business. The territorial expansion Brazil undertook in the XIX century is now being complemented by the business expansion - based on governmental support for Brazilian entrepreneurs, on some planning, on nothing special and yet huge compared to the absolute disarray most Spanish American countries have offered in the last years.

Below you see the trade balance between Venezuela on one side and Brazil, Colombia and Argentina on the other. Colombia is not part of Mercosur but most of its businessmen are also very happy Venezuela has Chávez in power. Chávez has kept an overvalued currency, introduced all kinds of hindrances for exporters and private producers in general - absolutely afraid that anyone can take some power away from him. Chávez has expropriated thousands of companies and has declared Venezuelan businessmen are intrinsically evil. 

My country is now like a swimmer who has to compete against professional swimmers while his hands are tied up and a bag of lead is attached to his feet. This is no integration. This is a disaster.
Balance Venezuela-Argentina

Balance comercial de Venezuela-Colombia

Balance comercial de Venezuela-Brasil

Some sources
ArgentinaArgentina (with data from 1998, even if I didn't have time to plot that on the chart)

Death at the embassy or The Dishonourable Consul?

A Venezuelan embassy employee in Nairobi, first secretary Dwight Sagaray, has just been detained, in relation with the murder of Olga Fonseca,  Venezuelan ambassador to Kenya. Fonseca had arrived on 15 July to replace Gerardo Carrillo Silva. Geraldo Carillo had been previously accused by several Kenyan employees of sexual abuse. Carrillo fled Kenya before he could be interrogated (OK, he had diplomatic immunity). According to some employees, Ms Fonseca had pressurized them to take back their accusations against the former ambassador. She was found strangled last Friday.
Nairobi, Kenya

Things are getting weirder by the day around the Bolivarian employees.

How ill is Chávez really?

This is what you think:

68 persons took part in the poll. I think Chávez has greatly exaggerated his illness, but that's my guess and on the right you see some other people's guesses - foreigners and Venezuelans alike. What is it? Anything could be right: this is Venezuela.

In any case, today is his birthday. He has been ruling Venezuela for 14 years and he wants to rule it at least for 6 more years, even if he has said he may want to be president for a longer period. I hope he lives a long life...and goes to trial for his violations of human rights and the way he mismanaged Venezuela's longest oil boom ever.

Ps. and I see now Toro has finally realised Chávez may not die any time soon. He talks about how Dan Rather got it so wrong, but in reality Toro himself was also rather sure about Hugo I's prompt demise. I think gringos and people basing their data on US sources were feeding themselves over and over again from the same anonymous sources. We have seen that before.

Friday funnies

Since it is Friday a couple of pictures to amuse you

Now we know why Chavez was such a defender of Zelaya in Honduras.  As you can see in the below self explaining picture, there is/was a drug shuttle between Honduras and Venezuela (courtesy NYT).  Note: not Nicaragua, Honduras.  The Sandinista beloved leader might be a child abuser but he is not crazy enough to go into drug traffic full speed....  The more so when booze seems to be enough for him......

The other picture is too good to pass. In an era of Photoshop, no matter what the regime tries to do to impress the uncouth masses, the humorists find a way to trash it, and fast... See a couple of post before if you do not get the humor.

No wonder Chavez is pissed even further at Capriles now that it has been revealed that Capriles is a distant relative of Bolivar....

Ah!  Venezuela!  never a dull moment....

Can Capriles campaign square the circle?

Well, he is trying but he will not succeed at it since like for the famous mathematical problem his own problem has its own transcendental π number that cannot offer a finite solution.  Capriles transcendental number is the chavista nomenklatura, too corrupt, too impregnated of Cuban nincompoopness and violence to be able to surrender power just through the ballot box.  Still, he needs to try and hope to find a good enough approximation to the solution and hope that it will pass.  The good news is that in my 10 days observation since I came back, he has made great progress.  At least as seen from his sweat drenched shirt today in Barlovento.

The game rules

It is not useless to remind folks what the situation is.  First, Chavez counts on 30% of the country who will vote for him no matter what, even if he were caught in an act of pedophilia.  It is a religion and Capriles is no prophet to turn that around in a scarce few months.  True, the opposition has a 30% faithful today that, even frequently suspending disbelief as I do, will vote for him.

The 40% of the country left either cannot be bothered to vote or is today, for all practical purposes, blackmailed by the chavista system into at the very least not to vote for Capriles.  Let's understand clearly the current economical situation.  People are painfully aware that there is no real jobs available out there, that the few ones are already taken and that the economy is not allowing the private sector to grow, the only source of real jobs. Granted, you and I understand that it is Chavez fault, and even Chavez plan all along, to make the country dependent on him, in an indentured state of tolerable poverty.  Within that 40% many, maybe most, sense that too but are not fretting as much about the causes as we do.  For them the reality is that their family stability depends too much on a single job in a government office, assorted with a couple of mision grants.  Not only losing any of the three is a real concern for them but even if they are sensitive to Capriles arguments they may still be more than reluctant to gamble it, no matter how much Capriles promises not to touch a single mision.

There is thus no other choice for Capriles but to promise to keep the misiones, to improve them and to spend even more money if necessary while not touching the sacred cows such as gas prices (and others such as today announcement that not even CANTV, the deficient phone company, will be re-privatized).

The hidden message

You and I know very well that increasing gas prices 10 fold will still leave us with a very cheap gas tank world wise, while freeing considerable resources to buttress the painful changes coming that neither Capriles nor Chavez will be able to avoid.  We know that the best thing that can happen in an age of cell phone is to return CANTV to the stock market, accompanied by a landline subsidy if needed. We understand that public sector ranks have to go down, if anything to remove the corrupt boss and the redundant administration so as to make some room for truly competent managers that will recover the state services.  We know that with a good severance pay, made possible through increasing gas price and utilities it is possible to get a grace period during which the fired creeps will remain quiet.  And more such "neo-liberal" measures that are unavoidable but which can be undertaken without the European trauma as long as oil remains above 100 USD a barrel. You and I know that Venezuela is not Europe and an eventual recession would be short lived if done right.

But we also know that if Capriles dares to mention any of these things, on October 7 he will not even get a meager 40%. So even if folks like me are scared that Capriles reckless promises are preparing us a reenactment of el Caracazo when the piper comes calling, we also realize that Chavez must go because a couple more years of Chavez and we will not even have food on our tables, without entering into the other damage to the country that will come along. Hence anything is fair game on the campaign trail.

On the trail

We must thus take comfort that even if we do not approve of Capriles campaign themes it is possible that he has no other choice and that fortunately he is carrying it rather well.  What serious pollsters indicate, beyond their widely diverging results, is that Capriles is stable with a tendency to grow while Chavez, in spite of the billions he is throwing in the streets, is not growing.  Granted, he is not going down either but at least there is a novelty this time around: money does not translate automatically in votes. This tells us that in spite of the massive attack on Capriles, his message still passes and threatens chavismo, hopefully pushing it to commit fatal mistakes.

The other thing that pleases me a lot is that as I predicted last year, the opposition will have to visit all 300+ districts.  Some made fun of me then, that it was not necessary, but the Capriles camp begs to differ and already they are heralding that they have visited 100 districts through their "casa por casa".  True, they will not reach the 300, perhaps not even symbolic Tocopero, but by October 7 Capriles will have reached the 200+ and the impact will be strong, in front of a Chavez that visits few districts, and from above his float, far from the howling masses (if present).

The other thing is that Capriles gets down and dirty on the trail.  The image today of him dripping in sweat in Barlovento tells us quite a tale.  First, he is alone in front of all that African-american population.  No handlers, no A.C. (Chavez carries portable AC around that blow on him whenever he is perorating at some table set for him, even before he became sick), just him and el pueblo.

And it is not that Capriles sweats in public, is that he manages to convey that he actually enjoys it.  He may not be a great speaker, he may not have boatloads of charisma, but clips like the one above from where this image is taken go down really well in the 40% he needs to convince.  And, why not, chip a few here and there among the 30% zealots.

It is still too early to make any prediction.  I will not start my arithmetical scenarios until late August.  But at least, after one week of watching Capriles, and comapring him with the hsyteria and abuse of Chavez on TV alone, I am looking forward the rest of the campaign.

We do have a chance, Capriles group just need to find a way to deal with their π, the corrupt chavista who know that they will not be able to avoid jail in a post Chavez era. This is what is becoming the real issue in the next months as Capriles odds of victory are becoming more and more realistic.

La degradación de Simon Bolívar

No voy a entrar en una larga discusión de como la figura del Libertador ha sido degradada aun mas, hoy en el día de su cumpleaños. El divertido y ácido @ChavezOfficial nos da el mejor balance con su brillantísimo fotoshop, amablemente reproducido en esta página (observen bien si no lo captan a primera vista).

Digamos que ofrecer la recreación en 3D de la imagen de Bolívar basada en sus violados restos es una pobre excusa para tal profanación. Y no debería ser necesario insistir en que Bolívar fue ampliamente retratado en vida y por lo tanto el ejercicio chavista fue algo absolutamente innecesario.

Lo que Chávez está haciendo concienzudamente desde ya 13 años es alabar para mejor despachar. Nada es sagrado para el: todo se cambia, se tergiversa, se reinterpreta, se agranda hasta el ridículo o se minimiza al grotesco. El objetivo es bastante claro, hasta podríamos decir simplista y obviamente infantil. En la historia de Venezuela habrá solamente una etapa memorable: cuando Chávez nos tuvo bajo su bota. Si después de 13 años usted no estaba claro con esto, espero que la “imagen” de Bolívar y del pavosísimo mausoleo, que en realidad fue hecho mas para Chávez que para Bolívar, le despeje la mente de una buena vez.

The degradation of Simon Bolivar

I am not going to get into a lengthy account on how the figure of Simon Bolivar has been further degraded today, on his birthday. Funny @ChavezOfficial makes the best case with his brilliant photoshopping, graciously brought by this blog on the right (look closely if you do not get it at first).

Let's just say that offering the recreation of a 3D image of Bolivar based on his desacrated remains is a poor excuse for such desecration.  Never mind that there is a substantial iconography of Bolivar during his life time that makes such an exercise one in futility.

No, what Chavez is doing consistently through the years is to heap praise to better dispatch.  Nothing is sacred for him: all is changed, reinterpreted, magnified to ridicule or minimized to the grotesque.  The objective is quite clear, even if simplistic and so obviously childish.  There will be only one thing of value in Venezuelan history: the period in which Chavez held us under his boot.  If you still did not get that after 13 years, I hope that this "picture" of Bolivar and the ghastly mausoleum, who is really made for Chavez more than Bolivar, will set you straight.

Chávez orders reconstruction of Bolívar's face and discovers Bolívar looked like Chávez

Yeah, we saw it coming: Chávez  ordered a reconstruction of Bolívar's face based on the bones they started to analyse two years ago and they presented the results just on time for election time.

Lo and behold: the face has a strong resemblance to Chávez's clan.

Bolívar's "reconstruction"


We have reached Mugabe-like status.

The Freaky Bird

The Zamuro Rey or King Vulture lives in most of South America and a bit of Central America. Like other vultures, it uses columns of warm air to gain altitude. If you don't know what those warm air columns are, you can go to Venezuela and see for yourself.

By the way, if you want to learn fascinating things about birds, you have to get yourself this video where David Attenborough explains a thing or two.

Tasconian musings....

The current mayor of Washington DC is under fire because during his 2010 campaign he, or his staff, used a database of 6,000 public housing recipients so as to contact them for whatever electoral purpose his campaign wanted.

Let's think about this for a few seconds, shall we?

First, let's recall that in the US of A the phone book is open to all parties and there is no wonder why so manya people chose to pay extra so as not to be published. The only thing illegal that Mayor Gray's staff may have done, is to create a specific subset of what is after all a legal data base.  In other words, what Gray's campaign is really accused of doing is a breach of ethics, using a population that has a certain political vulnerability due to its circumstances requiring they to live in subsidized housing.  Also, we are talking here maybe 18,000 voters out of a potential electoral base of 350,000.  5%....

In Venezuela in 2003 appeared the Tascon list, still applicable today (I got an example from a neighbor LAST week....).  That list made 3 million Venezuelan citizens second class citizens, 20%.  These people, and quite often their relatives even if they did not appear in that list, have been denied all sorts of services and state jobs unless they did the Stalinist recantation.  Or paid a substantial bribe somewhere.

These people were made pariah because they signed a petition to do a recall election on Chavez in 2004.

I still have the ringing of these chavista fascists that used to haunt comment sections of opposition blogs until moderation appeared.  They used such arguments as "public phone lists", and the like.  I still remember how many people were only too willing to minimize the Tascon list (named for the representative, Luis Tascon, who published it in his web site then, for public "escarmiento").

In short, I have in mind a certain left wing intelligentsia that was not too outraged at such behavior from Chavez....  Let's see if in future installments of the Gray story some one at the WaPo remembers Tascon.... in what is arguably one of the most left wing district of the US of A....

End of rant.

Return to the campaign abuse and fraud

Well, it is harder than expected to go back on the key board thread mill.  And even harder to try to go back over one month of missing campaigning.  Thus I have decided stop trying, pretend than nothing happened since I left the country for 3 weeks, and write down the little bit I have been able to gather before giving up.  In no particular order.


Last time the subject was broached here I wrote that we needed to wait for the Consultores 21 poll.  A done deed now as of late June and a confirmation that there is indeed a technical tie between Chavez and Capriles if we consider the error of such polls, even though Consultores gives 3 points advantage to Chavez.

But that poll that, IMVHO, reflects the current country mood has not stopped other polls to be published giving Chavez an explainable landslide.  I mean, and it bears repeating over and over again, in the past 5 years Chavez has done nothing to justify an increase in his victory margin, amen of losing two elections and even three depending on how you define electoral success.

Let's take for example the latest IVAD in Anzoategui.  Few states have been as battered as Anzoategui has been under Chavez.  It holds the dubious distinction to be the state with the most blackouts, the worst roads, etc...  except that the competition is fierce so who knows what rank is Anzoategui today.  But I digress.  The fact of the matter is that in 2010 legislative election the opposition made a grand slam in Anzoategui, surprising most pundits, some even did not expect the opposition to win there. And yet the latest IVAD gives Chavez ahead -which I can still buy, why not?-, but ahead by 30 points!!!!!!

IVAD may come with all sorts of explanations for such a result but as far as I am concerned their polling is at best sloppy and at worse sold out.  Your pick.  And I will not go into Datanalisis which is called as of this week end Matanalisis by Ibsen Martinez pointing out its arrogance, its wish to set the opposition agenda even though in recent years it has failed in its predictions more often that it got them right (Matanalisis: pun meaning "analysis killer").  Whatever it is, we can safely assume that the methodology for most pollsters is flawed, and that in addition they do not bother in studying trends to correct for their obvious flaws.

Chavez out of his lair

The most interesting development is that Chavez has started hitting the campaign trial.  Oh!  For sure it is well orchestrated episodes, quite spaced in between, the more so when compared with a Capriles going up and down everywhere.  The point here is that the regime has realized that Chavez could not wage a successful campaign from his desk at Miraflores, no matter how many cadenas he would do.

Let's not speculate how sick the man is based on that.  We can go from the cancer reprieve before death, to the cured speculation.  It  does not matter.  What matters is that Chavez is obviously taking a risk with his health because if he indeed was cured, he would be out campaigning more.  Cured? Sick?  Drugs?  Your choice. Worried for October?  You can bet on that!

Cadenas and more cadenas

One thing that has not changed is that Chavez keeps commandeering ALL of TV and radio for simultaneous broadcasting, cadenas, which are now of an outright electoral nature.  Interestingly and unsurprisingly, the electoral board does not detect any violation of electoral laws.  Even though the violations are worse than ever considering that Chavez must rely on cadenas more than ever to make sure media does not speak of Capriles.  Amusingly by its cynicism, outside of cadenas time, the CNE had the nerve to say that media coverage favored slightly Capriles.  One does not know whether to cry or to laugh at such outrage.

One thing is certain: we would like very much the international media take these cadenas a little bit more seriously.

International observers

Once it is too late for doing true electoral observations, the CNE starts inviting some groups (not the European Union, by the way, the more consistent critic on how shoddy are electoral processes in Venezuela).

Of course, as expected, serious observers are declining because it is too late (OAS, for one).  But the CNE has invited formally the Carter Center.  Let's hope they have the good idea not to come least they get accused once again to favor electoral fraud.

The point here is that it is strictly up to the opposition to establish all the possible controls and all ways to supervise the integrity of the vote next October.  We know very well that the Carter Center et al. are basically useless, and that in fact quite often make things worse because paradoxically in Venezuela veiled criticism has become indirect approval, such is the state of immorality and cynicism that the regime has reached.

Some naked numbers on education in Venezuela

El Universal finally published some results on the PISA programme in Miranda. That Northern-Central state of Miranda is the only region in Venezuela that is taking part in a scheme for open evaluation of quality in education. The central government, led by the military Chávez and his Boligarcs, is opposed to such programme because they argue "Cubans are our counsellors", so that's enough. Never mind that Cuba's often praised educational system has long stopped being compared to others. 

Kudos to Miranda, specially to Juan Maragall and Henrique Capriles. They decided to introduce some transparency to their administration and see how pupils in their region really compare to the rest of the world. That is something Chavismo would not dare to do. Results in Miranda showed how bad pupils score compared to others. Even though the ones tested in Miranda did better than Brazilian or Argentinian pupils as a whole, they did worse than Chileans or Costa Ricans, not to mentioned those of OECD countries. And mind: those pupils are not completely representative of Venezuela as private schools were over-represented in the sample. Last but not least, and this is something the article doesn't say,  academic levels in places such as the Llanos in Central Venezuela tend to be way lower than what we see in Miranda. That has been the case since time immemorial. That's how most military now in power have a strong Llanos background.

Here you see a chart I produced some months ago based on a German book from 1920 by a certain Otto Bürger. That book is a magnificent snapshot of Venezuela during Gómez's time. I decided to show how many inhabitants each state had per pupil. Barinas (West in red) had one pupil for every 105 inhabitants. Delta Amacuro had 113. Amazonas, in the very South, didn't even make it for the statistics back then (it was not a state and its population was very small - mostly native Americans in the jungle back then- but still they could have mentioned it). Miranda had 48 inhabitants for each pupil you would find. I am absolutely sure relative differences still persist. That's part of Venezuela's reality and that is why we can't still talk about a Venezuela but about several Venezuelan regions.

A large part of schools in Miranda are actually controlled by the central government, so the regional government of Miranda could not include them for this test: the national government would never accept that. Instead, it took some public schools it does control and a lot of private schools that could join in willingly. And of course: there is a huge difference between public and private schools in Venezuela.

I went to public schools for most of the time and only took two years of private schooling at the end. I could see quite some difference. My brothers and sisters went all the way through public -free- schools but they are older. My parents went to public - free - schools. Since the seventies standards kept going down the drain and most people who could afford it started to send their children to private schools. The tendency has worsened...which is quite telling about what a farce this so-called "socialist" revolution has become. Of course, Boligarcs will only say that now, under "Bolivarian socialism", more people can afford private schools. My foot.

Public school standards have kept going down the drain for decades, but more so since Chávez came to power. Private institutions are not very good either and their standards also kept going down but not as dramatically.

And that is one of the reasons why the Chávez government does not want to let Venezuela take part in the PISA programme.

I hope Miranda can include more public schools in the next PISA round. Actually, I really hope Capriles wins the elections and can thus let the whole of Venezuela take part in the PISA programme.

Santos' love for Venezuelan petrodollars

If you still wonder why Colombia's president Santos has become such a good mate with Venezuela's military caudillo, you just have to take a look at the following chart of Venezuelan-Colombian trade.

This is the Venezuelan view

One can get the data from, among other sources, Colombia's governmental sites..

The drop you see around 2008 came when former president Uribe had Reyes, a FARC honcho, killed. Chávez went bonkers and decided to "freeze" relations back then. Colombia's economy resented it and when Santos got elected, he decided to play it safe.

That's why it's not only Lula who is in love with the caudillo's petrodollars. Latin American fraternity and democracy? Sure.

Ps. It is a pity Venezuela's opposition is not using this kind of information time after time. The only one I know that is keeping track of numbers all the time is Primero de Justicia's Julio Borges. Unfortunately, he tends to show the numbers in a rather monotonous way - no visualisation, just recitation and the odd chart. Most Venezuelans have poor maths skills but they will always understand and above all remember everything better if you show them a simple chart and give them the right reference story. I hope Borges and the whole PJ team use this kind of data in a proper way to reach as many people as possible. They should do this not via Globovisión talks but by targeting the other 70%. How? One way is to start spreading leaflets in the buses of Maturín, Punto Fijo, Los Guayos, Acarigua, Caracas.

Murder attempts against Chávez AGAIN!

A clown with a red beret

Here we come again: Chávez and his amigos kept announcing supposed attempts against the life of the comandante-presidente every so few months. 
Somehow I missed this: María León, a deputy for the Chávez party, PSUV, declared in May at the Office of the Attorney General that there were plans to murder Chávez and other of the "revolutionary" grandes. The case is based on twitter accounts. This didn't make it to the first pages of Venezuelan newspapers, only to the secondary ones, which will be interpreted by the Boligarcs as yet another proof of the conspiracy against them.

Since Chávez came to power we kept hearing and reading about attempts against his life. Chávez officials and he himself call those attempts "magnicidios" because they are against someone who is ""magno", just like Alenxader the Great or Alejandro Magno. The announcements were legion but the most important ones kept popping up every third month or so. They stopped shortly before rumours of Chávez having cancer started to hit the news in Venezuela. Chávez suggested the US could be provoking cancer among Lula and all his president-friends but other than that, the magnicidio announcement stopped for a while while we had the soap opera of Chávez as the Phoenix. Chávez declared himself healed two months ago. Already in May I predicted we would start getting the announcements about magnicidios very soon and lo and behold: we had that shortly after I said it. But now they are so boring that they don't even make it to the first page of any Venezuelan newspaper that I follow.

Below I copied and pasted (in Spanish, I will later translate that) a selection of the "magnicidios" announced by Chavismo. I wonder: do you think the officials working with Obama or Merkel or anyone of those politicians keep announcing about similar tweets or other attempts against those politicians?

Julio: Chávez declara que lo quieren matar en Puerto Ordaz (fuente Tal Cual contiene otras referencias más abajo)
Diciembre: Castro advierte a Chávez de plan de magnicidio en contra del militar de Barinas.

Agosto: Se anuncia un complot de militares para asesinar a Chávez.

Junio: Chávez anuncia planes para tratar de asesinarlo en celebraciones de la independencia.

Octubre: Chávez anuncia intento de magnicidio en su contra.

Julio: Chávez anuncia que lo tratan de matar en Los Próceres, Caracas.
Julio: Chávez denuncia que preparan su asesinato en Santo Domingo.
Noviembre: Supuesto caso de magnicidio se "descubre" en Puerto La Cruz, pero los "implicados" son puestos en libertad por falta de pruebas.

Mayo: Chávez anuncia que colombianos de extrema derecha quieren matarlo. Mucha más información sobre todo el asunto puede ser leída aquí.

Febrero: Chávez responsabiliza a EU por cualquier atentado en su contra.
Junio: Chávez dice que prepara respuesta a intento de magnicidio.


Octubre: Chávez anuncia que unos meses antes se salvó de un atentado en el Zulia y que Bush tiene un plan para matarlo.


Noviembre: Chávez acusa a CNN de incitar a su asesinato.
Diciembre: Chávez teme por su vida si va a Guatemala.


Septiembre: Chávez teme por su vida en Venezuela.
Octubre: Chávez teme por su vida en El Salvador (cumbre Iberoamericana).

Mayo: Chávez teme por su vida en El Salvador (de nuevo).
Junio: Chávez anuncia que desde Tachira preparan grupos paramilitares para matarlo.
Julio: Diputado oficialista Isea anuncia que se abre nueva investigación de intento de magnicidio en Zulia, Táchira y Mérida. Dice que "la comisión trabaja sin prisa pero sin pausa".
Agosto: El presidente vuelve a anunciar que la oposición tiene un nuevo plan para asesinarlo.

Aquí un artículo de la BBC del 2008 sobre los magnicidios.
Aquí hay un artículo en inglés sobre otros intentos.
Por lo visto me faltaba un artículo deTal Cual que pueden ver aquí donde aparecen más intentos de asesinato de Chávez.

2010Enero: Diputado Mario Isea dice que hay nuevos planes de magnicidio.

Noviembre: Hugo Chávez declara que la oposición tiene 100 millones de dólares para matarlo.


Early 2011: Rumours about Chávez having cancer.


Early 2012: Chávez declares himself cured.

May: PSUV deputy María León denounces a new attempt against the life of Hugo Chávez and other "revolutionaries".

You know Chavismo's claims on social justice are a farce when

You know Chavismo's claims on social justice, sustainable development and security are a farce when you see what is happening in Venezuela's prisons now.

The latest is this: there has been a riot at the Merida prison centre, in Venezuela's West, and some 20 prisoners have died since everything started a couple of weeks ago. A gangster still refuses to be transferred and has "kidnapped" several hundred fellow prisoners, whatever that means. You should know gangsters in Venezuelan prisons keep running their business when in jail and they always end up getting to a compromise with the guardia nacional.

Below you can see the amount of murders in Venezuelan prisons since 1999. On the Y axis you have the total amount of murdered people and on the X the years. The source is the ONG Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones.

La espada del caudillo Bolívar, el caudillo Chávez y el caudillo Assad

Esto fue en 2010.
Hasta los rusos se dan cuenta ahora de que las horas de Assad están contadas.
Me pregunto quién más querrá recibir la "Espada del Libertador".

Miranda, transparency and charting it all

The government of Miranda, managed by the opposition, is doing an outstanding job in many areas, in spite of the fact that the Chávez government has taken away from it - against the law- a lot of competences and most income sources. The Miranda team keeps working for the community and looking for new ways to carry out projects that really make sense. 

They have also been stressing the need for transparency in their work. 
Higuerote, Miranda

Now they are developing an interesting site where they put as much information as possible about every corner of the state - at physical, social and economic level. They use maps.

Please, take a look at their interactive visualisations of Miranda. Be sure to select a parameter and hover the cursor over each region - parroquia or municipio -.

Hat tip: Dorothy

Maria Anastasia O'Grady on Venezuelan election

This is as clear and concise an analysis of the current Venezuelan election as you are bound to find in foreign press (Reuters lately is the example on how it should not be covered). But then Maria Anastasia O'Grady has been on Chavez since day one and I doubt that any current observer of Venezuelan election is as well informed, as knowledgeable, and to the point as she is.

(Hat Tip AM. Nice to find that in my mail box as I resume the coverage chores!)

Back to paradise. NOT!

Sigamos Juntos: let's stay together (vote for me airport welcome)

Today when you arrive at Maiquetia you are welcomed by two things: a deficient do-it-yourself immigration for Venezuelans only and a gigantic poster of Chavez asking athletes and kids to stick with him, violating who knows how many tenets of the constitution and electoral laws.  I am sorry that it does not show any better since my blackberry had limitations from the distant line I was forced to follow. On the right the bottom of one of the many pendant of TVES promoting its "exclusive" Olympics coverage, because, you know, CADIVI makes sure that only TVES has the dollar to pay for the rights.

It has been three weeks away from it all.  Seeing that this time around nobody was interested in playing Waldoniel, I did not pursue it (curiously more people wrote me on that, than left comments...).  I suppose that since in Venezuela things are degrading so fast nobody wanted to be reminded of goodies overseas.  The only thing that was able to stir my keyboard was the Lugo/Dilma/Paraguay fiasco.  A good thing maybe since coverage has not not being very good if you ask me, in particular for some blog that should have stuck to his original counsel. It was not a vacation though it was a pig out contest anyway.  I think I gained 10 pounds, but every ounce was worth it.  I am not worried because the stress awaiting me for the next three months will erase some of them without any effort, helped along with the coverage of elections that will start in earnest soon.  As soon as I digest the latest of Chavez dementia, telling us that it does not matter how lousy his governors and mayors are, the only thing that matters is that he is president.  Louis the XIV should have had it that easy.

My first stress moment was at immigration check in. It has become a do it it yourself for Venezuelan residents who are forced through three machines (one already out of order) while foreigners get the usual stands with people inside (but a long line too, anyway).

Now, you need to wait for a gate to open so you can stand inside a box and scan your passport.  Of course, you have to try several times until it works (I tried 5 times until finally the machine acknowledged my passport). Then you step ahead, put your feet on a designated place and must punch in a screen your flight arrival.  That part went OK, but the next one was dismal.  You have to stare at a camera hard to locate on the device, and supposedly there is facial recognition.  Well, the machine could not read me even though it can go up and down to adjust for people's height.  I am tall but not that tall and the damned thing only caught my face once I bent my knees a little bit.

This being done, the machine approves you and prints a sticker that you must paste yourself on your passport!!!! But since the gate finally opens to let you out of the box, and there are 50 people waiting behind you, you just push everything through trying not to lose equilibrium, your stamp, drop your duty free purchases, etc...

And then comes the best part.  There is a guy at the end anyway who needs to pick your immigration from and who sees you in such a disarray that he picks up your sticker and sticks it inside your passport!!!!  These genius did not even have the idea to add a drop off box for your forms once the machine had approved you, not to mention that the guy wastes more time picking up the form and gluing your sticker than the old traditional ink stamping...

I was in a daze...

But the good part is that the immigration took so long that my luggage was already in the carousel when I arrived ..........

This is cool: discovering where we are, discovering Venezuela and PISA

If you speak Spanish, read this.

Basically, tomorrow the government of Venezuela's central state of Miranda will present to the general public the results of the OECD tests carried out in that state. Some general data has been available here since last December. Results are only about schools under Miranda administration and private schools, as the Chávez government did not want to cooperate at all.

It has been thanks to Henrique Capriles and Juan Maragall and their team that  we had the first open test of pupils' competences in Venezuela in the last 14 years. Actually, this time it is really open as the Unesco studies carried out before were seen by education specialists only. Results came out at the end of last year, after some delay due to sabotage by the Chávez government.

The current national government - the military and Boligarchs - hates this kind of project like hell because such a project demands transparency. The Chávez government prefers to tell tales about "Unesco-certifications" and zero illiteracy that useful idiots abroad can repeat. Several people, including this blogger, actually asked in open letters for the Venezuelan government to take part in this project, a project where most of Latin America is already in. They ignored it.

I hope a lot of people start discussing in Venezuela what it really means to have first class basic and secondary education for everyone. I hope people really start thinking about what we need to get there.

Shameful behavior, in our English-Language Venezuelan' blogosphere

As far as I know there are only 9 opposition- oriented Venezuelan English blogs. One is a photoblog (brilliant, by the way. I can't tell if this blog is opposition-oriented, nor do I care). If I'm not mistaken, only three (4 if you count the photoblog) are written from Venezuela, the rest are in charge of expats (there are all listed in my links' section). With my departure next week, even fewer English blogs will be written inside the country. With such a small blogosphere, and so many issues to publish and discuss about our country’ situation you might think that there is solidarity and mutual respect between bloggers, despite its differences. But given what I have just read in CaracasChronicles’ discussion about the newest addition to our blogosphere, there is none. Something is seriously wrong when you, as a blogger or commenter, consider yourself better than others.  I personally welcome this new blog called "Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights" as I have welcomed others. Any new blog enriches the discussion plus gives more variety to this blogosphere. And this is never a bad thing.
- Do not click anywhere, there is no rest-. 

Arms trade...what for?

There are few books have been written exclusively about the arms trade and that may surprise many. There are plenty of articles out there, there have been some films like The Lord of War, which slightly touch the subject in a Hollywood way....but real books? Not much out there.

And here you have one. It is really good. And it is frightening. And it is what your government and my governments support and thrive on.

Defence, security? Defence and security my foot. It's about profit. 

Below you can watch Andrew Feinstein, the author's book, giving the general picture at this year's Oslo Freedom Forum. It starts to get interesting at minute 4. Go for it. And remember: Venezuela has given Russian arm traders over 9 billion dollars for weapons. It doesn't matter if the arm traders are Russians, Chinese, British, Spaniards, Brazilians or US Americans: they are the ones who get the money that should go to my compatriots' schools and hospitals and research centres.

Most of the money does not come from the Defence department through the national budget approved by congress but through FONDEN, the Fondo de Desarrollo Endógeno, the one that should be used for Venezuela's sustainable development. Yesterday, Chávez told the military that Capriles hates them.

Crazy Venezuelan statistics: suicide

I have reasons to doubt about the professional values of employees at the Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas (INE) when they start to sound like propaganda masters. When I see their numbers don't fit with the data coming from the National Electoral Centre, I become more cautious.

But when I discover data like this  and plot it to produce charts like the one below, I really become puzzled. This data is based on what the INE claims to be the suicide statistics for each state in Venezuela from 2000 to 2010. If you look at the total, you see Venezuelans are apparently killing themselves less often now. Of course, one can argue that as the murder rate has more than tripled in the last 13 years, Venezuelans with suicidal tendencies feel they can just walk around and someone else will do it for them.

But then we look at the numbers per state and  through time,  we notice a strange thing:

It's Zulia, that special state in North-Western Venezuela where people eat this at 35°C under the shadow. How is it possible that the amount of suicides could be so much higher in 2000 and it went down so dramatically in 10 years whereas suicides remained the same in the rest of the country?

What do you think is going on there?

Preguntas para un país

¿Qué esperanza hay para un país cuyos actores más influyentes - gente en el poder o en la oposición, de supuesta izquierda o de supuesta derecha - tienen una mentalidad profundamente medieval? ¿Cuándo se enterarán de que en Venezuela jamás llegó la Ilustración, de que hay que traerla, de que no bastó con repetir consignas que jamás se analizaron?
¿Cuánto tiempo tiene que pasar para que surja un movimiento que promueva el debate real en todo el país y no monólogos paralelos?
¿Cuándo llegará un político conocido y con carisma que sea capaz de decirles a los venezolanos que el país no es rico, pese a todos los recursos naturales que tiene, y que solo será rico cuando el ciudadano promedio tenga un nivel de educación y productividad igual o superior al de la media mundial?
¿Cuándo conseguiremos que se hable de la farsa que es la educación primaria y secundaria actual en Venezuela? ¿Cuándo querrán las mafias universitarias interesarse por lo que pasa en las escuelas públicas? ¿Temerán que sus nietos no puedan entrar en una universidad pública por la competencia que les llegue de las zonas pobres si la calidad de la educación allí comienza a aumentar?
¿Cuándo hablará alguien en Venezuela sobre la imperiosa necesidad de realizar un catastro completo de la república?
¿Cuándo hablará alguien en Venezuela sobre desarrollo sustentable e implicará con ello algo más allá de sembrar arbolitos?
¿Cuándo dejaremos por un lado el conformismo y por otro las ínfulas de grandeza y comenzaremos a discutir lo que necesitamos hacer para que el país se transforme en un país desarrollado, de manera sostenible, avanzado, de manera probada, e industrializado, de manera cónsona con el medio ambiente? 
¿Cuándo aprenderán los venezolanos su verdadera historia, la realizada por los civiles y pese a los militares? ¿Cuándo verán la imperiosa necesidad de convertir a la sociedad en una sociedad ante todo fundada sobre bases civiles y no militares?

¿Cuándo tendrán las élites venezolanas una identidad propia, una que le permita escribir primero en su propio idioma, que le haga ver la necesidad de insertar al país en un proceso de cooperación real con  todo el mundo hispano y que le haga asumir con naturalidad y sin complejos nuestros variados orígenes?

Son algunas preguntas que me hago y que le hago a mi país.

More oil spills in the Land of Grace

Two new oil spills are reported from the Anzoátegui region, where there were a series of pretty bad oil spills in the last few months. We always get to hear about a fraction of the oil spills happening in Venezuela now. Although the state company employs twice as many employees as in the times prior to Chávez, the management has gone down the drain...perhaps some Chavista loonies will say it is all part of a sabotage, but the reality is that the state company PDVSA is letting Venezuelans down. It is simply incompetent.

Here you can read (in Spanish) about those oil spills.

Die Chávez-Pseudorevolution, Erdöl und alles, was damit sinkt

Gustavo Coronel hat einen ausgezeichneten Artikel über einen schokierenden Korruptionsfall bei der Regierung Venezuelas - einen von vielen. Es geht um die Überzahlung seitens von PDVSA, die staatliche Erdölgesellschaft Venezuelas, für die Miete eines Bohrinsel, die Aban Pearl. In Deutschland wird mittlerweile gegen Stephan Mappus wegen der EnBW-Affäre ermittelt. In Venezuela wird vielleicht nie - zumindest solange Chávez an der Macht ist - was unternommen werden.
Dieses Ding hiess erst Dolphin, dann Aban Pearl und dann Chávez-Fiasko Nr 3280123

Der von PDVSA erklärte Preis für die Transaktion ist wesentlich höher als der Preis, der die Eigentümer der Bohrinsel erklärten.

Gustavo entdeckte, u.a., dass

  • PDVSA eine Zwischenfirma benutzt hat, um die Bohrinsel zu mieten. Das ist eine sehr fragwürdige Praxis, denn das ist nicht effizient und fordert Korruption.
  • PDVSA hat doppelt so viel Geld an diese Zwischenfirma bezahlt, als was der Eigentümer bekommen hat.
  • Die Zwischenfirma wurde in Singapur von einer Panama-Firma errichtet und das nur um diese Transaktion durchzuführen
  • es keine öffentliche Ausschreibung gab
  • Die Firma ein gezeichnetes Kapital von nur $10000 hat, für ein Abkommen von $1.3 Milliarden
  • fünf der Besitzer dieser Mittelfirma bekannte Unternehmer waren, die mit PDVSA Venezuela zu tun haben

Gustavo stellt auch fest, dass der Generalanwalt der Nation sich weigert, Rafael Ramírez, Vorsitzender von PDVSA, in diesem Zusammenhang zu untersuchen, wie die Opposition in Venezuela es verlangt.

Es geht um Hunderte Millionen Dollar, die der Staat nur in diesem Fall verloren hat. Übrigens: diese Bohrinsel zog die Aufmerksamkeit auf sich, nur weil sie während des Einsatzes im Meer sank und dadurch Schlagzeilen machte.

Journalist Bodzin hat ein paar Bemerkungen mehr zu diesem Fall gemacht.

Die Korruptionsfälle der früheren Regierungen, die die Chávez-Apologeten benutzen, um Chávez zu erklären, waren wahr und nicht zu verschönen. Was die Chávez-Regierung tut steht aber schon 10 Stufen niedriger.

Und die Kinder in meinem Land haben keine gute Schulen und die Lehrer haben keine gute Löhne und die Krankenhäuser sind schlecht ausgestattet.

Fingers crossed

Capriles’ campaign is on. My husband and I attended the opening event in Caracas. We stood on a sidewalk, for an hour or two, just watching people passing by. It was a happy day. My husband was impressed of seeing so many people. I was more focused on the mood the crowd carried, rather than how big was this crowd itself. There were all kinds of people, rich people and not so rich people. People from Caracas, and people from inside the country. Elder people and even children (although, I’m a bit against bringing children to any kind of political demonstration). You could read one thing in their eyes: hope. Maybe, in October, everything will change.

About a month after that, my mom attends another demonstration. This time, the call is to walk with the candidate in La Vega, a very impoverished Caracas’ shanty town (barrio, we call it). That day I am too busy doing all kinds of things related with our next departure to make it – fixing bags, paperwork, putting on sale the few stuff we won’t take with us -. Then, my aunt – who made my wedding’ video – calls me to tell me that she has it already. Excited about it, I go immediately with my husband to pick it up. Next, I call my mom, aware that she’s either at the Capriles’ rally or returning from it; but totally unaware of what’s going up. I tell her about the video, that we should met to see it and she interrupts me. The sound of her voice tells me something is not ok: “I started listening gunshots so I ran, I’m still walking fast trying to get to a metro station… will tell you everything when I get home”- and hangs the phone.

Utterly worried, I check Twitter. It does report that something’s wrong in La Vega. “La Vega” itself is a trending topic. As it usually happens with these situations, information is mixed. Tweets talk about the National Police stopping Capriles’ march to reach its destination. Many claim that this is because people in the barrio is supporting Capriles and Chavez can’t take that. But we don’t know if the police is actually doing this to protect the people of some crazy, out of control pro- Chavez gang that it could give the government a lot of undesirable trouble. No one talks about gunshots. My brother in law claim it was only gum bullets. But I know that my mom can perfectly distinguish the sound of a gunshot out of the sound of other explosions – I know that because I learned from her, during the failed coup Chavez’ leaded back in 1992. My mom’ cell is off. I hope is because she’s taking the metro and there is no signal down there. .

She calls me when she gets home, asking me for a visit, telling me she can’t wait to see the video. We go visit her. She tell us all the story, that they were walking there and all of the sudden she saw some bottles fly to them, then some stones. But she wasn’t worried, “stuff like that happen all the time. Always someone throws something” – She started to worry when she hear the gunshots. She ran, next to a lot of people. It was confusing. When a crowd runs, you don’t know what to do: if it’s better to run from the danger that is making such crowd run away or if it is an even greater danger to be crushed by the crowd. My mom luckily found a way out. She saw some people injured (don’t know if the injuries were caused by glass bottles or something worse). .

After telling me such stories, she commands me to connect the DVD player and her face changes as the wedding music begins and her daughter is once again, after two months, walking to the aisle. Such is the capacity of Venezuelans to turn over the page and move on with their lives. People might think we do not appreciate the gravity of our situation. But they should see it rather, as a surveillance method. As our way to keep our heads up and continue to be happy. .

Capriles’ campaign is on. It will have a bit of everything. Happy rallies, dangerous moments, so-so speeches and winning word- times. Either way, it won’t be an easy campaign. I would have loved to be a part of it, but my personal situation, with our next departure; doesn’t allow it. And for me, and for everyone (probably most of this blog’ readers) who see how this campaign develops from the outside; should be reminded that those in the inside are risking a lot for this. You can say they expect to be rewarded with a position around Miraflores but that can’t be the case for all the campaign’ team. .

Most, my mom included, won’t get more than the satisfaction of seeing this country ruled, finally, after 14 years, for someone else. Hopefully someone better. I can’t make predictions. But my fingers are crossed…