Archive for February, 2003

Take a break from political strife

February 27, 2003

Take a break from the political tension and admire this spectacular orchid, Cattleya Gaskelliana “Blue Dragon”, one of the Queens of the Venezuelan so-called “blue” orchids. I got a piece from a friend a while back, it flowered once but I was not impressed. This time I am. Enjoy!


Some observations on today’s events

February 26, 2003



    • Thirty six hours after the assassin of Altamira confessed minutes after his crime; President Hugo Chavez defended him and called him “this gentleman”. Thirty six hours after Hugo Chavez had sharp words for the Governments of the US, Spain and Colombia, the Embassies of the last two countries were bombed in a criminal act. Thirty six hours after this terrorist act, the world has yet to hear from Hugo Chavez, he has simply not condemned them. Meanwhile, only hours after the bombings, the Heads of State of Colombia and Spain had already expressed their condemnation 
    • The US Embassy just announced that it will be closed tomorrow due to “reliable” information that there is a threat of an attack against it.
    • The Government representatives to the negotiation table did not show up for the scheduled meeting, due to “security” concerns. Now, I wonder, the Government can not protect its own Cabinet, what is left to us!
    • The Government showed some nervousness that the Colombian police announced that it will “aid” in the investigations of the bombing to its Embassy. It quickly clarified that the “aid” will be restricted to the Embassy itself. Now, as I understand C4 can be traced, but the Colombian cooperation was not expected and may complicate matters, no?  

Attorney General requests detention of seven PDVSA managers

February 26, 2003

The Venezuelan Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, asked a control judge to order the detention of seven PDVSA managers. The charge is that because of the strike in December services such as electricity (??) and gas were suspended. According to the lawyers of the mangers, this vioaltes their right to defend themselves since they have not been asked to declare prior to the charge. This is simply more repression by a Government that has done abosuletly nothing to find any of the assasins and shooters for 49 deaths and over 700 injured in marches during the last year. With this action, if accepted by the judge, the third most important leader of the opposition, Juan Fernandez of PDVSA, will also have an order to be detained. Who is next, more opposition or the media?


UPDATE: The Judge ordered the detention of the seven PDVSA managers. Is this a dictatorship or what?

For now, the flag and the blog are my weapons

February 25, 2003

 


For days I have been pondering on how to answer Ken Hagler on the comment he made on his site on my story “Woke up in a dictatorship today”. Ken’s comment was direct and simple, and coincides with my gut feeling when I see what is happening around me:


 


“I think at some point, perhaps now, the people of Venezuela should stop relying entirely on protests and exercise their right to “vote ‘no’ with the weapon of their choice.”


 


You see, I have always seen myself as a pacifist. Never shot a gun. Never considered reacting or acting violently in my life. During the last year, I have gone to marches, demonstrations, and protests believing that the sheer numbers of people involved would convince the Government that the only way out of our crisis was some form of an electoral solution. It is in the Constitution, which Chavez himself created. That is what Constitutions are for, they are there, you have to respect them, and you look for the protections that it provides for you, even if you don’t like the Constitution. But it has not worked. The control that Hugo Chavez has on what are supposed to be the independent powers: the electoral commission, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly are such that we are further away from any election at this point when we were on Nov. 4th., when we submitted the petition to have the consultative referendum.


 


I also believed that the OAS mediated negotiating table, while useless in the end, would keep Chavez in check. It would stop him from going beyond what civilized rules call for. At that time it appeared as if Chavez and his Government were at least afraid of international opinion, which they had masterfully managed to their advantage. But Chavez is simply a user. Whether it is “the people”, his collaborators, international opinion or even his wife, Chavez uses people, gets the most out of them to his advantage and then disposes them at will. And he moves on.


 


And I marched, I blogged, I e-mailed, I chanted, I screamed and I did all of the things that I thought would inevitably force Chavez to come to terms with the fact that his mandate has been cancelled. He is no longer popular. His supporters are a minority across all social strata. The revolution is dead, it was simply not viable under his primitive and incompetent leadership.


 


But what has not been viable was my belief in decency, fairness and rationality. That is not how Hugo Chavez’ minds works. So, instead of the rosy electoral solution we have slipped further and further into this violent dictatorship. And if last week it was the shock to see the deaths of dissident military officers, followed by the order to capture the two most important opposition leaders, this week it is the shock of huge C4 bombs exploding at diplomatic missions four blocks from my home.


 


And thus we come to Ken’s suggestion to stop the protest and start relying on our weapon of choice. And I do want to march to the presidential palace. And I hate it everytime our marches are cancelled or stopped because Chavez’ violent supporters are there waiting for us. And I think it is time to prove to the country and the world that there is no space that can be banned to us. But at the same time, I believe that the only reason we are right, the only reason we are truly superior, the only reason why we are the honorable and decent opposition to an outlaw Government, is simply that we refuse to go and fight under their own terms. I prefer to blog tonight and then go to tomorrow’s march with my flag and whistle and get shot at by Chavez’ supporters, than to go armed and shoot somebody. Maybe that is why we are losing, if indeed we are. But I still feel we will win in the end, because we are indeed morally right, we are morally better. We have proven it!


 


Will this change if we start getting shot at daily? I don’t know, and I hope I never find out……

Government and opposition on the attacks

February 25, 2003


Everybody had something to say about the terrorist attacks on the Colombian and Spanish Embassies last night, but I truly never expected that this morning the Government would irresponsibly blame the opposition for the attacks.


The first irresponsible declaration was that of the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs saying that “Given the appearance  of pamphlets one has to get suspicious. There are logic that work backwards and one may think that they are trying to discredit the investigations as part of the same plot”


Then, it was the Vice-President who accused the opposition of making irresponsible statements, which he considered deplorable. Then, it was the “Big Liar,” the Minister of the Interior and Justice Lucas Rincon (the one who announced Chavez resignation on April 11th., 2002) said that there was no connection between the attacks and the President’s words.


Finally, it was the former President of the National Assembly, who directly accused the “coupsters” in the opposition for the attacks, “who are trying to manipulate the news”


Now, I am not saying that the opposition did or did not do it and I am not saying the Government and the President’s sympathizers did or did not do it. However, note the following facts:


-The attacks required, according to some reports which I can’t find, between eight and ten pounds of C4 explosives, but I can’t imagine that is so easy to find, but I know it is readily available at least to the military. Furthermore, it is traceable.


-The two countries bombed were, coincidentally, two of the three countries attacked sharply by President Hugo Chavez on his Sunday radio program (The other was the USA). Thus, there is obviously a link, which is the only charge (1,2 and 3) that I have heard the opposition make. Simply stated, Hugo Chavez makes inflammatory statements every single Sunday that have generated an incredible level of confrontation and violence.


-Throughout the violence of the last year, those in jail are there, either because they were caught live on camera doing their deeds, as in the case of the shooters of Puente El Llaguno, or  detained in the act, as was the self-confessed assassin of Altamira, who was caught by the local police.  Note that in both cases, those charged had relations to the Libertador Mayor, a pro-Chavez supporter. Moreover, the men of El Llaguno were actually freed by a Judge, then again ordered arrested by the Supreme Court, who removed the Judge from her position. A week later, the judge was hired by the same Mayor of Libertador District as its legal counsel. The Altamira assassin was defended by President Chávez on TV, who even called him a Gentleman.


-The Government is quick to accuse the opposition leaders and the opposition for everything that happens, but when events like the disappearance of the three military officers that later were found dead and tortured or the dead and injured cops of last Saturday, it is quick to exonerate its own people, either defending them or saying is not a political assassination.


In the end, violence escalates, it is definitely one-sided and Chavez and his band of cynics appear daily on TV accusing the opposition for all the violence. But if you go by PDVSA’s headquarters, you see a band of Chavez supporters, agrressive, and I am sure they are armed, which the Government wants me to belive are just protesting, but they don’t even have a permit. And when we march, we have to cancel or delay our march because these same “Bolivarian Circles” arrive at some point of the march to boycott and incite violence. But nevertheless, we get gassed regularly, but they only get gassed when they start using guns.


Note added: As I finished writing this, the US Government said the same thing as the opposition (God forbid!): We note that the attacks follow the strong verbal attacks by President Chavez”

Two bombs in Spanish and Colombian Embassies

February 25, 2003

Last night two C4 bombs exploded in the Spanish and Colombian Embassies. Reportedly, they are the strongest explosions by bombs in Venezuela in the last twenty years. One was near my home, I woke up and thought it was a strong earthquake.

The world tough on Chavez today

February 24, 2003

 


The world was very tough on Hugo Chavez today. First, the Colombian foreign Ministry “energetically” asked Chavez to collaborate on the fight against guerrillas and terrorism, in reference to those groups that use Venezuela as a ground base for operations in Colombia, without the Government doing much about it. Then, the US State Department issued a press release in which it condemns “inflammatory statements like those attributed (sic) to President Chavez which do not help to advance the dialog between the opposition and the Government to achieve a peaceful way out of the current situation”.


 


But perhaps the most complete (and sincere!) statement was made by Spain’s Senator Tamayo who said that Spain’s Foreign Minsiter had been “extremely prudent” and that he was “enormously” surprised by Chávez’ reaction which showed “a lot of nervousness”. But, in my opinion, his best statement was:”Venezuela has subscribed international treaties of obligatory fulfillment and by signing those all of us are subject to international criminal justice” . This is at the crux of the matter, subjects like Human and Civil Rights are covered by international treaties that, in the case of Venezuela’s Constitution, are above it. Hugo Cahvez refuses to accept this.

COFAVIC asks Government to carry out sentence

February 24, 2003

 


In 1989, there were riots in Caracas that led to 277 deaths due to military and police excesses. (Nothing to do with Chavez!). Throughtout the years, Chavez used this case as an example of the excesses of previous Governments and the lack of justice in Venezuela. A human rights group was created around this tragedy. The group called COFAVIC persevered over the years and brought the case to international courts which oversee treaties that have been signed by Venezuela. At the same time, COFAVIC, has become the premier human rights organization in the country, due to its consistent, persistent and apolitical work.


 


COFAVIC won the case for the family of the victims and last year the Interamerican Human Rights Court found the Venezuelan Government guilty and ordered it to compensate the families, change the way police and military security plans are implemented and publish the complete decision in a nationwide newspaper and the official gazette.


 


Today, on the 14th. anniversary of the tragedy, COFAVIC called on the Chavez Government to comply with the decision, since the Chávez administration which in the words of COFAVIC “has attempted to “make use of political flags with the victims” or has responded to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission attempting to criminalize those affected”. So far, the Chavez administration has failed to comply with any of the aspects of the decision. So much for caring.

Explanation by municipal police of PDVSA shoot out

February 24, 2003

 


Imagine this: Last Saturday, there was a shoot out near PDVSA headquarters, which has been surrounded by Chavez’ “Bolivarian Circles” since mid-December. As a result of the shoot out, one Metropolitan police officer was shot dead and eight were injured. That’s it, nobody else. According to the Metropolitan police version, one cop was shot at while he was going to the funeral of another one three blocks away, he called for help and when other cops showed up, they were ambushed by gunmen…


 


Explanation by the Director of the municipal police of the Libertador District, whose Mayor, is strongly pro-Chavez (and was filmed unloading guns at night near PDVSA headquarters Dec. 4th. or 5th.): Two civilians without identification and armed showed up at PDVSA headquarters. They stopped the cops as they went by and there was a shoot out, which led to the dead cop. They were taken to the headquarters of the municipal police, right across the street from PDVSA, and metropolitan police cops came from two directions shooting at them, leading to the injured. The Director of the police then said that he “thought” the Bolivarian Circles were not involved, because they are not allowed to have weapons even if they have a permit. Do you believe all this? I just ask a simple question: How come there were one dead and eight injured and ALL were Metropolitan Police?

A tide shift?

February 24, 2003

I agree with Francisco Toro that the tide of international public opinion is shifting against Hugo Chavez (at last!). This Newsday article, from Associated Press is simply proof of the incredible shift taking place. This is the full text about last night’s incident where one cop was killed and eight injured by Chavez’ supporters, which I had posted on below:


“gunmen loyal to Chavez ambushed a group of policemen overnight, killing one officer and wounding five others, said Miguel Pinto, chief of the police motorcycle brigade. 


The officers were attacked Saturday night as they returned from the funeral for a slain colleague and passed near the headquarters of the state oil monopoly, which has been staked out by Chavez supporters since December.

Chavez’s government has seized thousands of weapons from city police on the pretext that Police Chief Henry Vivas has lost control of the 9,000-member department. Critics allege Chavez is disarming police while secretly arming pro-government radicals. “


Even the disarming of the police had previously gone largely unnoticed by the international press when it happened.

 

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