PPT, PPT and ppt

Yesterday the High Court (TSJ) ruled on a matter where they should not be ruling: they decided that the PPT direction was not kosher, dismissed it, allowed for three "groups" and barred all of them from supporting any candidate until they sorted matters out. That is, if one of the fractions has enough money to block the other two they could manage to make sure that the PPT cannot present Henri Falcon for reelection in Lara. That other parties can sponsor him is irrelevant, in a perverse way.
What to make of this?  First, we can dismiss out of hand an elaborate theory as to the ever dividing left.  That constant splintering of Venezuelan parties is not an appanage of the left.  After all, the left itself started as a splintering of AD....  Never mind that UNT and PJ are splinter groups of sorts, having a conjoint splinter in VP.  This is just the way political parties live in a country where caudillos are the hope of any grouping to reach power, except that they cannot ever agree on a caudillo making that disagreement pass often for democratic debate.

No, this is just an act of vindictiveness from chavismo who after beating and abusing the PPT for years are all surprised when the majority of its members decide to leave Chavez.  It is nothing else but the syndrome of the battered spouse.  If anything we should give credit to the PPT to break up with chavismo when it was yet far from clear that the opposition was going to build a unity platform solid enough to challenge Chavez.  And a credit to the Unidad that the PPT decided after a lot of reflection to cast its faint future with them.

If to this you observe that chavismo latest attempt at building a grand coalition of el pueblo for Chavez is not finding any serious taker beside the Communists (and with reticence), then you can understand that the idea grew to pay the lawyers of a malcontent faction of the PPT in order to try to get the PPT to join the (still?) born again Polo Patriotico.  With side benefits such as weakening the standing of the most hated governor of Lara behind which more and more pepetistas are rallying as their only chance to scratch the few scarce electoral seats available to them.  See, no matter what the discontent PPT achieve, one can be certain that Chavez will not give them a single governorship position, and probably no mayor seat either.  But money?  Very likely....

This is not the first time that chavismo has tried to butt in what is not its concern (I mean, if stolen money inside a party was the matter we could understand the TSJ getting involved at some point).  But in all democratic history when a party splits the largest group gets to keep the name.  Even in Venezuela although there might be a legal battle for the name (1).  But forbidding the PPT to even run candidates is simply ridiculous and yet another demonstration of how low chavista thugs are willing to go for revenge, for political expediency, just because they can get away with it.

In practical purpose it may mean nothing much: the wronged side, the one of Henri Falcon will run for office anyway and if needed will create a movement or something for which I will obligingly sign just as I did for Arria or Machado: small but significant movements should have the right to run for election and get trashed if they so do wish.  And if it is a matter to stop the ridiculous minority side to run under PPT colors I am pretty sure lawyers will manage to stop the PPT-Chavez to join the Polo Patriotico until it is meaningless.  Which is probably any time soon as the Polo is turning out fast into a fake grouping of people wanting money for something.

1) famous divisions of Venezuelan history

1962 with Leoni who had to run under the black color instead of the traditional white of AD.

1967 when the MEP left AD but AD kept its colors and flag and name.

1992 when Causa R, one of the multiple splinters of the left grew big enough to almost win the election next year.  Causa R promptly split to give birth to the PPT.

Etc...  If you feel confused I have already written the field guide of Venezuelan political derivatives.

Primaries shenanigans (+ new feature)

It is time for a short update before the next primary presidential debate of the Unidad rolls around next week end, if confirmed.  Nothing really major has happened, except that the number of candidates has gone up from 5 to 6 with the inclusion of Pablo Medina.  This is not expected to change anything as Medina at best would have some influence in Bolivar, Caracas, Zulia and Aragua.

It is too early to make any evaluation of sorts although I have the feeling at this point that the only regions still up for grabs is Oriente and Guyana, and thus the primary will be decided there.  But we will discuss that when the time comes.  Otherwise, for the rest of this update we will discuss the potential crisis that could fall on the Unidad anytime, all of its own making if you ask me.

The big problem facing the Unidad right now is that when it established its operating rules for the primaries it was working on the assumption that all elections would be held in December 2012.  Now, the CNE has decided to split it in three, presidential in October 2012, governors December 2012 and mayors with their councils in April 2013 (maybe...).  And yet the Unidad is refusing to change its calendar on the obvious: postpone the primaries for mayor to at the very least June, or even January 2013.  Whether Chavez loses, 3 months campaign would be enough, the more so that more than half districts will be decided by consensus, without a primary, and thus already in campaign before the respective primary.  But forcing upon mayoral candidates elected in February 2012 a 14 months wait is, well, ridiculous.  And possibly damaging as candidates may look worn out, passé, before the legal campaign starts.

And yet, there is an even worse time bomb because the hurried search for mayoral primary candidates has revealed some incipient fissures of the Unidad, in particular from AD and Primero Justicia.

This week end I was in Caracas and my contact in Voluntad Popular  invited me to the launching of their  candidates for Caracas mayoral jobs.  So I went, why not?  It is always amusing to watch politics in action when you are just an interested observer at best.

Do not worry if you do not know all the faces, there was one, on the right, for El Hatillo that I did not know either.  My point is that there is an interesting story for at least two of them.

Grateron on the left.  He is currently mayor of Chacao, the designated heir of Lopez.  He won his seat convincingly in a 4 way race with 48%.  No primaries were held as the opposition went divided in the safest district of Venezuela.  His closest challenger was Ramon Muchacho of PJ who got only 27%.  No contest, not even close. Grateron did manage a decent tenure in spite of all sorts of obstacles, to the point that this week end he inaugurated a very decent cultural center, something unheard of in Venezuela since Chavez came to office.  And yet Muchacho is challenging him in a totally useless primary as I can assure you that Grateron is going to win it by at the very least 10 points.

The thing is that PJ is still smarting that Leopoldo Lopez left them and took Chacao with him.  Also, PJ is a "right" party in spite of its counter nature alliance with PPT and PODEMOS.  Thus their birthright is Chacao, I suppose.  And to add insult to injury AD has decided to support Muchacho even if for president it does not support Capriles....  Never mind that AD supported Grateron in 2008 with a mere 7% of its total...  Fortunately ridicule does not kill politicians.

Thus Voluntad Popular rightly decided to put someone next door with Freddy Guevara (second from left).  In Sucre (Petare, Eastern Caracas), the refusal of the Unidad to change primary date for mayor (and AD in particular within the Unidad) is forcing popular Ocariz to run for Miranda state house and leave his mayor seat which could have been considered safe but will no more be so.  Now there is going to be a primary that Juan Carlos Caldera will surely win but media savvy and energetic Guevara will give him a run for his money.  Another waste of resources if you ask me.

The third story  in the picture would be Leopoldo but the story there is for the one that did not show up for the group picture.  See, VP endorsed Blyde for reelection at Baruta and PJ is also very upset at it as they think Baruta is their fiefdom, Capriles having been its mayor for two terms.  Certainly if Uzcategui had been allowed to run (he was "inhabilitado" as Lopez was) he would have won easily and Blyde of UNT would not even have challenged him seriously.  But Uzcategui could not and Blyde benefited.

Unfortunately for Uzcategui bid, even if in part justified, and certainly more than the lousy move of Muchacho, Blyde has not been a bad mayor.  Thus, instead fo recovering Baruta, PJ and AD divisive moves may well result in the consolidation of UNT and VP in Caracas at their expense.  there is still a note to be made on the abscence of Blyde: he supports Perez and thus appearing in the picture with Leopoldo could be confusing as suggesting that he supported him.  They did what responsible politicians do: "juntos pero no revueltos", together but not mixed up.  I find this pragmatism quite satisfying and a sure sign that the opposition unity in the end will prevail in spite of frequent pettiness.

Though not as clear I could also write a similar story for the other two guys in the picture, both having at least an outside chance at winning the primary respectively in Libertador and Hatillo.  But you get the point.  These petty divisions inside the opposition for seats that should not be challenged because there is really no point or justification for it, is distrating from the bigger picture.  And even if we know for sure that no matter how divided they are for the priamry these guys will be elected anyway, we are allowed to wonder.

It is not that I am negating the primary system, I am all for it, but when some claim that primaries cannot be separated in two because of the cost I wonder how dry their crocodile tears are thinking at the expenses for some primaries that are truly useless.


To simplify my wordy posts on elections I will try as much as possible to give a summary at the end of my electoral updates for the primary.  One liners, arrow up, down or even.  Candidates in alphabetical order.  Opinionated.

Venezuelans overseas with trouble for voting may be getting help soon

Carlos Suaréz
It should not be difficult to understand why the Venezuelan Electoral Board (CNE) creates so many difficulties for Venezuelan to vote overseas.  Except for a very few counted places (such as Havana) the anti Chavez vote overseas is o-ver-whel-ming-ly anti Chavez.  This is so lopsided that the CNE still has not reported on certain international results such as the 2007 referendum that Chavez lost (with what margin he lost overseas must have been quite a whooop!).  So today reports abound on all sorts of hassles in Venezuelan consulates if you try to register there to vote (no mail ballots for us!, if you live in, say, Atlanta, you need to fly to Miami to vote).

But courtesy of activists of Voluntad Popular this may start to change some.  The first item is reported in El Universal today is an interview with Carlos Suaréz who, tired of all the troubles he and others experienced to register, decided to take actions.  It took form as a law suit, and unbelievably it worked.  Well, half way, as the regime owned justice accepted to at least study the issue, ruling on it eventually.

The issue is quite simple on a legal point of view:
  • In Venezuela to register for vote, or change address, you just need to show your valid ID.  Your address, new or old, is accepted at face value, in good faith (which incidentally has caused lots of trouble as that leniency has helped balloon the voters rolls opening it to all charges of electoral fraud; but that is another story).
  • But try to register outside of Venezuela and the article 124 of the electoral law has consulates demand that you prove your legal residency status overseas, which proof when offered is of a validity decided by whatever bureaucrat mans the consulate where you apply.
  • Thus there is an active act of discrimination: Venezuelan citizens at home are treated differently than Venezuelans overseas.  
  • As such the plaintiffs are demanding that article 124 is stricken down from the law, fast enough so that Venezuelans overseas have time to register for next October.
Since there are some, likely chavistas, who might find the issue silly, allow me to finish this post detailing a little bit the whole story behind this issue.

First, besides being unfair, requesting residency is ridiculous.  For example someone for many reasons could need to spend three months a year in Miami from November to January, a time where usually important elections take place in Venezuela. That person may exert its activities in Miami without being a resident and decide to register there so as not to miss important votes even if in exchange that person may forfeit voting on local elections.

Still not convinced?  Well, allow me to present my own case.  I vote at the French embassy in Caracas, having a double citizenship.  The embassy does not know, did not ask where I live.  They just satisfied themselves with a mailing address, my POBox, so they can mail me election material.  And under no obligation, just for my convenience.  PERIOD.

Still doubtful?  Then according to that article 124, were it to be fair, my registration in Yaracuy for Venezuelan elections should be questioned as I do not spend 6 months a year there.  With travel, work, holidays and what not I could request to vote in Caracas through which I must usually go.  In fact I moved my registration to San Felipe years ago because that is where I am the more likely to be the first two weeks of December!  Otherwise I could still be voting in El Cafetal.

Second, the whole reason behind demanding such harassing paper work is elsewhere (if it were a mere utility bill or bank statement one could still make a case for that but some consulates demand much more, more expensive to get, more difficult).  The real reason here is that Venezuelans over seas have had to leave because of Chavez policies (economic, political, security, etc...) and they are pissed at him.  And those who left before Chavez came to power can see how the country is degraded even further and how unlikely it is they will able to return someday.  The few known electoral results speak for themselves:
  • The last result, of 2010, give 75% for the opposition and a mere 16% for Chavez.
  • In 2006 it was 75% for Rosales and 24% for Chavez
  • In 2004 it was 89% against Chavez with 30K votes, the record to date.
Needless to say that with an expected closer than usual vote expected in 2012 and more Venezuelan outside today than at any time, Chavez does not want to deal with a potential 50,000 gap overseas.....

I do not know, nor I am very optimistic that the issue will be settled in favor of Venezuelans overseas.  A second item of Voluntad Popular just came out as I typed this entry so maybe this is starting to get some notice. Then again it is possible that in the aftermath of Lopez big win at the IACHR, a sentence that the Venezuelan High Court is at a loss to fully annul, chavismo may decide to be cautious and let this one go, annulling article 124.  Think about the international scandal if for the second time a Voluntad Popular political initiative is squashed at home and must end up in the IACHR docket, for an issue that no democracy would tolerate!

Voluntad Popular is now seen more and more as the Human Rights group of Venezuela and thus if you are overseas and experience trouble to register I suggest that you write to their main mail and report your case asking for help: internacional@voluntadpopular.com And pass it to your friends and relatives outside of Venezuela. We need to vote as many of us as possible!!!!!

When everything else fails try a little bit of class war

Chavez's drugs must be working, at least good enough to give him the energy to remind us that he is the big honcho around.  But what to do?  No governmental plan is working, unless you believe the propaganda claims that 100,000 houses have been built and that the jobless rate of Venezuela dropped nothing less than 0,8%.  Take that capitalism!

Fortunately there is something that always tickles the lumpen hoi polloi: confiscate goods and give them away at "popular markets".  The hoi polloi does not care whether these are state stolen goods, they are now used to help themselves by ransacking trucks stopped in traffic jams.  The hoi polloi does not care whether these seized goods are a retribution to hoarders: the hoi polloi has learned long ago to pillage and hoard their loot to resell it at good price to their neighbors.  After all, we have no news of anyone looting a truck of goods being punished for that. Why should they not keep pillaging, or even better, applaud Chavez when he does that for them?

Thus this is how we must understand the "initiatives" led by your average corrupt military yesterday to seize milk and corn flour.  You may note the coincidence with the new law of absolute price control, as if it were not for Chavez private enterprise would hoard for months if necessary until they can sell food at gold price....  That Polar, whose corn flour was stolen yesterday, was inspected 2,200 times in 2011 alone does not seem to matter.....  think about that for a second, Empresas Polar who have about 100 facilities around the country was inspected 2,200 times this year.  That is, every manufacturer, redistribution center, office, of Polar had to have been "inspected" by bureaucratic goons at least a dozen times since January 1st 2011.  And yet they still can hoard?  Gimme a break!!!!!

Unfortunately in the dismal nature of Venezuelan press not even El Universal would do the kind of detailed statistics I just gave you on inspecting Polar.  So, as a public service to make sure that you all understand that the regime has ABSOLUTELY NO CASE I will do some more arithmetic.  Not math, plain good ole' arithmetic.

For the sake of the argument let's assume that indeed Polar was hoarding 66,5 tons of corn flour, Harina PAN, in Coro.  Heck,. let's round it up to 70 tons!

Let's also take at face value the population of the state of Falcon, capital Coro, at Wikipedia: 950,057 (!?).  Since the region of Tucacas is probably served by distribution centers in Puerto Cabello we can safely state that the Coro Polar center is designed to serve no more than 800,000 people.  Note: the population is certainly greater but I am trying, desperately, to make the case for Chavez.

Since this is inland Venezuela, away from more "sophisticated" areas such as Caracas or Valencia, we can assume that the consumption of Harina PAN is 1 kilo per day per family of, say, 5.  Let's say that 300,000 Falconians do not eat arepa at all for a variety of reasons, we are still left with 500,000 people eating an average of 200 grams of Harina Pan a day.

The result is a daily consumption of 0,2 X 500,000 =  100,000 Kilos a day, or 100 tons.

If I am right, then the "hoarding" seized yesterday corresponds to not even 1 fucking day of consumption!!!!!!

But let's say that I am dead wrong, that only 100,000 Falconians are poor enough that they eat nothing less but 150 grams of Harina Pan a day.

0,15 X 100,000 = 15,000 kilos a day, or 15 tons.  The hoard was a whopping 5 days of consumer needs.....

Same calculation for the milk seized at Parmalat in El Vigia (controlled by its workers, not the bankrupt Italian concern).  By the way, Parmalat El Vigia claims today that the milk seized was in fact a joint project with the government, raising the interesting possibility that Chavez stole himself....

Here the seized amount is 210 tons of milk.  El Vigia serves the Andes region which is, rounding it, about 3 million people.  Let's make that 2 million.

The consumption of powdered milk in Venezuela is mostly for the bottom half of the country, and for children and coffee.  So in the Andes we can say safely say that a family of 5 eats half a kilo of powdered milk a week.  0, 1 kilo per week for 1 million people.  Or 0,1 X 1.000.000 = 100,000 kilos a week, or 100 tons a week.

The 200 tons stolen by the regime yesterday represent the supply for the month of December that Parmalat was preparing since it is an established fact that the country reaches a standstill of sorts by December 15 and there is a need to have all of your customers well stocked by December 15 so they can last until early January when the country starts producing again.

So there, do you doubt that the "spectacular" measures of yesterday are nothing else but a lie, a robbery and an attempt at firing up class war?

And another equally important question: why is no one in the press or even those companies, showing up this kind of arithmetic?  Are they so afraid to prove that Chavez is a liar?

To make sure you all know that this is a Chavez policy, wanted by him, directed by him, for class war purposes, I am giving you this closing video so you can hear Chavez own words on that effect:

Chávez advierte con expropiar negocios que... por Globovision

I am not going to bother translating: the tone and the facies are enough for you to get the point. After all it is a whole bunch of lies such as "following the Constitution", the blue book, which guarantees the right of due process and private property, both now so violated that it is not even a joke. And yes, his bloatedness is pretending to be the most legal thug in the world....

PS: as I finished typing this entry I just received word that the Harina PAN in Coro was returned to Polar for its normal distribution.  But guess what?  What is the image that will stay in the mind of the lumpen hoi polloi?  Chavez giving them Harina PAN or the idiots in Coro returning discretely the goods to Polar?  There is an image we know for sure we will not see: Chavez apologizing.

Shorn Goldilocks: the Sequel

So Chavez completed his threat and started bringing back the Venezuelan gold reserves safely stored in several banks so as to put all of them together in a Venezuelan location where he will be able to dip as needed, without any control or record.  Safety is now gone. There is nothing new on this topic on what we already discussed when announced.  However I will invite you to visit the link of the mains state VTV on the procession today when the first shipment arrived.  Even if you do not read Spanish the pictures will tell you it all "people's jubilee  for the return to the fatherland of the first shipment of gold to the coffers of the BCV".  I kid you not, this is the translated title.  Nobody in the VTV article seems to find it odd that the liberated gold was actually available for repatriation without any trouble.  That is, it was Venezuelan......  the manipulation of the whole story apparently even missed the unself-conscious Chavez sycophants.

Pérez who? The average Venezuelan

Doing some automatic processing on Venezuela's electoral records can be fun. When we talk about the Venezuelan Joe Doe in Venezuela we often refer to "Pedro Pérez". In reality, Pérez is not the most common surname. Every region tends to show a different "most common surname" (founder effect someone?), in spite of the relatively high mobility we have seen for centuries and immigration rates Venezuela experienced particularly before the current caudillo came to power.

You will see in the first chart the voters' distribution per surname and birth year in the Eastern state of Sucre. The second chart has the distribution for the Western state of Zulia. Rodríguez and González are the most frequent surnames in Sucre. In Zulia the most frequent surnames are González (by far) and far away, Fernández. In any case: the abundance of González in Zulia is quite overwhelming. Pérez is not even in the top 10 there.

Founder effect in Zulia?

Yet another commie law: now it is Chavez regime which tells you how much to sell

Controlled substance
There has been quite an effervescence around the "ley de precio justo" or "ley de escasez" as its opponents call it.  To the point that I have readers (in plural) complaining that I had not discussed it yet.  I will not, at least not in the details because that law intended to fix how much a margin you are allowed to include in your final price is NOT an economical measure but 99% a political one.  Thus I will start by the 1%.

Certainly, in time of great crisis, you may decree that for a few weeks or even months you may forbid people to increase prices (same thing as telling them how much they can make).  When the crisis is over, we are all back to normal.  This bears no discussion: there have been so many such schemes through history, 99% of them having failed, and 1% having worked up to a limited point at best, that there is no need to revisit an issue that has been settled long ago.  Markets rule.  You can restrain them somewhat, avoid excesses, but markets rule.  Otherwise there is no more market, no more choice, single products when you can find them.  It is called communism, war economy and such similar names.  Even chavistas know that (with the possible exception of Giordani who at this stage I am seriously starting to question any sanity or any sense of shame left in him).

It has thus to be a political law.  Let's see why.

To simplify a little bit our discussion let's split it in two parts: causes and objectives.

Causes are very simple: the policy of price controls in place since 2003 has failed.  If it has not failed in an unbearable way yet it is due to the high price of oil which has allowed the regime to import food massively, to the point of wrecking the production capabilities of the country and needing now to import at least half of what we eat, and going.  A consequence of a lack of choice and production and printing money to buy is inflation, which has been a feedback way to "demand" further price controls which in turn push for more scarcity (escasez) and in turn yet more inflation.  You may think that with our own numerous failures at price controls since 1958 coupled to the obvious failure of the regime after 7 years, they would start to have second thoughts about it?  But no, they in fact realized that inflation and scarcity can be convenient political tools.  If you behave nicely, if you support Chavez, if you go to his meetings, then you will be allowed to buy milk, coffee, corn flour at state stores for lower prices than elsewhere.  No guarantee that you find them there but at least if you find them there they would be at half price from what is now an in your face black-market of street vendors (making thus black-market and street vendors yet another perverse plus for the regime).

And there is the changed mentality of the country who after decades of hearing populist politicians placing the blame for inflation on anything but the government decisions, preferably on the producing class, have created a feeling in the country that price controls are needed, they work, but they are just not applied efficiently.  This is essentially a result of the poor education of the populace in general, of the limited choices now available making more relevant the need of price stability for the single items left on the shelves, etc, etc...  But hold tight for your life if you do not give your workers a 30% pay raise a year!  Price control YES!  Wage moderation NO!

There is no better way to explain this than this cartoon of Weil today in Tal Cual.

On stage there are the 5 candidates of the Unidad offering what all want (private property, stopping crime, education, health, jobs).  They are speaking to a chavista group as potential voters of the Unidad, those that think that after 13 years maybe a change is needed as some problems cannot obviously be fixed by the regime.  But int the last quadrant, when "removing price controls" is shouted, then they suddenly start losing interest (UA is a word play untranslatable but you get it I trust, something like Whoa?).

And this is unfortunately the reality of the chavista lumpen who truly is the most battered sector of the population.  I have less "luxuries", less holidays than before but I do not need to count my pennies when I go to the grocery store and thus I am still better off than them, 13 years after Chavez has started harassing me for the benefit, supposedly, of that lumpen.  In their immense ignorance and need these people have nothing else to hold but to the hope that price control will work, miraculously, since they cannot find jobs, housing, safety, health....  The over-aching need to feed your family and the blackmail associated to it eventually rule.

This being said it will be easier to understand the objectives.  First, obviously in an election year as the chavista hostages are looking elsewhere to vote (or not vote at all) there is a need, a desperate need to take measures for effect since the regime knows it cannot achieve anything major by October 2012.  Price control is a way even if it comes disguised as a law for maximum gain.  The beauty of this law for the regime is that now ALL activities that are for sale, from food to professional services will have to be registered and their costs declared and their expected gain approved.  And the law gives absolute discretionary power to the bureaucrats in charge who will be allowed to decide what is a real cost or not.  For example they will decide that any foreign bills are payed at 4.3 to the USD even if that importation was not allowed by CADIVI currency control and thus you needed to buy it through SITME or dark alleys unless risking to see your business go under, and thus you had to pay it at 8 instead of 4.3.  Just with CADIVI the new law can now shut down half of business in Venezuela by making them unprofitable (not that they profit much nowadays...).

It is to be expected that costs that do not sound "socialist" such as personnel and installation security expenses, promotions, representation expenses, etc, will not be registered as valid.  Also, price increase will have to be approved by a bureaucrat and guess waht will happen?  Delays, bribes, incredible corruption ("OK, I will allow it but I want half of what you are going to make").

Even if the intentions of the regime were genuine, it does not have the personnel to apply them, to do the thorough inspections required, to understand what production costs are.  Thus the law cannot be applied, no matter what good intentions may exist.  After all, price controls which are more direct, simpler, limited in range have failed.  Does anyone think for a second that this new hyper-complex bureaucracy will succeed ?  I mean, they start by studying the cost of floor polish!  As if buying floor polish was a major necessity!!!!!!

And thus, there must be another reason for such a law than trying to please the lumpen who will soon be sorry as more and more items are going to start missing from the shelves.  The regime has helpfully advanced that companies that cannot produce at "real" cost do not need to close, can be surrendered to the state and workers.  And we already have ample evidence of what a success chavista nationalizations have been, how productivity and production increased along quality and service......NOT!

No, the real reason is elsewhere and as such it exempts us to discuss the details of this law because this law is a punitive law, to be used to target "enemies of the regime" and most important, in election year, to target those business that may make enough money to allow some of their gains to go to the opposition campaign effort.

You advertise in Globovision? Yet a new state agency (ironically called SundeCOP!) will fall on you to control your prices.

You gave a fat check to Pablo Perez, even if it is on your own money?  The same squad will go down on your business to make sure you make no money to keep giving.

And amen to all the opportunities for fake fake or real "speculation" accusations.  Veracity does not matter as long as it is politically expedient in helping to hammer inside the chavista lumpen the class warfare language and ideology so essential for the survival of the regime.

If the economy falls to Cuba levels by the end of 2012 who cares as long as Chavez is reelected.....

Happy Turkey Day!

To all our US friends, have a greeat Thanksgiving!

But this year I shall not be as jealous as for the first time in over a decade I will attend a real home made Thanksgiving in Caracas instead of the now lousy dinner at Lee Hamilton where they do not even bother to whip somewhat the canned cranberries to remove at least the imprint of the can.....  I shudder at what new low they will descend this year with the excuse of "escasez" and the irrepressible will of Venezuelans with money to be fashionable and put up with a pretend Thanksgiving feast.  Still, we all have to work tomorrow and Thanksgiving will be a dinner date and not a mid afternoon gastronomic saturnalia.  Friday morning we'll be a little bit heavy to head back to work.  And since I am driving, that I can do few things besides suggesting menus and recipes (I am the one with "experience" and in charge of the speech), my job is bringing wine.  What do you think?  Good Merlot is the best able to take care of the Turkey Day variety?  Or maybe Argentinian Malbec?

Confronting Chavez?

There has been some heated discussion as to whether Diego Arria should attack Chavez the way he does. I personally think that he has the right to do so and that it is a valid strategy at primary level. How he does his attack is on the other hand something fair to discuss because there are useful and useless ways to critic/attack. But that is another post. At any rate, one thing certain is that Arria has been receiving press, rather good, in most newspapers (the governmental papers are mere propaganda and useless to evaluate). Today this OpEd in Tal Cual from a certain Gonzalez that I am not familiar with makes a good stab at evaluating how pertinent it is to confront Chavez. In Spanish but Google translator works better and better, use it!

¿Confrontar con Chávez?


En la recién comenzada campaña de los precandidatos de la oposición a medirse con Chávez en los comicios presidenciales del 7 de octubre del 2012 se perciben varias diferencias sustanciales entre ellos y no podía ser de otra manera puesto que la coalición democrática es bastante plural, amén de las diferencias de estilo y personalidad propios de cada uno.

No obstante hay un tema que nos llama la atención y es la existencia de por lo menos dos estrategias diferentes para relacionarse con el Presidente: una que busca concentrarse en la Propuesta y su crítica a la gestión del gobierno es suave y evita concienzudamente mencionar a Chávez como responsable de la mala gestión gubernamental, la otra también plantea una Propuesta pero entiende la necesidad de criticar con fuerza la gestión del gobierno y responsabilizar al Presidente por la evidente incapacidad de su gobierno de resolver los viejos y nuevos problemas que aquejan a los ciudadanos. Conviene preguntarse cuál de esas dos estrategias es la más conveniente para ganar en el 2012.

Hay quienes vienen sosteniendo y han logrado convencer a algunos de la inconveniencia de confrontar directamente con el Comandante, de que polarizar beneficia al régimen. En nuestra opinión ese criterio es desacertado porque el chavismo vive horas bajas producto de su desgaste, es también errado por cuanto en este gobierno ultracentralizado y autocrático todo pasa por Chávez y este insiste constantemente en reforzar su condición de "Alfa y Omega" del Proceso.

Más aún, los venideros comicios son para elegir presidente y cómo se evita confrontar con Hugo. Por supuesto no se trata de hacerlo de cualquier manera sino explotando las debilidades reales de su gestión y sus evidentes inconsecuencias.

El chavismo logró por mucho tiempo desvincular a Chávez de los errores y fracasos del gobierno, se responsabilizaba de ellos a los gobiernos anteriores o al Imperialismo, al sabotaje de la oposición, a la burocracia o a funcionarios no comprometidos con la revolución pero nunca al Presidente, quien se ha dado el lujo de referirse a los problemas como si fuese el jefe de la oposición y no el que gobierna a discreción. Pero esta matriz de opinión ha venido cambiando y no podía ser de otra manera luego de 13 años de gobierno, cada vez más la gente responsabiliza a Hugo por la ineficacia e incapacidad del gobierno y ese estado de opinión creciente es un activo para la oposición y es el mayor recurso de que dispone para competir con el régimen.

Es conveniente responsabilizar al Presidente por los errores de su gobierno, es necesario confrontar con él en ese terreno. No hacerlo es un acto de candidez, supone desperdiciar un escenario en el cual tiene una profunda e irreversible debilidad, es hacerle el juego a su estrategia de escurrir el bulto, de no contaminarse con la vida real del venezolano de a pie.

Really, did we give away 2 billion dollars?

Following up the fishy story exposed by Alek, examined by Miguel and reported by yours truly and Gustavo (with the adequate doubts), there is nothing but a note in El Universal today where Merentes denies everything.  Unfortunately even if Merentes is fully innocent (that would be a first), someone had access to enough info to get such a scheme set up.  And part of that info ought to come from the BCV.  To be continued.

Hat ein Deutscher dies geklaut oder wirklich "mit Zustimmung" bekommen?

Die Pemon-Indianer sagen, dass ein Deutscher einen heiligen Stein aus ihrer Region ohne Erlaubnis entfernt hat. Der Deutscher, ein gewisser Wolfgang Kraker Schwarzenfeld, sagt, er hätte den Stein mit Erlaubnis der Pemones 1999 bekommen. Zur Zeit befindet sich dieser Stein in im Berlin-Tiergarten. Die venezolanischen Behörden verlangen schon seit 2003 die Rückgabe dieses Steins. Es wäre gut, wenn die deutsche Botschaft in Venezuela ihre Meinung dazu geben könnte. Es wäre noch besser, wenn wir alle Informationen über diesen Fall öffentlich diskutieren könnten.

Corrupt charity in the Caribbean

A mere 75 million USD, airplane not included

One does not know what to really make of Alek's latest findings.  In a time of financial crisis the Venezuelan government through its Central Bank (BCV) makes available to a third party in Britain of 2 billion dollars in bonds for charity purposes in the Caribbean.  What a sweet gesture you may say, but take a closer look....

The bond seems to be processed through an Isle of Man firm (tax heaven, by the way) whose declared values are a mere 2,000 pounds.  One pound supports 1 million dollars.  Surely there is something legal somewhere to justify that but at the very least the ethics are to be questioned.  I mean, a 2,000L company could well serve to finance, say, an industrial project worth a couple million dollars.  But a 2 billion bond issue?  Do 2,000L even manage to pay the computer and desk required to control the financing?

The next item to note is that a supposedly noted charity manager from England is the appointed person to fly across Central America and the Caribbean to spread the wealth is a Conservative Party guy, a certain Tony Caplin.  Well, being a conservative or labor or liberal is no guarantee of impartiality and honesty.  But let's not be petty.  I mean, is there no one in Venezuela able to disburse two billion dollars directly to charities?  Why must we use an intermediary that surely will cash something for his travails?  After years of Petrocaribe largesse we have no one that has bothered to know first hand the charitable necessities of CARICOM?

Oh dear!  Call me crazy but this smacks of two things: corruption and vote buying at the OAS in prevision of next year electoral fraud all but officially announced by Chavez.  I mean, will the prime minister of Banana Island will be able to vote against Chavez a few weeks after s/he received a fat check for a mere million?

Not to mention that Venezuelan hospitals and school could use a little bit of that charity.



This morning when I read first the news I was outraged more than anything else by the need to seek some Brit to do something that I could do myself for cheaper and better and less corrupt if Chavez were to call me (yes I would, if Chavez really wanted to do charity I would cooperate with him). Thus my text on this first impression, that we cannot even steal ourselves through charity...

The thing is that there is something rather fantastic about the whole scheme, from the amount to the purpose, almost as if it was done so that folks would get caught.  You now, like the Nigerian Prince dead father with a big inheritance that cannot be cashed scheme on spam.

Since it was a story by Alek who has hit a few good ones before and there is no reason for me to think he did not do his homework, I will let him bring further evidence as to its sustainability.

I prefer to make the following comment: after all the scandals from Pudreval to the FONDEN missing funds, we are now so blasé that we are willing to take at face value any of such schemes. Maybe the judicial system is so useless in Venezuela that now they do not care anymore as to people finding out; or maybe it is indeed someone making fun of us. Whatever it is, one thing is certain, it is a sad reflection on how degraded a society we are now.

[written at 7 PM the same day]


What do you know? I received a tip as to this thing from Miguel in the afternoon and wrote this caveat above when I reached home after work. A little bit later I do my evening survey of news and Miguel reports more work on it, and that his conclusion is that it was fake. Ill intentioned alright, but more than likely fake as far as the documents stand.  Though it may still be proven true, but that is up to Alek.

My caveat above thus still stands with the added warning that the corruption of the regime is making all sorts of shady practices float around, linked or not to the regime (just as Nigeria noted corruption created that spam industry around its prince and other victims of air plane crashes).

As for me, even if it comes from Alek, I will bite my keyboard for a few hours before transmitting the news.

We should also note that even if this particular "gift" is not true, the moneys given by the regime in the Caribbean over the last decade  are way higher in total.  What is a billion more between friends?

[written at 7:45 PM]

Diego Arria has a point, and he makes it

Diego Arria

The Unidad candidates debate of last Monday seems to have given us a new darling through Diego Arria.  We must admit that he is operating quite a remarkable comeback, if you ask me.  Not that he may win the primary votes next February though he seems very confident; and indeed three months is a long time in politics.  But I suspect that he is now in a position to influence the debate in such a way that he may just become a king maker of sorts.  

His first and most beneficial offering to the current political debate is to remind the Venezuelan public that after 13 years of propaganda and denial from the chavista regime that nothing pre-1998 was worth discussing, and even less saving, there is something worth retrieving.  For example Diego Arria started his modest campaign by walking as a mere citizen in Caricuao visiting places he had inaugurated when he was Caracas governor in the 70ies.  Needless to say that many of them today are semi destroyed because nobody paid attention to them, places which with a little bit of care could still be very helpful to a very battered community.

But more useful for the present situation is to remind the green footed candidates of today, 30 years younger than he is, that there were ways to make politics before Chavez that can still be of use today.  For example El Universal today brings quite an interview of Diego Arria!  This interview is a master class of political confrontation, on how to take on Chavez directly without antagonizing all of chavistadom.  In it Arria explains very well why it is possible to bring charges against Chavez at the Hague international tribunal, and the risks he is taking in doing so (he is introducing them this week).  These are not "risk free" politics, these are high stakes ones, far, very far from the floral games that 3 of the other candidates are playing trying to swoon an hypothetically softer fringe of chavismo.  In other words Arria harks back to politics of substance over image, as the ones that were practiced occasionally by Betancourt, Leoni, Caldera and Carlos Andres Perez, when unpopular decisions were made in the name of the state, knowing very well that the popularity of their administration would go down.  This is something that has been absent in Venezuela since the early 80ies when unpopular decisions stopped being made, and were just forced upon us from outside if needed.

By bringing back principled stands Arria is doing more than just improving his image through "front-paging" if you forgive me that coinage.  Certainly he made the cover of Zeta this week, but also he causes great concern as some people are openly voicing their concern as to Arria's own life.  If there is one thing that the current electoral campaign must thank Arria as of now is that he is placing us squarely in front of the challenge that awaits us.

Arria is blunt: there will need to be a constitutional assembly elected as soon as the Unidad takes office because the structure of the chavista state after 13 years is such that a new government will surely fail within months.  I am not sure I share all of Arria's vision as this is a country of political cowards and indeed there is quite a few chavistas screaming full devotion today that will make Saint Peter look like an amateur at denigration.

Yet we cannot deny that the armed forces are penetrated by drug trafficking, that many chavistas that are in high office and who are very corrupt themselves will not flinch if they need to make a coup to save their skin.  A new president cannot simply arrive and fire the TSJ, the general prosecutor of the republic, the comptroller, the hostile and illegal National Assembly, etc...  no matter how many of them are willing to collaborate.  And even if enough are willing to pretend a collaboration, how do we know that it will be sincere, institutional and of a long enough duration?  Is the new eventual Unidad president going to be a frog carrying on his back a scorpion?

These things need to be discussed and the ostrich policy practiced by Capriles Radonski in particular could in the end hurt much more our cause than help it.  Though I need also to note that since the debate even Capriles seems to become somewhat more critical of Chavez.

Let's be appreciative of Diego Arria's effort, not only by focusing the political debate on reality but also because he makes it clear that the next government will be one of transition whose necessary measures will give it an early expiration date.

PS: Diego Arria will be starting tomorrow his recourse against Chavez at the Hague with hundreds of testimonies.  He is a prolific twitterer and you may follow his adventures in The Hague here @Diego_Arria



Diego Arria has a web site set up for the occasion and you can read here a summary in Spanish of the stuff he submitted today for consideration.

Now, I am no legal eagle so not for me to analyze the merits of that denunciation.  But on my own, there have been enough reported in this blog to justify that Chavez is brought to justice someday somewhere.  The Tascon List alone is a notable Human Rights crime that still to this day makes me wonder how come foreign  governments have not been more vocal about its condemnation.

At any rate, maybe the charges pressed by Arria are too weak for The Hague, maybe they are adequate, but whether The Court accepts them and formulates an accusation is a win/win situation.

If it accepts, then from this blog to the real victims we will all be justified for having kept up the accusations.

And if they are rejected it will also be good because the regime is embarked on an increasing violence and in future history books it will be written that international institutions waited too much to avoid the Venezuelan tragedy.  Too late maybe for us but it would be good for other countries where such crap may happen.

Foot Note:

Sure enough the regime has dismissed the whole thing.  After all what can it reply to Tascon List, to Afiuni, to Los Semerucos, to Franklin Brito, to etc, etc...

The argument advanced is the classic shoot the messenger, that Arria is accused of corruption, that he had people killed.  Maybe, but since the regime controls all the judicial apparatus, has access to all the documents it can find, why is Arria still not formally accused somewhere?  The words of that poor Navarro, as ineffectual and suck up chavista as there is, sound to me these days as a confession of sorts.

Meanwhile El Pais does take the trouble to report on Arria.

Carta abierta a Socorro Hernández, la malandra del CNE

Muy querida Socorro Hernández, del directorio del CNE

Estoy siguiendo en directo el escrutinio de los votos en España. Todo manual. Una hora después del cierre de las urnas en España (y cerraron todas) cierran las de las islas Canarias. A penas cierran en las Canarias y ya el ministerio del interior, cuyo ministro es un socialista que coordina el acto electoral, nada de CNE por esos lares, da el primer parte con 13% escrutado con ya amplia ventaja al partido de oposición. Media hora más y ya los votos escrutados pasan del 20%. A las 9:35 PM, 1.5 horas después de cerrar en Madrid ya son 64% escrutados. ¡Ha! Se me olvidaba mencionar que a las 8 PM al cerrar las urnas, sin que cierren todavía las de Canarias, se autorizaba a publicar los sondeos de boca de urnas, a pesar de unos cuantos todavía estaban esperando dentro de los centros de votación su turno.

 Y a pesar de todas esas cosas, que se considerarían irregularidades horrorosas por el CNE pirata de Venezuela que clama tener el mejor sistema electoral del mundo, nadie protesta, todos acatan, todos celebran o lloran. Pero nadie, hasta ahora por lo menos, ha criticado la votación, a reclamado por fraude electoral (las criticas al sistema son otra cosa, pero el acto mismo no lo cuestiona NADIE).

Y todo manual, con papelitos que se cuentan uno a uno, con voto por correspondencia incluido, y votos de los españoles fuera de España.

Otra vez podemos comprobar, en vivo y directo que toda la parafernalia que usted justifica para el CNE no es nada más que un atraco a ver cómo es que logran de que sin los votos el aprendiz de dictador Chávez siga ganando elecciones.

Usted no es más que una vil tramposa que se las hecha de gran vaina.  Una delincuente, pues.

PD: dirijo esta carta a usted y no a Tibisay porque para los ilustrados está claro que la malandra, la tramposa, la hampón mayor del CNE es usted, con el combo que la rodea. Todavía estamos esperando la respuesta al desafío que le mandamos para que justifique el guiso electoral de las legislativas.  Todavía sigo disponible para debatir con usted donde quiera y cuando quiera sus excusas.

¿Les suena esto como conocido?

Leemos en la BBC el canciller de Siria diciendo que el envío de observadores por la liga Árabe seria una violación de la soberanía Siria.

Todos esos hampones dictatorzuelos son lo mismo, y la hora de las chiquitas se escudan detrás de un nacionalismo ramplón.  Aquí en Caracas o allá en Damasco.

The vote in Spain falls mainly in the plain center

The vote tomorrow in Spain is quite remarkable although not for the reasons that your average pundit will advance.  The result is well known, the only question remaining for tomorrow is whether the Partido Popular will get a majority of its own in the Cortes.  No, the remarkable in that election is elsewhere.

First, when we see the disasters in Italy and Greece, disasters that not only Spain seems to have escaped so far (the political disaster, not the economic crisis, mind you) we get the tale of a country where democracy and institutions seem much better entrenched than what one would have predicted not even a couple of decades ago.  And this election seems to confirm that the Spanish political system is not ready yet to give itself up to the first Berlusconi that shows up, or to your average Greek-like pimp leadership.

Which brings us to the second point, the failure of the "indignados" (who seem to be floundering equally fast in the US).  Offered with a golden opportunity to effect the electoral results, the vacuous and nihilistic protests that started at the Puerta del Sol has preferred to talk of "participatory democracy" instead of actually participating in the political game.  Sure, there are certain complications with the Spanish system, there is a certain self styled moral ground, but opportunities to make your point count did not lack.  We could have heard for example a call to vote for regional parties or independents, swelling their results.  Or the indignados could have decided to all go and vote for a small party, which are not lacking. This way at least the indignados would have proven that they mattered.  Instead the result they achieved is to push the PSOE and PP to the center as the need to face the economic crisis simplifies the debate and kills ideology, regarless of who is leading the pack.  Paradoxically by trying to sabotage the Spanish consensus the indignados may end up reinforcing it and postpone the creativity that is so lacking in the West these days.

The thing also we can admire in these elections is that the expected majority of the PP is not frightening.  The PSOE is already behaving as a cool loyal opposition, regional movements are getting used to the idea that they might not be able to blackmail Madrid anymore.  Except for threats to overturn the gay marriage in Spain (which would be a tremendous mistake if the PP were to attempt it) nobody is concerned anymore about the not so cryptic Franco legacy still existing inside some PP minds.  You just need to look at the Spanish state TV, TVE and its affiliates and be envious of the balance expressed there.  I am not afraid to write that the TVE is better than BBC or the French state equivalents, probably much better than PBS in the US as the governments in Spain are not afraid to finance it enough to make it available and entertaining too, in addition of informative.  If there is a TV networks for intellectuals today, that one is TVE.

It is certainly possible that a PP government might try to influence TVE, but I have the feeling that this is not possibel anymore, beyond the natural desire of some journalists to play nice to the government just to get a few scoops for their career advancement.  In a country which has the best public TV, there are also some of the best newspapers now in the world such as El Pais or ABC or El Mundo which are able to embrace their side while keeping enough objectivity and criticism to allow themselves to be read by the other side without insulting their intelligence.  I may be naive but truly I cannot imagine as I type how what Spain achieved could be seriously challenged by a Rajoy government, probably less militant than the Aznar one was 10 years ago.

As I watch with envious pleasure the Spanish democracy playing a master's lesson, I cannot fail to want to weep at the latest dismal crap from Venezuela.  Just from the state media we get this obscenity today: the vice-president of the republic, Jaua, said that "the right will never return to power", as reported by AVN.  There a few loonies in Spain too, and some say that were the PSOE to retain office tomorrow apocalypse shall surely befall Spain.  And yet among these loonies I do not detect the idea that the PSOE should never be allowed to return to office.  True, the longer they stay in the opposition benches the happier all Spaniards would be but the idea of the PSOE being barred from office on a permanent basis is unheard of, and certainly would never be expressed as blithely as Jaua expressed it today against any opposition, present or future, to Chavez.

But then again Spain is now a democracy and Venezuela is a banana fascism. Let's just hope that when we finally make our transition from Chavez fascism to our new democracy, the one we'll get will be as vibrant and exemplary as the Spanish one.

PS: one interesting thing to watch for those who follow Spanish politics up close is the score that UPyD will make, if it reaches 5%.

Priorities of the Bolivarian "revolution"

Minister for Foreign Affairs Nicolas Maduro declared the current Venezuelan government supports Carlos, the Jackal, in everything it can.

Chavez had more than once said the Jackal is a revolutionary fighter.
Venezuela's most notorious terrorists sits here

I wish this government would support other Venezuelans abroad in the same way even if they are not terrorists. I would actually prefer the Venezuelan government to support Venezuelans in Venezuela, the country in South America with the highest murder rate by far...higher than that of war-torn Colombia.

The murder rate in Venezuelan prisons has increased by 33% since last year - so far, as the total numbers are up to September-. 487 prisoners have been killed in the jails of the V Republic from January to that month.

Even driving you cannot reach the boundaries of Venezuelan corruption

Once upon a time, when there were still real intellectuals in Venezuela, when we thought democracy was coming, we used to say of Gomez that he was a ferocious dictator and that he managed the country as if it were its own rural estate.  We must say that after 13 years of Chavez if one Venezuelan caudillo will be rehabilitated it is Gomez.  Sure, Gomez stole a lot of public funds but he did not steal more than other caudillos, just for a longer time.  And still, Venezuela was better off when he died than when he took charge.  Let's just imagine for a minute how good would Venezuela had been if Gomez had stolen less than he did....

With Chavez we cannot even give him the benefit of the doubt since he steals money for the most useless causes.  At least Gomez invested most of what he stole in Venezuela, buying cattle ranches and paying off Venezuelans to get peace.  Chavez just grabs money and throws it out the window.  Indeed, if there are mega scandals of fraud or corruption like the millions of  tons of food that rotted, there are also "lesser" scandals such as the millions given to the F1 Williams team for no return to the country whatsoever.  Our own Alek Boyd has it all, this time around working with Representative Ramos.

Personally any motor race is a No-No for me, for the environment, for the noise, for the waste, etc, etc...  My stuff is sailing, hiking, swimming.  But in Venezuela, a superficial and lazy country if any, F1 car racing is big.  So Chavez in one of his now multiple acts of fancy decided to finance Williams to the tune of a few million dollars as long as one of their main drivers was Pastor Maldonado, some kid from Maracay who did good in the minor league of car racing, whatever these are.

The political fallout at first was good: Pastor came to Venezuela with a prototype before the season started and a whole bunch of people Ooohed and Aaaahed in rapture as he did a few laps at Los Proceres, our Army parade field.

But it went all down the drain fast.  Pastor in all of the season has been able to mark a single point while the winner, a certain Vettel, has 374 as of this typing.  Our own Gustavo Coronel who follows F1 has lovingly been reporting on Pastor's multiple excuses and propaganda stints with Chavez.

But all good things must go an end and now there is someone in Venezuela questioning the legality of the Chavez grants to Williams, grants given because he felt like it, even though there was possibly no positive return for Venezuela, even though that money spent in athletic facilities could have improved, say, last dismal results at the Panamerican Games.

It is not a book about Corruption in Venezuela under Chavez that we will write someday, it is an encyclopaedia....

Michael Zeuske, die Chávez-Regierung und Geschichte Venezuelas

Ich lese gerade Michael Zeuskes Von Bolívar zu Chávez. Ich werde später gründlich über die Ungenauigkeiten dieses Buches gründlich schreiben. Hier will ich nur mal versuchen, einen Überblick über die Vorgeschichte dieses Buches zu kreieren.

Prof. Dr. Zeuske ist Dozent von Geschichte an der Universität Köln. Ich habe schon einen Post über ihn geschrieben, um seine Aussage zu relativieren, wonach Chávez kein Caudillo, sondern bloss "ein Linksnationalist" sei. 

Zeuskes Vater, Max Zeuske, war auch Historiker...in der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Er schrieb u.a. solche Werke wie "Interpretaciones y ensayos marxistas acerca de Simón Bolívar." Max Zeuske war auch auf Kuba tätig und zwar vom Anfang an der "Revolution". In der DDR konnte man über Marxismus fast in den Kochrezepten lesen, aber nicht jeder musste darüber schreiben. Zeuske junior hat auch in der DDR studiert. Welche Stellung er der DDR gegenüber eigentlich hat, weiss ich nicht.  Man kann aber schon seine Stellung zur politischen Lage in Venezuela in seinen Texten erfahren.
Selbst die Marxisten wollten Bolívar für sich benutzen - nicht nur trotz Marx

Die Regierung Venezuelas hat seit vielen Jahrzehnten ab und zu den Bolivarkult auch im Ausland promoviert. Die Aktionen beschränkten sich aber meistens auf die Übergabe einiger Statuen hier und da. 

Seitdem die Militärs mit Chávez zurück an der Macht sind, ist das anders: der Caudillo fühlt mehr denn je, dass er den Personankult um Bolívar fördern muss, um sich als Bolívar 2.0 zu porträtieren...nicht, dass der Bolívar 1.0 wirklichkeitsnah wäre, wie Prof. Rehrmann meisterhaft für deutsche Leser erklären konnte. Die Chávez-Regierung hat schon im Jahr 1999 einen Lehrstuhl Simón Bolívar an der Universität Bonn "unterstützt". Wie diese Unterstützung aussah, weiss ich nicht. Chávez war selbst dabei, als der Lehrstuhl eröffnet wurde (ich bezweifle, dass er aber Deutschland jemals wieder besuchen wird). 

Im Jahr 2007 hat die venezolanische Botschaft in Deutschland erklärt, dass sie wieder den Lehrstuhl Simón Bolívar unterstützen wollte. Michael Zeuske ist anscheinend dabei.

Ich übersetze:

"Die venezolanische Vertretung in Berlin arbeitet seit Juni, seit dem Besuch des Prof. Zeuske bei der Botschafterin Blancanieve Portocarrero, an diesem interessanten Projekt. Diesmal erwähnt der deutsche Dozent mit der Vertretungsleiterin, dass es in der Vergangenheit schon einen bolivarischen Lehrstuhl an der Universität Köln gab und dass ein grosses Interesse besteht, aufgrund der gegenwärtigen Entwicklungen in der lateinamerikanischen Republik einen solchen Lehrstuhl wieder zu eröffnen.

Man hat sich auch über die Struktur, den Inhalt und die methodologischen Strategien für diesen Lehrstuhl geeignigt und über die Möglichkeit, dies auch an anderen deutschen Universitäten zu tun."

Zeuske hat seit 2006 folgende Bücher veröffentlicht:

Kleine Geschichte Venezuelas
Von Bolívar zu Chávez
und nun
Simón Bolívar, Befreier Südamerikas

Seine Sicht zu Bolívar ist ganz anders als die des Historikers Rehrmanns...und das ist nicht verwunderlich.

Prof. Zeuske ist darüber hinaus Gutachter beim DAAD. Ich frage mich, ob der DAAD vor allem den letzten Kapitel des Von Bolívar zu Chávez oder viele der Aussagen des Professors zu Chávez gelesen hat.

Gerne würde ich wissen, wie dieser Lehrstuhl eigentlich aussieht und wer sagt, was man da sagen darf oder nicht...an einer deutschen Universität.

And yet another idiocy at EFE

I am going to have to really, really consider that EFE news agency is financed by Chavez because there is no other way to explain its idiocies.  Today they just take at face value the words of Chavez in yet another cadena as to the opposition not recognizing its victories and planning a coup.  As their usual willful refusal to learn about Venezuela they seem to ignore that the opposition did recognize the victory of Chavez in 2006 but that Chavez did not recognize the opposition victory in Caracas in 2008 and in parliament in 2010.

Debating the debate

Among the fall out of last Monday presidential debate, I am bewildered about the lack of understanding of the event by the general populace, and even more befuddled by the wish to design a winner/loser at all cost by pundits that should know better.  To the point that I am having serious doubts about whether it was all worth it if people are going to misinterpret it all.  Not that I hold the truth, mind you, I am just pointing out at the overheated hyper-ventilation that I heard here and there.  Thus a few points, as usual in no particular order.

Winners versus losers

The main reason in saying that the issue is moot is that there seems to be 5 winners and 5 losers.  And I am talking here just of people without affiliation and pundits, as every party will claim their man the winner and the other the sore losers, as it should be.

However as the dust settle and one thinks better about last Monday night, I am forced to admit that there are three "winners" and two "losers".  The winners, those that people talk about the most in good (or bad, as there is not such  as bad publicity) are Arria, Machado and Perez.  And pretty much for the reasons I advanced though it looks that Arria was the one with the biggest impact over all.  Then again I suspect that he was a novelty for quite a lot of people in spite of all his hard work to figure in the front pages since his farm was seized.  The reason, I presume, is that less people than one thinks do read El Universal and El Nacional where they are more willing to pay attention to Arria's words as the rest of the press is more into current novelties.

As for the losers, well, Lopez was under-performing and Capriles sounds more and more"blah".  Nobody disliked them, they "lost" because they were less exciting, whatever rationale you may advance, from the format to their characters.

The art of debating

In a way these wishes for winner and this hunger for blood (?) may come from a lack of habit of political debate, never strong before Chavez and simply absent since 1998.  We had to wait until 2010 legislative campaign which held some debate for the limited primaries the opposition held then.  The exercise was interesting because it revealed that some had no idea what they were running for since they claimed they would fix potholes from the national assembly.  Some of them did made it to the assembly and now we see the results.....

At any rate that limited exercise took place on the set of Globovision and few really bothered to follow.

The trouble this time is that none of the 5 candidates can risk trashing one of their competitors.  They all come from different political ideologies and that the Unidad is an electoral alliance, not a ideological one.  If these were the US, all proportions guarded, Machado and Arria would be the Republican primaries and Perez and Capriles the Democratic one, and Lopez a strong independent, a cross between Perot and Anderson (I know, I am dating myself) not allowed to participate until the real presidential debates.  North American readers would easily understand that such a primary debate would end up in a fist fight....

Thus what happened Monday night was a floral games of words, where all were testing the waters on an unprecedented, here or elsewhere, kind of debate of sworn enemies that need to work together in the end, no matter what.  Since it seems that there will be more debates I expect that these will still not leave bleeding candidates but at least offer us an occasional bruise.

Trending trends

Perhaps the real interesting result of Monday was not in the winner/loser/was-that-a-debate? considerations but in showing that there are really two trends inside the opposition and that these should work it out in a debating system that helps seek common ground more than select a candidate.

Machado and Arria do represent what we can call today the Venezuelan right, not worried about prayer in school, abortion or forcing out Islamic veils.  This right, exhausted by years of political mediocrity and cheap populism is more concerned about the basics: law and order with private property protection.

The other three represent the Holy Grail of Venezuelan politics: a balanced populism that works, with ethics and with as little corruption as possible.  Since it never was found in the last half century, I doubt it will appear this time around the more so that the feeble institutions we had in 1998 have been swept away altogether.

Maybe the fact that the perceived winners were Arria and Machado means that people are suddenly becoming awake/aware to the need of holding this debate, the real debate if you ask me.  Thus a possible change in trends as Machado and Arria should start climbing in polls even if they may never cross the 20% line.

These new trends would make Leopoldo Lopez the king maker even though he lost some shine last Monday.  If he courageously were to embrace more clearly the emerging "right" line he could even the odds which are, debate or no debate, favoring Perez and Capriles.  But if Lopez, Machado and Arria link efforts then all could change, and very quickly as Lopez is the popular, caring caution that that right needs.

Or Leopoldo could prefer to go safe and make his pick between Capriles and Perez, probably Perez, and render his choice unstoppable at the cost of giving up the presidency for the time being.  Or go on his own and may the Devil's care of the end result in February.

UPDATE, adding an item tot he list


Just a little note.  A "poll" reproted by Globovision says that Capriels got the best marks for the debate.  Globovision should be ashamed to report on such a poll as it comes from an unknown pollster (to me, anyway), was done over the phone with 100 folks and all sorts of additional inconsistencies...

I mean, it is so bad that I hope it was paid for by enemies of Capriles...

AGAIN: watch out for polls and surreptitious endorsements before you decide what is going on in the campaign....

The Nazional Guard of Venezuela is opening private correspondence

rigid small envelope

A friend coming back from France after a stay of several months showed me the following envelopes that he received while there.  These envelopes had been opened by the Nazional Guard of Venezuela as you can read on the resealing tape if you click on the pictures to enlarge.

 These envelopes carried business items that required signatures: contracts, loans, sales, etc.. Just normal stuff that he is required to sign as he is one of the owners of the business but not working there anymore. The envelopes used were standard Federal Express ones: that is either the larger plastic fiber ones to ship single books or dossiers, and the flat thin rigid cardboard ones to ship letters of no more than a dozen pages. In other words envelopes that can not be used for drug trafficking, or in small amounts for personal use so to speak, or that any dog can sniff by simply clipping an edge of the envelope if the border police wished it so. In other words, there is no justification to open these envelopes, and even less justification to open so many of them.

But that is not all, it happens with the other international carrier too, DHL (he receives about 3 envelopes a month between both of them, all of them opened by the Nazional Guard in the last three months).

large plastified envelope
But it gets worse. If we assume that drug search is indeed the objective, then why are the internal envelopes also opened? He showed me an envelope that was meant to contain a single leaf of paper. That was the envelope that was sealed and placed inside the FedEx envelope to carry the letter. Removing it from the FedEx envelope was enough to observe that there was no object inside that envelope, that there was at most a couple of pages, and hence no drug whatsoever. A light bulb would have sufficed.  A dog would have sniffed.  Yet the envelope seal also had been broken, FedEx not reporting it, just putting back the violated envelope and re-sealing with the outside tape you can see in the attached pictures. I am not displaying that envelope as it would reveal the name of the company and you certainly can understand that it is not convenient to do so in Venezuela where the Nazional Guard does not respect any privacy whatsoever and no justice to protect you if you file a claim.

I need to stress that this friend is also an occasional business partner, that he is semiretired and that his businesses and money are perfectly legal and legitimate, justifying his comfortable but not rich lifestyle level, so to speak.
tape to reseal

Why is the Nazional guard doing that? Is he under investigation? And we can safely assume he is not since he came back to Venezuela last week in spite of the open envelopes.  That is, he probably sleeps well. Is it drug trafficking chase? In that case why focus on something that cannot ship more than a hundred grams of drug that would probably be caught in Europe at arrival anyway? After all the Nazional Guard should focus first on all the local traffic that numbers hundreds of pounds caught either on ships or planes....

No, my theory is very simple: the corrupt Nazional Guard, deeply penetrated by drug and people traffickers, and thus organized crime is abusing its power to read people's mail in order to try to get their worth, their accounts, etc., so as to try to blackmail them, or take them for ransom, or fraud their account and steal their money, etc, etc... they have it easy because in the era of internet mail only carries official documents, no love letters anymore to sift through.

You have been warned: do not send any document from Venezuela that may reveal your worth (bank info, checks cashed, etc...)

Update:  I did some additional home work.

My friend told me that ALL the received mail this year had been opened.  I do not personally of anyone that was long enough out of the country this year to check out with them but I am working on that.

I did happen to have to pick up at a FedEx drop place.  The attendant nicely explained to me that yes, indeed, drug traffic through FedEx and DHL was a problem.  That a couple of months ago a very nice older gentleman came to mail a "book" for his children in Spain and three days later the Guard came to interrogate her because the book was full of dope.  Since then she had a camera installed on her computer and takes a picture of everyone that comes to make a drop off.

This being said she did not know that all was opened and she thinks it is ridiculous because the thin envelopes cannot carry any significant amount of dope.  And business that are registered get the pick up and delivery without ID pictures, finger prints, etc....  So it was just more hassle for her.  At the end on her own she told me that surely there was something at play, "you know, with all those Cubans everywhere".

And thus the final conclusion seem to be that the Cuban snitches use the drug excuse to read everyone's mail.