Censorship in Venezuela, a step further down the drain

Several of Venezuela's top pop musicians - among them Yordano, Desorden Público, Rawayana and Caramelos de Cianuro, decided to make a call for peace during a special programme on the TV channel Venevisión. The reason is that they got fed up of so much crime and violent discourse (last drop was the murder of Caramelos de Cianuro's manager).

What did the channel do? It decided to censor the message, restrict what was broadcast. The musicians complained.

Countless sympathizers of Chávez abroad claim Venezuela's media is free and in fact almost anarchic. Some journalists point out Venezuela's media is "so polarised there is no middle ground". And indeed, in newspapers like El Universal or Notitarde you read highly critical articles about Chávez. And indeed, in Globovisión, Venezuela's tropical version of populist Fox News, you can listen to people stating Venezuela is in a dictatorship. A couple of years ago you could even watch a couple of nut cases wishing Chávez "gone". You don't get that in places where there is no democracy, do you? 

Do you?

Well, we need to ask: what does it mean to be free in the media? Are we free if we can say many things to 30% of the population? And what things precisely?

The problem is that Venezuela's opposition media is freely running in a sandbox, like applets in a browser: it looks nice, it can become very flashy, you can visualize it using your whole screen, but it still within a restricted environment. The difficult thing to explain to foreigners is that critical media in Venezuela has hardly any reach outside the the very urban centres and beyond those with cable or Internet access. Even foreign correspondents are not aware of the details about what it takes for a radio station outside the capital region to say anything remotely critical of Chávez. 

About 60% to 70% of the population cannot be reached by those media outlets. Globovisión, which has long become a Potemkin-village kind of channel for the government, can only be watched in Caracas and Valencia unless you have cable or Internet access.  

Most Venezuelans read very little and outside the main centres they only read tabloid papers. If we look at Russia, we see people read more and they can buy Novaja Gazeta in Moscow or Peterburg and with some luck in other main cities...they can watch Dozhd' on line and listen to criticisms coming from the opposition and there are more people with Internet access than in Venezuela...and yet Western observers do say almost unanimously things are not fine for the Russian media.

Cisneros, one of Venezuela's biggest industrialists and owner of Venevisión, one of the last major private TV channels with open air access, Venevisión, decided in 2002, after the brief coup, to play Chávez's game. Since then the channel has focused on very light entertainment and reduced any criticism of Chávez.

And now it is even censoring any lame protest about what is obvious.

As Francisco posted, the government has decided to violate yet again the constitution by declaring through a decree that it can get into more debt without the congressional approval. 

Chávez also threatened private companies and banks that may consider supporting opposition parties. He said he could nationalise them. Never mind Chávez came to power with the money of many of those he is now threatening.

Foreign journos go to Caracas' East and see in posh shopping centres how real versions of María Alejandra López declare we live in "castro-comunismo". How can they analyse that? It's hard. And this is where we stand.

How blind can Venezuelans be on sustainability and environment?

This is really tiring: having to tell this and knowing nothing is going to happen for the foreseeable future...

After our caudillo Chávez said the "intelligence" agency SEBIN and the courts should investigate the opposition for declaring our tap water was highly contaminated someone must have told him millions of people are indeed getting filthy water in their homes. Now, even if the military regime has repeatedly denied there is something wrong with the water, it is asking the Latin American Development Bank 149 million dollars for improving the water cleaning systems.

Now: that's all fine and dandy, the government had to do it, even if it could have instead used the billions it has wasted in Russian weapons. The problem is that the government will do nothing about the source of that pollution. 

The Chávez regime has let uncontrolled urbanization grow around the Valencia Lake and around the water reservoirs everywhere. The Chávez regime has also continued the tradition of allowing companies - private and non private- pour their untreated waste into our rivers and lakes.
Valencia Lake, almost ten years ago: it was incredibly polluted. Now it is just much more so.

Buying foreign machines to clean up stuff at the end of the chain is definitely easier than implementing a plan for closing sources of pollution. Still: if that is the only thing to be done, it is completely unsustainable.

Our caudillo also approved spending over 100 million dollars in the purchase of 2000 vehicles for the military. That's 50 thousand dollars per vehicle. What are those vehicles for? Will the officers be able to take their families to the beach on them? Or at least to the hunting areas Venezuelan military have been able to enjoy since time immemorial? Will they feel more inclined to say "Chávez, presente, siempre presidente"?

No CSI in Caracas

A post-less week followed by three in a day.  But the latest pearly hit of the brightly dissociated capybara deserves a post.  In it Chavez is using the argument that there are at least 5 CSI in the US and none in Caracas.  Thus the US is way more dangerous than Venezuela.  So there....

Pope and Chavez in Cuba

What to make of the rather hurried departure of Chavez for Havana this week end?  He did not even bother this time around to go through all the formalism.  He announced it on cadena and off he went.

What gives?

We do not need to resort much to conspiracy theories or official twitters of leaks to get our own picture.

Certainly he wants to try to meet the Pope.  Why?  I doubt that such a meeting would take place, because  even Benedict would not be able to explain why he refused to see Yoanni but said yes to Hugo.  It would be easier to explain once again the immaculate conception and actually convince people.....  So we must accept that Chavez is merely seeking a health miracle and willing not only to assume the political cost at home (you cannot curse the Catholic Church for over a decade and end up making a quick Canossa scene in Havana) but the added cost of a public reprimand by the Pope.

Unless Castro meets officially the Pope and sneaks in Chavez I do not see this happening.  Then again.....

The interest is elsewhere.  The hurried departure of Chavez for a treatment that he could get very well in Venezuela and in all discretion (he could even get his own radiotherapy equipment in the basement of Miraflores far from any prying eye, surrounded by a tiny team of Cuban silent specialists) can only mean that he is doing much worse than he cares to admit.  We could be watching the final weeks even.  Or at least the weeks where he will be forced to give up power if he wants to have a chance at survival.

It also betrays the mood of the man.  At this point his actions are erratic enough, and the political cost he is willing to assume (by meeting the Pope? by not resolving the heir issue?)  indicate that the guy is at wit's end.

PS: as for the Pope in Cuba, what can be said?  The more charitable explanation I have is that the Castro brothers have decided that the Catholic church recipes tested in Eastern Europe transition may well apply to Cuba too.  In other words that visit would be part of the negotiation for the post Castro era.  Poleo and other say that.  But I am not sure it applies because Cuba is a castrist dictatorship, not really an exclusive political apparatus one like Eastern Europe was.  The Castros are thugs trying to find a way out of a corner, not apparatchiks betting on a long term survival strategy.

Cleaning up your record on the web

Alek Boyd has an interesting story as to some people wanting to erase stuff he published on Venezuelan corrupt practices.  Read it, if anything to see what a lousy job they are doing at it, and not only because of their dismal English from people claiming to be lawyers....  Maybe that it the way they are recycling the hacks that used to torment us in the comment sections years past.

Was wird in Venezuela geschehen?

Krebs - wir wissen aber nicht, was für eine Art


Präsidentschaftswahlen sind für Oktober angesetzt. Es geht um alles...für die russischen Rüstungsmagnaten, für die Chávez-Bonzen, für den Chávezclan, für die Castro-Regierung, für die Nicaragua-Regierung und so denken auch mehrere Millionen Chávez-Fans, die Gläubigen. Chávez ist krank. Er hat Krebs. Er hatte lange Zeit gesagt, der Krebs sei besiegt worden. Später musste er gestehen, dass ein Tumor wieder erschienen ist. Er musste sich - auf Kuba, selbstverständlich - operieren lassen. Nun unterzieht er sich einer Radiotherapie und das nicht zum ersten Mal. Die Chávez-Bonzen sind nervös, denn sie wissen, dass nur der Führer Chávez - el comandante-presidente, wie sie sagen - die Wahlen gewinnen kann. Ob Chávez eine ernste Krebsart hat oder nicht wissen wir nicht. Wir stellen Hypothesen. Wie Rory Carroll schrieb, sind viele Venezolaner zu Amateuronkologen mutiert.


Der Gouverneur des Ost-Llanos-Bundesstaates Monagas, Briceño, hatte die Reaktion der Regierung auf die Ölpest in seiner Region kritisiert. Die Kritik galt vorwiegend den Militär und ehemaligen Putschist Diosdado Cabello, der zur Zeit Vorsitzender der Nationalversammlung und einer der mächtigsten PSUV-Männer ist, auch wenn er von der Bevölkerung nicht besonders gemocht ist. Dieser liess sich das nicht gefallen und siehe: Briceño wurde von der Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas ausgeschlossen. Der Gouverneur wollte nicht, dass mit Erdöl verseuchtes Wasser aus einem Damm an die Bevölkerung seiner Region verteilt wurde. Chávez sagte, der Gouverneur sei ein Verräter und das Wasser trinkbar. Er sagte auch, dass der Obergerichtshof - eine Marionette des Caudillos - die Opposition untersuchen musste, weil sie öffentlich sagte, das Wasser nicht nur Monagas, sondern auch anderer Regionen wie Carabobo und Aragua sei stark unrein. Ein Gericht hat prompt reagiert und gesagt, dass es verboten ist, ohne technische Studie zu behaupten, dass das Wasser verseucht ist. Die Staatsanwältin sagte auch das. Das Problem ist, dass es schon seit langem Berichte gibt - u.a. von unseren Universitäten - über die Verseuchung des Wassers in vielen Regionen (siehe zB hier). Diese Verseuchung ist entstanden, weil 1) die Staatsbehörden immer inkompetenter sind, 2) sie in bestimmten Fällen wie im Bundesstaat Carabobo Umleitungen verseuchter Gewässer in Trinkwasserreservoir vorgenommen haben, 3) sie die Entstehung zahlreicher Slums in der Nähe der Wasserspeicher zugelassen haben - sie konnten den unzähligen Obdachlosen der 1999-Katastrophe keine Wohnungen anbieten, sie haben keine Ahnung von Wohnungsbau.

Man braucht nur den Wasserhahn in Valencia oder Maracay zu drehen, um feststellen zu können, dass das Wasser verseucht ist: es hat eine gelbliche Färbung und es stinkt sehr stark. Und dennoch kann man in Twitter Kommentare unzähliger Chávez-Anhänger lesen, die behaupten, alles sei Lug und Trug der Landesverräter. Diese Chávez-Anhänger sind meistens nicht in Valencia oder Maracay, die schweigen nun.

Wie lange kann der König splitternackt herumspazieren?
Solange die Petrodollars reichen, wird keiner es gestehen wollen

In Venezuela solange es Petrodollars für die Militärs und genügend chinesische Kühlschränke und kleine Pseudojobs für Tausende Menschen zu verteilen gibt...in Venezuela solange der Wahlrat ganz klar unter der Kontrolle der Nationalregierung ist. Auch wenn Unzählige die Wahrheit sagen würden, wird die Hälfte der Bevölkerung nicht agieren. Das haben wir schon oft in der Geschichte gesehen.

Chávez ist krank...wie krank er ist: das wissen wir nicht. Er wird zumindest eine Weile nicht viel rumreisen können. Trotztdem wird er Staatsmittel in vollen Zügen benutzen, um seine Botschaften zu übermitteln. Für die deutschen Leser einige Beispiele der Chávez-Aussagen in den letzten Tagen:

Über den Gouverneur Briceño sagte Chávez schon wieder
Über eine von der Regierung organisierte Kundgebung:
"dies ist die beste Antwort, das Volk auf der Strasse, die Revolution auf der Strasse, die Volksmacht auf der Strasse, überall...die Verräter sollten lieben weggehen, diese fünfte Kolonne sollte lieber weggehen, wir brauchen sie nicht...sie werden am 7.10 gegen uns nicht können, 10 Millionen Stimmen werden wir den Schwächlingen (escuálidos) und Minderwertigen (majunches) durch die Kehle verschlucken lassen".


Ich bin kein Zauberer. Dennoch wage ich swieder, einige Prognosen hier zur Verfügung zu stellen.

  • April: Die Nationalregierung wird alles unternehmen, um neue Wähler in Regionen wie Yaracuy, Trujillo, Sucre und Portuguesa einschreiben zu lassen, während sie die Registrierungszeiten für junge Leute in Valencia und in anderen von der Opposition dominierten Regionen weiter beschränken will.
  • Mai: Angriffe gegen Oppositionskundgebungen in den sekundären Städten werden zunehmen.
  • Juni: Der Obergerichtshof wird gegen die Opposition irgendetwas unternehmen. Wieso? Was? Egal, die Chávez-Richter werden immer ein- und auffälliger werden und seltsamere Ausreden erfinden, um Oppositionspolitiker zu neutralisieren. Sie werden wohl nicht wagen, Capriles einfach so aus dem Rennen auszuschliessen. Das ginge zu weit.
  • Juli: Chávez wird dann anfangen müssen, die Provinzen zu besuchen. Wenn das Ende Juli nicht geschieht, werden Menschen - auch Chávez-Anhänger- Fragen über seine Überlebenschangen stellen.
  • August: Dann wird die Nationalregierung massal chinesische Wagen unter Marktpreis verkaufen - Waren, die durch Darlehen für langfristige, für Venezuela ungünstige Erdölabkommen mit China  erworben wurden. Die Regierung wird zunehmend einige dieser Waren einfach schenken.
  • September: Die Chávezjournalisten werden einige Skandale über die Opposition entdeckt haben.

Maracaibo does not need your coffee

That's all folks!
The failure of chavismo agricultural projects is not to be demonstrated anymore: that a country, which 15 years ago was tending to a balance of sorts in its agricultural import/export, is now importing more than half its food can be only explained by war or a devastating natural catastrophe.  In Venezuela both are combined under the misrule of chavismo.  Today we learned that in addition to all of the ills reported regularly in this blog, we are also getting an actual decrease in land under cultivation, an astonishing 7.8% drop for 2011 alone.  The thing is that it is not enough to throw money at the country side, you also need to understand how that one works out to have a mere remote chance of success.  During my last stay in Caracas I got a fascinating example on how it is simply impossible for chavismo to ever, ever increase agricultural production.

One of my customers has on the side a small coffee farm.  We will call him "Happy Coffee".  The folks at Happy Coffee do not live off their crop, they use it as an excuse to develop the land around their farm, in the hope of collecting enough revenues to pay the expenses associated with a recreational farm of a few hectares in the mountain slopes.  For fun they even got registered as an organic farm, an expensive undertaking that was later abandoned when a few years ago Chavez not only forbade export of coffee (no market for organics in Venezuela yet) but controlled coffee price.  Since the coffee was already planted they kept producing, but limiting themselves to round up what was already planted.  See, with the charges associated to such a farm, increasing production implies increased labor and supplies costs .  The Happy Coffee people would have to work more at it, risking to get, unbelievably, yet a lower return!!!!  And this in spite of a rather technical operation which allowed them to sell directly the dry coffee bean ready to roast and package.

They were not the only folks in that situation.  In the Andes where the bulk of production used to take place, the only ones in the business are those who have ways to send a portion of their coffee to Colombia where it is sold at international prices.  The end result is that Venezuela who a century ago lived off its coffee exports, before oil was found, now has to import low grade coffee from Brazil and Nicaragua.

The solution is simple, even in a socialist ways: allow for market prices but keep forbidding exportation.  I can guarantee you that we can still within two years be self sufficient again and in a couple more of years export can be reopened.  But that would go against ALL that chavismo preached for the past 13 years, so it ain't not gonna happen no time not soon, no sireee!

But now, believe it or not, new hurdles are coming to make sure coffee production does not increase!

Happy Coffee used to sell its beans to a small private roaster, who only bought high quality beans to selected small providers.  We will call them "Helluvah Cup".  They did get away with higher prices for many years because their production was excellent, was small and limited to selected stores from Valencia to Caracas, and one in Maracaibo.  When coffee prices got fixed, quality coffee and crap started costing the same and sure enough Helluvah Cup was not that good anymore.  Still, in spite of having to buy shitty coffee from Brazil or Nicaragua, their faithful old clients still provided enough good beans that their coffee remained better than the crap now sold by the nationalized roasters of Venezuela, a tragic event for the existence of good coffee cups that happened a couple of years ago, if memory serves me well.

Happy Coffee called Helluvah Cup to sell its beans this year, a few weeks ago.  Harvest had been rather good and we are talking here of maybe three to four pick up truck loads of green beans.  The glimmer of a slight profit existed as coffee prices had been adjusted late last year.  "Sure", replied Helluvah Cup, "we are looking forward your great product.  But you need to register through SADA first"  "SADA what?" replied Happy Coffee?

Among the many attempts at controlling everything by chavismo, there is SADA.  At first SADA who I cannot even bother searching for the acronym, was designed to screw the Polar group accused of hoarding all sorts of stuff.  No charges of hoarding could ever be pressed against Polar of course, because as a good capitalist industry hoarding is of no economical interest.  But SADA remained.  With SADA, any significant transport of food items anywhere in Venezuela must be declared.  The truck, the merchandise, the driver, the dates of delivery, everything must be recorded previously if you want to make a delivery.  This could maybe justified by a paranoid government for large scale products, in a country which has experienced lock outs in the past.  But now it extends to anything that goes beyond your personal stock of food.

Helluvah Cup explained to Happy Coffee that even though their production represented no more than a couple % points of their needs they still needed to report it to SADA before Helluvah Cup could accept it.  That required an inspection of the land by the INTII (the guys that happily expropriate things around at will), the Nazional Guard (to make sure you do not do drugs in between coffee plants, I suppose) and of course the SADA people.

Happy Coffee, horrified by the prospect, has decided not to sell its crop preferring to absorb the economic shock, instead getting out occasionally a 25 kg bag of coffee for "personal use", roasted at home.  See, once SADA et al. know what is going on the lands of Happy Coffee, these gentle folks are under one of the following risks: a chavista official likes their land for his own usage and decides to expropriate it for some "colectivo" saving for himself and his friends the usage of the bucolic house and surrounding gardens (case La Carolina of Diego Arria); outright expropriation if you decide to stop production or refuse to increase it even if you lose money on it; and even if you play the game, if one day the regime runs out of coffee for its own nationalized companies, they know where you store the unsold portion of your crop and it can simply come and take it away from you.  Sure enough, the "law" mandates they will leave with a receipt that you can cash, some day, months or even years after the fact, at the Agriculture Ministry.  Preferably after some major devaluation so you end up losing at least half of your money.

And yet, this is not all.  Helluvah cup, thinking that this comment would make Happy Coffee feel better told them that SADA has forbidden them to sell their coffee grounds in Maracaibo.  The reason?  See, according to SADA Maracaibo has enough coffee for its needs so Helluvah Cup needs to find customers elsewhere.

Yes, that is right, Helluvah cup, which at the very most may represent 0.X% of Maracaibo coffee sales through its lone client there, is barred from making deliveries to Maracaibo.  Maracuchos will have to drink the coffee SADA sends their way, not the one they prefer.

This, my friends, is communism, the methodology used by communism that ends up in ration cards that cannot even be honored.  In Venezuela it has been going slowly because there has been enough oil to soften the momentum, but sure enough we are heading that way.  If you forgive me this instant of editorializing.


PS: Happy Coffee is studying the legal implications of the situation because it simply cannot afford the potential costs of registration and the bureaucracy that comes with it.  For example, the truck and driver must be registered and if by happenstance your driver gets sick and is replaced at the last minute, or your truck breaks down and you move your produce to another truck before it gets stolen by high way robbers, quite a frequent occurrence, a road block of Nazional Guard can confiscate the shipment.  So you risk not only to pay for the freight anyway, but also to lose it...

The option of stopping production cold turkey is not possible either because there are enough snitches and SADA creeps scouring the country for a fast blackmailing buck.

Right now the best option is to find a different provider than Helluvah Cup, a local one that buys the little bit coffee produced still here and there in the region and let them deal with SADA even if this means selling your coffee below market price so that the intermediary makes a little bit of money.  Conceivably you could deliver to that guy as a local, a few bags at a time, minimizing the risks of confiscation, avoiding SADA registration for a while.

In other words, Happy Coffee has shelved any plan for production increase until at least 2013......

Karen and Carolina, our dictatorship poster girls

This week end we saw two incidents that reminded us how far into a dictatorship system we have been entered.  I know, I know, some may want to remind me that I can still type my blog (for how long?  bloggers and twitters have already been prosecuted in Venezuela), I can come and go out of the country (I cannot because I cannot tale my belongings with me), there are elections (but the results are voided as the regime pleases), there is still Globovision in the air (bot for how long, and only in Caracas and Valencia), etc...  Whether you like to admit it, Chavez regime is a XXI century dictatorship, the new breed where it is enough to control the judiciary to perpetuate oneself in office.  For those who disagree with me I kindly ask them to explain away the two stories that come next.

Karen got shot

One of organized crime mode of action in Venezuela is to establish fake police barrages so as to kidnap the surprised victim.  The most famous instance was the Faddoul brothers, the three of them killed by their captors when the ransom thing did not work out as planned.  But too many people have succumbed to such true horror stories and still keep falling.  We should thus not be surprised that Friday night the brother of Karen Berendique did not believe that he was facing a police barrage and tried to escape yet another attempt against his person.  The CICPC, our local FBI of sorts, shot, but not at the tires or the car, they shot directly at the windows trying to get the passengers who were not shooting back, whatsoever.  Karen Berendique, 19 years old, received three gun shots and died promptly.

This would have been just yet another "fait divers" but this time the very innocent victim was the daughter of Chile's honorary consul in Maracaibo and as such the response from Chile was swift and to the point: the Venezuelan state is unable to guarantee the security of its citizens and its so called security is nothing better than the thugs it supposedly tries to stop.  Thus we are in the midst of a major scandal because like all the scandals that are currently besotting us (oil spills, electricity and food shortages, the end of tap drinking water, etc ...) this one hits too close from home.  We all have suffered form police abuse at these roadblocks which are at best nothing more in day time but a way to get some cash form the driver, and at worst, a constant danger of mob attack against your freedom and humanity.  I can vouch personally that one time I did not stop at a road block in spite of being signed to do so because it looked suspect, it was night and thus I just kept going on with traffic.....

In other words as a country we have long lost any faith in the system that is supposed to protect us from crime, we now associate it with crime and this, my friends, is the hallmark of living under a dictatorship.  In a dictatorship police can act with such brutality because it knows that in the end little will happen to them even though today they were arraigned.

Carolina got shut

Not as dramatic but quite as telling was an interview last night of famous designer Carolina Herrera in CÑN by Cala.  The guy is simply irritating like hell, but my relatives were watching it and from afar I heard the interview with a distracted ear. That is, until the talk show host asked Carolina Herrera to discuss Venezuelan politics, which she firmly refused.

No, why would world famous fashion icon Carolina Herrera refuse to have a single political word on CÑN?  We all know that from her background she cannot possibly be a Chavez supporter (and we certainly would have known so by now).  She certainly does not live off the Venezuelan nouveau riche bolibourgeois class since her empire existed already when Chavez came to power, and today extends all over the world.  Even if Venezuela ranked high in her billing we could not expect it to be much more than in the single digit percentile.  She certainly can afford to alienate Chavez on a personal level: she has been living in New York since 1980 and has enough money to thumb her nose to whomever she wishes to.

So, what gives?  The answer was elsewhere: she still has a daughter living in Venezuela, she still has other relatives who happen to own some significant real estate and business in Venezuela.  Thus, even world famous Carolina Herrera, heading an empire maybe worth a billion bucks cannot say anything because the regime would have ways to swiftly punish her through her relatives in Venezuela. A kidnapping of her daughter or grandchildren? A mere kidnapping of a relative for example for which anyway she would have to pay the ransom?  Or loss of property for other relatives (such as was the case of Diego Arria who was robbed of his farm, named La Carolina incidentally, because he spoke ill of Chavez).

Even Carolina Herrera cannot escape the tentacles of the Venezuelan dictatorship, with all of her millions and world fame, hoping that at the very least, by staying quiet on the topic she may protect a little bit more her relatives who cannot leave Venezuela.....

Emails leaked, Syria, Venezuela and violence

Taken in Venezuela. "Breaking the Block, Venezuela must be respected", with Chávez and Assad. Below: terrorist Hassan Nasrallah
The Guardian has got a bunch of Assad emails. There is quite impressive stuff there...and as I thought, Iran is advising Assad not to blame Al Qaeda because then it can't blame the US then...this is particularly funny if you follow up on Twitter US Chávez sycophant Eva Golinger. This woman has had to express different versions and conflicting opinions of a lot of things about Venezuela, Chávez's health and reasons for the mess in Syria or elsewhere in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez's brother is talking in rallies that the PSUV members will lose their lives if necessary. Diosdado Cabello, one of the most notorious Boligarch honchos and a little bit less fanatic about his own life, even if equally violent, said during the same rally "between dying or overcoming, the PSUV members shall overcome".

Asisus asinum fricat, as usual.

Purges in Venezuela: it starts all over again

Today the Chávez party decided to expel Briceño, the governor of Monagas, a state in the Eastern Llanos with an important lot of oil fields. Briceño is one of the many PSUV honchos who belonged before to the traditional parties. When military caudillo Chávez came to power, he decided to become a "revolutionary" and talk evil about those traditional politicians who had kept Monagas in misery - never mind he was a mayor back then.

The PSUV decided to expel Briceño now because he dared to criticise how the state oil company was dealing with the environmental catastrophe in the Guarapiche River. Briceño was particularly angry at PSUV authorities giving the go-ahead to distribute water from a dam that is still highly contaminated. He rejected specially role Diosdado Cabello played in all that. Cabello, who is now the president of the National Assembly and one of the most powerful men within the military caste, also comes from Monagas and he and his people at the PSUV probably wanted to get rid of Briceño for the next state elections.

I hope the alternative parties just keep a safe distance from all this mess. Briceño is no saint.

Tod in Caracas

Die NGO Observatorio Metropolitano  de Seguridad Ciudadana de Caracas hat einen neuen Bericht über Verbrechen in Venezuela veröffentlicht. Unter den Quellen zählt man die UNODC und öffentliche Berichte. Die Zahlen sind für uns Venezolaner nicht überraschend, sie sind aber schrecklich. 

Bullen zum Schmuck

Im Jahr 2011 wurden ungefähr 19000 Menschen umgebracht, 67 Morde pro 100 000 Einwohner. Damit ist Venezuela das gefährlichste Land Südamerikas und das vierte in Lateinamerika, nach Honduras, El Salvador und Jamaica. Der Durschnittsermordete war zwischen 19 und 25 Jahre alt.

530 Menschen wurden im letzten Jahr im Gefängnis getötet.

Was wird die Militärregierung tun? Mehr Feiertage für die Arbeiter einführen. Öl sei dank.

El chavismo como fascismo tropical, As Seen on TV por NatGeo

Ayer hemos presenciado otra vez guerra de pandillas violentas en el 23 de Enero. Y al final del día unos “colectivos” vinieron a sitiar Globovision en lo que seguramente se ha de volver una rutina durante la campaña, hasta que cierren el canal de una buena vez. Globovision les dio derecho a réplica aunque el mensaje de ellos tenía poco que ver con lo que Globovision había sacado al aire antes. Últimas Noticias de la Cadena Capriles (que casualidad, ¿verdad?) también fue increpada aunque su director, Diaz Rangel, se considere un afecto al régimen. No entro en detalles ya que esos reclamos oficialistas se han vuelto un ritornelo, pero si es necesario recordar que cualquier periodista de Globovision, o quién sea que sea agredido cada noche en La Hojilla, no puede ir a VTV para un derecho a réplica.

Últimamente no me ha dado por escribir sobre estos ataques. Ni escribí sobre el de Cotiza ni pensaba escribir sobre lo de anoche. Ya todo eso lo discutí hace tiempo y hasta predije que la frecuencia de dicha barbarie se incrementaría con la campaña. Pero esta mañana para el desayuno veo que mi Direct TV me grabó dos capítulos de una serie del canal Nat Geo “The Apocalypse: the rise of Hitler” y los vi tomando mi café. Esta serie debería de ser de vista obligatoria, con panel de discusión, para todos, TODOS, en Venezuela.

La serie trata de los años en los cuales Adolf Hitler subió al poder en Alemania. Si, ya todos sabemos lo que pasó, que hizo un golpe fallido, que estuvo preso, que escribió su libro, que salió libre, que aupó el partido Nacional Socialista y que eventualmente llego al poder le entregaron la cancillería alemana pese a que su partido no contaba con la mayoría absoluta en el Reichstag. Pero esta serie, “Apocalipsis: el ascenso de Hitler” es mucho más que eso. Cuenta ahora con nuevos documentos, las películas en blanco y negro fueron coloreadas para la televisión y son ahora más impactantes, y la perspectiva histórica hoy en día es aun más necesaria ya que demasiada gente cree que el nazismo fue solo un momento histórico.

Dígamelos sin reparo: las coincidencias con la llegada de Chávez al poder en Venezuela son escalofriantes.

Como Hitler, Chávez tuvo su golpe fallido y su acto de cobardía durante dicho golpe (el nazismo retocó las fotos de la época para hacer creer que Hitler se había enfrentado al ejercito cuando en realidad se escondio detrás de su guarda espalda).

Como Hitler, Chávez ha sido incapaz de escribir un libro. Hitler escribió Mein Kampf tan mal que periodistas simpatizantes lo arreglaron y sin embargo no fue un éxito de ventas sino hasta que por fin Hitler llego al poder. Lo único de Chávez que hay son discursos recompilados por “periodistas” y otros cagatintas. Ni siquiera, que yo sepa, se han editado las supuestas líneas de Chávez que ni sé si se escriben todavía. Pero eso sí, aparecen en repisas de cualquier revolucionario que se respete aunque nunca las haya leído, al igual que Mein Kampf se le daba a los recién casados que otros menesteres tenían antes de leerlo.

Como Hitler, el chavismo creo sus círculos políticos, sus uniformes y otras cursilerías. Claro, el chavismo se conforma con el color rojo y eslóganes impresos sobre las franelas de acuerdo al momento; nada que ver con las camisas pardas de Rohm. Ni siquiera el chavismo ha sido capaz de crear su esvástica pero a cambio usa la cara del Che. También como Hitler se usaron esos grupos y símbolos en “colectivos” violentos para cualquier tipo de fechoría cuando eso sea necesario.

Como Hitler, el chavismo creó su “caballería” de ataque con motos, excepto que en tiempos de Hitler muchas de esas motos eran compradas por los seguidores mientras que en el chavismo se las regalan.

Al igual que Hitler y Goebbels atacando la prensa Judía y amenazando de cerrarla, hasta que lo hicieron, Chávez ataca a RCTV y los medios independientes “apátridas”, cerrando RCTV y preparándose a darle el zarpazo final a Globovision (¿y Ultimas Noticias ahora? que además pertenece a ex judíos, para colmo).

Pero sobre todo Hitler y Chávez manejan el discurso del odio y de la violencia, con el gesto y el tono, para crear la división a través de la cual mantienen su base de poder. Vean los discursos de Hitler y recuerden cuando Chávez se enciende y se le deforma la cara al ponerse a insultar a quien sea durante sus discursos de masas. ¡El parecido de la manipulación es asombroso!

Y para terminar tanto los seguidores de Hitler como los de Chávez se la pasan anunciando que llegaron al poder para quedarse.

Lo que nos ha salvado de lo peor por ahora es que estamos en el siglo XXI, que algunas cosas ya no se pueden hacer (por lo menos eso esperamos), y que no somos disciplinados alemanes. Pero de que Chávez y el chavismo son una versión barata, muy suavizada por el trópico, de Hitler y el nazismo, que nadie tenga duda.

Por favor vean ese programa si tienen acceso a cable, Nat Geo lo transmite de vez en cuando. Y hagan que sus conocidos chavistas, si los tienen, lo vean también. Es una experiencia pavorosa para un venezolano de bien.

PD: en YouTube se consiguen los videos, aunque mi internet es demasiado lento para permitirme verificar si fueron editados o no.

Diosdado Cabello, the heir of the bolibanana revolution?

Last January we were wondering about the return of Diosdado Cabello in favor.  And it seems to be confirmed as he has started crisscrossing the country as if he were candidate for something.

There is not much that I can add to what I wrote then.  Cabello is the one holding the more cards within chavismo right now and Chavez has no choice but to let him fly on his own as long as he is not certain he can come back with enough health to campaign himself.  Chavismo and the Cuban counsel must have realized that a plan B is a must and, well, Diosdado is the lone plan B left.

How does this affect the election?  We already saw the renewed tension when Capriles march in the popular sector of Cotiza in Caracas was attacked last Sunday and someone even got a shot wound standing next to him.  The bad rap for the regime has been terrible since Sunday but that is not what should worry us: those are the kind of scare tactics that Diosdado is willing to use with more ease than Chavez himself.  And more is yet to come. Let me remind you that for example 7 years ago when Diosdado was elected Miranda governor he had no problem pointing out that the state deserved a governor with a wife, a first lady, deliberately casting doubts on Mendoza then running for reelection.  Considering that Capriles, who beat him 4 years later, is running for president you can imagine the grudge that Diosdado must have against that nice young polite man who is all that he is not (he is even rich from birth, not like Diosdado that had to steal it all).

How this did happen?  I think that the military are in large part responsible for that.  Whether they are chavistas, they are first military and after enduring 13 years of prosperity with one of them in Miraflores they are certainly not looking kindly on a chavista Taliban replacing Chavez.  Diosdado is not well liked but at least he is a known value for them who know full well all the misdeeds he has in his judicial drawer and thus think they can control him.  At this point they probably do not care who of Diosdado or Capriles will win: they will be able to rein either one, at least in the early part of their eventual term.  If what I just wrote is true, then we know that Chavez indeed has no control of the army in spite of everything he tried: it was just a matter of how much he could give them, how credible a provider he appeared.

Now, weak, a double liar from promising he was cured and that the opposition would never be able to field a unity candidate, Chavez simply is fading in the military eyes, even were he to miraculously recover in Havana.  Times are changing.

Meanwhile, brace yourself even more than you thought you should have for what promises to be a campaign from hell.

Wikileaks and Venezuela yet again: Pudreval

Wikileaks has published some non-news about what the private "intelligence" company has found on the Pudreval case. Read here. It is nothing bloggers hadn't reported before, but then it is there for you to read in a condensed form.

Mujeres de América Latina

Laura Chinchilla, presidente de Costa Rica

El País published an interesting article about the position of women in Latin America...read it, if you speak Cervantes' language.

Mujeres warao ofreciendo su cestrería

Salaries in Venezuela of Gómez (1)

Here you have the yearly salaries of some jobs in Venezuela of 1920. Back then dictator Juan Vicente Gómez ruled, a military who promoted the Bolívar cult half as madly as military Bolívar.

Salaries in 1920. Click to enlarge
The German author back then was shocked at the huge differences in salaries between ministers and generals and judges and all the rest.

The data comes from Otto Bürger's Venezuela, ein Führer durch das Land (Führer went it hadn't the meaning it has today, the book being published in 1922)


Chavez from the Capital of the new born confederacy of Venecuba
On other news:

Besides letting us know that he is cured but that he will undergo radiation therapy anyway, Chavez has started his daily routine in Havana from where he will rule over his subjects.  Among other pearls of wisdom he said that the Monagas oil spill was greatly exaggerated, that PDVSA and "community" actions were prompt and effective, that Syria and Assad are unjustly attacked and that in Russia the reelection of Putin was just more democracy at play.

Whatever pain killers they are giving him, I want some.

PS: is it me or is the Cuban flag bigger than the Venezuelan one?

The PSUV primaries

And you thought "enough with primaries!"....  Little did you know.......

But be assured that the PSUV primaries are going to tax your brain much less than the Unidad primaries did.

The umpire will be the armed forces.  I did not count them as a "motivational" group the other day because the officers are spread along the 4 groups, from the generals that do a little bit of drug trafficking to make ends meet, to those that are in the army as any job and will support any constitutional regime as long as their pay checks comes on time.

But Chavez renewed bout with cancer has started the succession wars and thus there is a need for a primary, but a very special one.

First, the winner is already known before the first ballot is cast: Hugo Chavez.  But since he may be out of service by October 7 the primary is about choosing a runner up, the guy that may have to step in before October 7.

The voters are not too numerous: no major election is planned.  At most we are talking here, generously, of maybe about 1,000 votes that will be "consulted" discretely.  I wrote votes instead of voters because some of the voters have the right to vote many times if necessary: for example the vote of Fidel is worth at least the vote of 10 National Assembly men, just to give you an idea.  Though it is difficult to know the ratio for sure since so far the rules for the primary have not been published yet.

Who is allowed to vote?

Well, probably about 100 military folks.  About 20 of them have more than one vote: they are the narco-generals.  150 votes?

The National Assembly, governors and a few mayors.  Not all, only the reliable ones.  Maybe some of them are allowed to vote more than once, but very few.  200 votes?

The high ranking executive.  Some ministers only can but all can vote from 1 to 10 times depending where they are in Chavez favor.  50 votes?

The famiglia: a dozen votes?

Some personalities and political operators, from Jose Vicente Rangel  to some TSJ members who will have to stick their neck out to legitimize the outcome.  150 votes?

The Cubans.  At least 100 votes?

And Chavez who by himself is worth, oh, 200 votes?  Of course, if he dies before the vote is held secretly somewhere in the space time continuous his votes are split between the famiglia, the Cubans and some "political operators".

The candidates do not fit neatly among the 3 motivational groups of chavismo.  And in the current panic inside chavismo we may be forgiven as we wonder about some of them representing anything but their self interest.  For memory the 3 motivational groups of chavismo: the do or die, the talibans and the transactional.

Diosdado Cabello is the only one with fans in the three groups.  He has many corrupt "do or die" following him because they see in him a soul mate.  The talibans are less sanguine but among these talibans there are some veterans of the 1992 coups and they see him as the only guarantee that they will retain their rank.  And the transactional see him as maybe the lone pragmatic chavista able, when the chips fall, to negotiate with a victorious opposition acceptable terms of surrender.

Jaua/Maduro represent the taliban group, mostly Jaua as Maduro has some tentacles in the transactional group.  Maduro is for the time being apparently out but he can well come back in if  it pleases Chavez.  But they are trailing Diosdado at this point as the 200 votes of Chavez are decisive for them to win.

Jose Vicente Rangel is an outsider with few votes but he could be the winner of a brokered convention, taking over himself the responsibility of an electoral defeat so as to preserve the chances of the other PSUV wanna-be presidents.

Minor candidates have only a chance if one the three above makes a major mistake.  Chavez brother is one of them but outside of the Cuban and taliban faction he has no support.  The lone minister of Chavez who could be crazy enough to try out is Ramirez just because he controls the money and supposedly has the goods on who stole what and when: blackmail in the PSUV is a powerful electoral tool.  There is always the possibility that the army decides to form a 5th "motivational group" and launch its own candidate that will have to be accepted by chavismo least they are ousted by a coup.  But like Rangel, the army candidate is more a possibility in the case of a brokered convention.

And that is about it.

Note that the 4th "motivational" group, the opposition, could splinter if Chavez were to die soon.  Some could make a pact with one of the above groups.  That splinter faction would bring to the primary maybe a 100 votes?

Which primaries did you like best?

Dog bites man, Transparency International reports on Venezuela

We have a new report from Transparency International about corruption in the world and Venezuela turns out to be once more one of the most corrupt nations on Earth. 

It really stands out. From bottom to Venezuela, you can read in the list:  Somalia, North Korea, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Sudan, Iraq, Haiti and Venezuela. 172 countries are less corrupt than Chávez's Venezuela. My country's corruption index has only gone from bad to worse year after year.

Even Congo is a model of transparency and honesty compared to Venezuela. Colombia and  Mexico? Almost Swedish if put next to the Bolivarian Republic.

Amazing Venezuela and the sausages: who sues whom?

Today a lorry loaded with sausages from the government-sponsored PDVAL programme tipped over on the motorway. As usual, people from the area started to plunder. Then they discovered the product had expired already. PDVAL has been constantly mired in scandal about expiration dates.

I first wondered if the plunderers will try to sue the government...or the government will try to sue the plunderers. I concluded neither will do much in this case: they need each other.

More Anti-Semitism from Chávez's 'revolutionaries'

Go to twitter and type in "sionismo" plus some key word related to Chávez's 
followers and you will get some anti-Semitic gibberish because of Capriles' candidacy.
For instance:

 Saludos hermano, a trabajar para derrotar el sionismo disfrazado de oposición.

"Regards, brother, let's work to win over the Zionism dressed up as opposition"

Samán is a former minister who had some trouble with other Chávez honchos and was forced to go low profile, but who is still as loyal to the caudillo as it gets.

Samán calls himself a "radical" communist, even if he doesn't have anything against Chávez selling PDVSA shares to the Chinese...you know, China is "communist", so those are communist shares...what a banana republic we have!

Hospitals in Venezuela

While Venezuela's caudillo is being treated in Cuba by doctors flown from different countries, patients at the CHET, the only general hospital in my city of 1.2 million people, have been since Sunday without running water. Their relatives have to take water bottle to the hospital to wash them. Of course, they also have to bring most of the medicine and medical material used on their loved ones, including syringes and gloves. That public hospital was built over 40 years ago. I was born there. Chávez's foreign enablers long wrote about the great advances in public health care in Venezuela - all rubbish.

In spite of Venezuela still going through the longest oil boom ever - thanks to China, India and the Peak Oil - the government hasn't built a single new general hospital in Valencia. There are a few tiny health centres plus a new maternity hospital built by the regional (non-Chavista) government. Most of the few hospitals built in the last 13 years are half empty, Potemkin villages in the "socialist revolution". If this is with a barrel of oil well over 100 dollars, I can't imagine what it would be if the military go on ruling the country for a few years more.

The oncology department of that hospital has been closed for some time as well.

Meanwhile, Russian, Chinese and Brazilian doctors treat the caudillo who tweets all the time the hash #viviremosyvenceremos, "we will live and win". The chuzpah.

Lethal patterns

Once more, here you have the pattern of murder in the central state of Carabobo. Carabobo is a densely populated state, but crime rates are similar in many other regions.

One thing to remark: total numbers for the state seems to be stabilizing - albeit at a very high level, several times what they were in 1998-. The pattern is not the same everywhere, though. The municipality of Juan José Mora, for instance, a poor area on the coast where the huge oil refinery complex of El Palito is located, has kept shedding more blood. The lower middle-class municipality of San Diego, though, - where the opposition leader Enzo Scarano is major, is very safe.

Juan José Mora municipality murder numbers

San Diego municipality murder numbers

Ps. there is missing data at municipality level for April 2011.