Archive for July, 2003

Another undemocratic act in the National Assembly

July 31, 2003

 


In another display of anti-democratic behavior, pro-Chavez Deputies in the Finance Committee of the National Assembly blocked the possibility that the Director of its own economic Economic Office ask the Ministry of Finance any questions. This is not only undemocratic, but violates the regulations of the office itself that says that the office has voice but not vote in any legislative committee on all budgetary and financial matters. The Head of the Economic Office, Francisco Rodriguez, who has a Ph. D. from Harvard and was a Professor at the University of Maryland, was chosen for the position by the Chavistas when the former Head, Gustavo Garcia, became uncomfortable for the Government. While Rodriguez was sympathetic to the Chavez project initially, he has become a nuisance to the Chavistas with a stream of reports highly critical of the Government’s economic policies.

The dirty trick campaign begins……

July 31, 2003

 


That Chavez and his cohorts will try to use any dirty trick, tackle and twist to avoid a recall referendum has been known for quite a while. The appearance of legality began being used against democracy in Venezuela in January 23d. when the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred a consultative referendum from taking place by ruling not on the merits of the referendum itself but on the Electoral Board (CNE) that would organize it. The political nature of that decision was demonstrated by the fact that the Vice-President announced it even before the Court itself had held the audience with its decision. That remarkable decision told the Electoral Board that it could not hold any election until a new Board was elected by the National Assembly. With it, the Highest Court in Venezuela suspended our right to vote until the Chavez controlled Assembly names a new Board. Five months have passed and Venezuela has only been a democracy in name as the right of Venezuelans to hold elections simply does not exist.


 


It is interesting that it was Chavez himself who last year, when the opposition was promoting the consultative referendum, would say that the opposition should wait until Aug. 19th 2003 when it could have a recall referendum on his mandate. Many abroad did not understand why the opposition wanted to hold a consultative referendum, the reason was simple, Chavez claimed to have a mandate for his “revolution” from the people, however, the people did not vote for what he interpreted to be his mandate but for an end to corruption, crime and better Government, none of which he has delivered. Thus, the opposition reasoned, were Chavez to lose the consultative referendum he could no longer claim to have a mandate from the people. But we were never able to vote on it.


 


And if Chavez has his way, we will never be able to vote on the recall referendum either. As the fateful date of Aug. 19 th.  is getting closer the Chavez Government has been speaking and acting as if the recall referendum was an invention of the opposition with no foundation, despite the fact that it was Chavez himself who introduced the concept in the Venezuelan Constitution. Of course, he never believed when his popularity was at its peak that the conditions for a recall referendum against him would ever be fulfilled.  But they are, pushing Chavez and major figures of his Government into saying the referendum will not take place, should not take place and will not take place. This includes the highest ranking members of the Venezuelan military who should not even speak about such matters. But such is the state of this pseudo-democracy under the Presidency of Hugo Chavez.


 


Last night, Chavez was at it again when he once again forgot about the principle of separation of power issuing legal opinions that are simply meant to intimidate and confuse the population. Chavez said that only those that voted or had the right to vote in the 2000 Presidential election could vote in a recall referendum. Why does Chavez say this? He is trying to stretch Article 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution that says that all electoral mandates are recallable after the mid-point of the term for which a person was elected. The article also says “When a number of voters equal or larger that elected the official were to vote in favor of revoking, as long as the number of voters taking part in the referendum is equal to or larger to 25% of the registered voters….”  Note that the article talks about a number of voters, it does not specify that they had to vote in the election which gave the official the mandate in the same manner in which the second part of the article talks about registered voters. In any case, Articles 62 through 64 of the Constitution would bar any alternate interpretation when they say:


 


Article 62: All citizens have the right to participate in public matters…


Article 63: Voting is a right…


Article 64: All Venezuelans that are 18 years of age or older who are not barred politically or incarcerated have the right to vote…


 


Thus, unless Chavez were to bar politically all Venezuelans that have turned 18 since his election, there can be no justification from taking away that right from anyone. The reason he wants this is simple, Chavez’ dwindling popularity is inversely proportional to the age of the voter; barring these segment of the population from voting would take away a big chunk of votes from the opposition.


 


Chavez also said last night that he would be able to run if a recall referendum against him were to be successful. I have argued before why this may not happen but would like to discuss it and reference it again. Article 233 of the Constitution says:


 


“These will be absolute absence of the President:……the popular removal of his mandate….When an absolute absence of the elected President occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period there will be an election within the thirty days following the event…In those cases, the new President will complete the corresponding constitutional period”


 


To me the above paragraph is quite clear, it talks about “absolute absence” and the “new President” will complete the period. To me the use of the words absolute absence and new clearly indicate that Chavez simply can’t run.


 


As if this were not sufficient, today the pro-Chavez forces in the National Assembly proposed a Constitutional Amendment so that both the members of the Supreme Court and the National Election Commission can be elected and removed by a simple majority of the Deputies of the Assembly and not by the current two-thirds. This is clearly another travesty of the Chavistas whereby they want to legislate to accommodate their purposes. . The problem with this proposal is that the Constitution requires that any amendment be approved by 50% of the voters; however, the Chavistas seem to have forgotten that there can no be elections in Venezuela until a new Electoral Board is elected.  Even if it were possible, there are only twenty days left for the opposition to turn in the petition for the recall referendum, but there is not enough time for the Assembly to approve an amendment, thus the recall would take precedence. The move simply indicates the type of undemocratic tricks Chavez and his Government are willing to use in order to bar any vote on Chavez and his mandate.  We know about this in Venezuela, but the world still believes that Chavez is operating under legality. The next few months will demonstrate the outlaw nature of Chavez and his cronies use all of the dirty tricks possible to subvert democracy in Venezuela. Just wait and see….

The dirty trick campaign begins……

July 31, 2003

 


That Chavez and his cohorts will try to use any dirty trick, tackle and twist to avoid a recall referendum has been known for quite a while. The appearance of legality began being used against democracy in Venezuela in January 23d. when the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred a consultative referendum from taking place by ruling not on the merits of the referendum itself but on the Electoral Board (CNE) that would organize it. The political nature of that decision was demonstrated by the fact that the Vice-President announced it even before the Court itself had held the audience with its decision. That remarkable decision told the Electoral Board that it could not hold any election until a new Board was elected by the National Assembly. With it, the Highest Court in Venezuela suspended our right to vote until the Chavez controlled Assembly names a new Board. Five months have passed and Venezuela has only been a democracy in name as the right of Venezuelans to hold elections simply does not exist.


 


It is interesting that it was Chavez himself who last year, when the opposition was promoting the consultative referendum, would say that the opposition should wait until Aug. 19th 2003 when it could have a recall referendum on his mandate. Many abroad did not understand why the opposition wanted to hold a consultative referendum, the reason was simple, Chavez claimed to have a mandate for his “revolution” from the people, however, the people did not vote for what he interpreted to be his mandate but for an end to corruption, crime and better Government, none of which he has delivered. Thus, the opposition reasoned, were Chavez to lose the consultative referendum he could no longer claim to have a mandate from the people. But we were never able to vote on it.


 


And if Chavez has his way, we will never be able to vote on the recall referendum either. As the fateful date of Aug. 19 th.  is getting closer the Chavez Government has been speaking and acting as if the recall referendum was an invention of the opposition with no foundation, despite the fact that it was Chavez himself who introduced the concept in the Venezuelan Constitution. Of course, he never believed when his popularity was at its peak that the conditions for a recall referendum against him would ever be fulfilled.  But they are, pushing Chavez and major figures of his Government into saying the referendum will not take place, should not take place and will not take place. This includes the highest ranking members of the Venezuelan military who should not even speak about such matters. But such is the state of this pseudo-democracy under the Presidency of Hugo Chavez.


 


Last night, Chavez was at it again when he once again forgot about the principle of separation of power issuing legal opinions that are simply meant to intimidate and confuse the population. Chavez said that only those that voted or had the right to vote in the 2000 Presidential election could vote in a recall referendum. Why does Chavez say this? He is trying to stretch Article 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution that says that all electoral mandates are recallable after the mid-point of the term for which a person was elected. The article also says “When a number of voters equal or larger that elected the official were to vote in favor of revoking, as long as the number of voters taking part in the referendum is equal to or larger to 25% of the registered voters….”  Note that the article talks about a number of voters, it does not specify that they had to vote in the election which gave the official the mandate in the same manner in which the second part of the article talks about registered voters. In any case, Articles 62 through 64 of the Constitution would bar any alternate interpretation when they say:


 


Article 62: All citizens have the right to participate in public matters…


Article 63: Voting is a right…


Article 64: All Venezuelans that are 18 years of age or older who are not barred politically or incarcerated have the right to vote…


 


Thus, unless Chavez were to bar politically all Venezuelans that have turned 18 since his election, there can be no justification from taking away that right from anyone. The reason he wants this is simple, Chavez’ dwindling popularity is inversely proportional to the age of the voter; barring these segment of the population from voting would take away a big chunk of votes from the opposition.


 


Chavez also said last night that he would be able to run if a recall referendum against him were to be successful. I have argued before why this may not happen but would like to discuss it and reference it again. Article 233 of the Constitution says:


 


“These will be absolute absence of the President:……the popular removal of his mandate….When an absolute absence of the elected President occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period there will be an election within the thirty days following the event…In those cases, the new President will complete the corresponding constitutional period”


 


To me the above paragraph is quite clear, it talks about “absolute absence” and the “new President” will complete the period. To me the use of the words absolute absence and new clearly indicate that Chavez simply can’t run.


 


As if this were not sufficient, today the pro-Chavez forces in the National Assembly proposed a Constitutional Amendment so that both the members of the Supreme Court and the National Election Commission can be elected and removed by a simple majority of the Deputies of the Assembly and not by the current two-thirds. This is clearly another travesty of the Chavistas whereby they want to legislate to accommodate their purposes. . The problem with this proposal is that the Constitution requires that any amendment be approved by 50% of the voters; however, the Chavistas seem to have forgotten that there can no be elections in Venezuela until a new Electoral Board is elected.  Even if it were possible, there are only twenty days left for the opposition to turn in the petition for the recall referendum, but there is not enough time for the Assembly to approve an amendment, thus the recall would take precedence. The move simply indicates the type of undemocratic tricks Chavez and his Government are willing to use in order to bar any vote on Chavez and his mandate.  We know about this in Venezuela, but the world still believes that Chavez is operating under legality. The next few months will demonstrate the outlaw nature of Chavez and his cronies use all of the dirty tricks possible to subvert democracy in Venezuela. Just wait and see….

Increased tensions

July 30, 2003

Just a few days away and the level of tension seems to have jumped up significantly:


-A leader of the opposition and former Governor of Tachira State gets kidnapped. The Government ignores the fact, while the pro-Chavez Governor of that State claims it is a publicity stunt.


-Chavez appears to be in campaign, the question is for what. He can’t win a recall referendum and can’t run if he resigns, so what’s up?. This week he reiterated there would be no referendum, opened a University that has no Professors at a time that there are no classes anywhere, announced it would pay pensioners the money owed them, said he would close any media outlet he felt like without it being a threat to democracy and said 200 to 300 opposition figures should be in jail for the events of April 2003. (He made no mention of whether anyone in HIS Government should be in jail for the massacre on April 11th.). He explicitly mentioned the names of the two most visble opposition leaders as people that should be in jail, even if their roles on that fateful date were minor.


-The National Assembly is once again a mess, with the agreement between the two sides violated by Chavez’ Deputies in order to introduce the Supreme Court bill and the Content bill.


-Another General, this time the Commander of the National Guard said that there should be no recall referendum. General Gutierrez is remembered as the man that repressed oil workers and his own former mates of the National Guard last December, using tear gas and excessive force. We will never forget his face and his acts.


-The Supreme Court will likely rule that it will give the Asembly ten days to name an Electoral Board or it will do it on its own. Of course, Chavez has said he no longer recognizes what he called two years ago :” The best Supreme Court in the world”.


I get the feeling things will heat up in the next month….

Once again, we are so close…..

July 22, 2003

In a story we have heard before, the Head of the investigative police said today that they are very close to finding out who is responsible for the recent bombs in various parts of Caracas. We heard that in Decemebr when Joao de Goveia was captured after the shootings in Altamira square, two types of bullets were found, up to today nothing else has been heard about who else was responsible for that assasination. In February the Colombian and Spanish Embassies were bombed and both this branch of the police, Chavez, the Vice-President and MVR party members said they knew who had done it. Then came the bombings of Enrique Mendoza, the attempt on Marta Colomina, the sound device at Union Radio, the bomb at PDVSA and somehow we are still waiting for a single suspect to be arrested, or some evidence and more than just the usual, bla…bla..bla…


Note: Thursday is a holiday here, I will take advantage of it and go away…the Devil will rest…..

A bleak picture for PDVSA

July 22, 2003

 


Extremely interesting article in today’s Tal Cual newspaper (by subscription only) in which PDVSA’s former economist Ramon Espinasa gives his views on the future of the Venezuelan oil industry. Espinasa is a highly regarded Economist who understands PDVSA from an economic and technical point of view better than anybody I know. He is the type of solid technical person Chavez hates because he can not refute their points of views with his gut feeling because they deal with realities and numbers. Among the highlights:


 


-Venezuela’s oil production will begin falling in the next eighteen months. The reason is very simple, in order to maintain the country’s oil production we need to have between 80-100 active drills, thee are currently only 25 working.


 


-Production is being maintained by intensive exploitation, particularly at the El Furial oil field with a risk of damaging it.


 


-As production falls there will be more pressure on PDVSA, fewer resources, less investment which takes you back to the starting point.


 


-With the current formula of more funds from PDVSA (short term fiscal resources), smaller operational costs and less investment “we are no longer feeding the hen with the golden eggs”


 


-Operational costs at PDVSA, which includes the costs of producing, transport, refining, distribution in the internal market and export are about $7 per barrel. Of that $7, $4 corresponds to production, $2 to refining and $1 to internal market. These costs have gone up in nominal terms by 150% since 1990, while in real terms they have gone up by 75%……in the cost structure 20% is salaries and 80% is machinery and equipment.


 


Not a pretty picture, the question is what will happen when PDVSA’s fiscal contribution drops sharply. Will the country be forced to sell pats of PDVSA in order to survive? Will anyone remember who destroyed the industry?

Of Bullies and Clowns

July 21, 2003

 


While the Chief bully, the President, did not speak on Sunday (Was he afraid that the Sunday demonstration would overshadow his program?) it was definitely a week for bullies, old and new, to threaten, intimidate and speak out in matters that are certainly beyond their competence. At the same time, some of the usual clowns also spoke up, leaving another trace in their long trail of incompetence and poor service to the nation. Here are the winners:


 


Bully #1. The prize as the top bully for the week has to go to the Head of the Tactical Command of the Revolution Francisco Ameliach. Ameliach actually threatened the Supreme Court with removing the magistrates if they “dared” name the new Electoral Board. This obviously made the news, but nobody seems to have pointed out a small problem with this threat: In order to remove the Justices the National Assembly requires two thirds majority, given that Chavez’ MVR can barely get a 50% majority one has to wonder how he plans to make his threat work?


 


Bully #2. Gen. Garcia Carneiro appointed himself as Supreme Court, Electoral Board and Chavez puppet, all at once, to let the country “know” that there will not be a referendum this year, even going as far as naming the reasons as described here yesterday. But like all ignorant bullies Gen. Garcia Carneiro spoke, in his ignorance, as if there is no CNE right now. The current CNE can do all of the duties of the Electoral Board, except hold an election. Thus, the legal timeframe (90 days) has to be respected once the current CNE accepts the petition with the valid signatures. So, bully for him. As if this were not enough, another bully, the US State Department issued a statement criticizing Garcia Carneiro’s words, and saying that hey hope that both the Government and the opposition respect the agreements signed under the supervision of the OAS and the Carter Center.


 


Bully #3. Diosdado Cabello, the Minister of Infrastructure and former Vice-President said on Sunday in a local newspaper that it the Government had to prevent the recall referendum. Now, according to Webster’s to prevent means:


 


      To intercept; to hinder; to frustrate; to stop; to thwart.


 


Now, excuse me if I don’t understand something, can a democratic Government even attempt to or even think of intercepting, hindering, frustrating or thwarting an election that is a right guaranteed by the Constitution?. Somehow it sounds to me like a violation of all of the citizens’ rights as well as democratic principles. Can I dare call this totalitarian behavior? What’s next? The Government will hinder any attempt to have an election in 2006? Makes you wonder, no?


 


Clown #1. That sorry character called the People’s Ombudsman German Mundarain has reached the levels of the ridiculous if not the pathetic. Has anybody explained to him that his job is to defend the people? Mr. Mundarain does little but come out defending the Government, going as far as defending a bill that has not even been approved by the National Assembly two weeks ago severely criticized by Human Rights Watch. Well, today Mr. Mundarain went to the Supreme Court to defend the right of the National Assembly to select the Electoral Board. Now, last I heard, the Assembly can not only defend itself, but if it is a matter of law, it should be the Attorney General or the Government’s lawyer that argues in front of the Court. But how is the People’s Ombudsman defending the rights of the Venezuelans when we can not have elections because the Assembly ahs not selected the Electoral Board? How is it his business to work on this, while workers get shot by the National Guard, people’s rights to protest are violated daily and an insolent General pretends to interfere with our most basic rights? Does he understand his job or was he selected for that position because he was that sad and immoral character that he has proven to be?


 


Clown #2. In contrast to Clown #1, the comptroller Clodosvaldo Russian at least has the ability to maintain a low profile while corruption is rampant and shameful financial transactions are carried out at the highest levels of Government without him saying anything. But he did reach the level of being a clown when he was asked over the weekend whether corruption had increased in Venezuela. His answer? He said he did not know because he did not have a corruptometer. Now, Mr Russian (Yes, he is called Mr. Ruffian by many) happens to be the man in charge of controlling that funds are spent properly and that they are not diverted for anything but their original objective. If he has no corruptometer, maybe he should be thinking about getting one, because what it would show would shock the world that still thinks there is a sort of revolution going on in Venezuela.  


 


Clown #3. The President of PDVSA said today that there is a plan to sabotage the oil industry initiated last week when a bomb exploded at the PDVSA-Chuao building. Now, I would like him to explain to me how the opposition managed to place a bomb in that building that is heavily guarded by pro-Chavez former military and where security measures are quite heavy, to say the least. Moreover, with all the closed-circuit TV cameras in that building, how come the Government has not “shown” to us the faces of the opposition terrorists that so easily managed to begin this plot to sabotage the oil industry? Ditto for the Colombian and Spanish Consulates and all of those bombs blamed on the opposition.


 


The truth is that this is a revolution of bullies and clowns led by the Chief Jester/Bully who somehow failed to appear in public this weekend. But his day of reckoning is fast approaching.

Of Bullies and Clowns

July 21, 2003

 


While the Chief bully, the President, did not speak on Sunday (Was he afraid that the Sunday demonstration would overshadow his program?) it was definitely a week for bullies, old and new, to threaten, intimidate and speak out in matters that are certainly beyond their competence. At the same time, some of the usual clowns also spoke up, leaving another trace in their long trail of incompetence and poor service to the nation. Here are the winners:


 


Bully #1. The prize as the top bully for the week has to go to the Head of the Tactical Command of the Revolution Francisco Ameliach. Ameliach actually threatened the Supreme Court with removing the magistrates if they “dared” name the new Electoral Board. This obviously made the news, but nobody seems to have pointed out a small problem with this threat: In order to remove the Justices the National Assembly requires two thirds majority, given that Chavez’ MVR can barely get a 50% majority one has to wonder how he plans to make his threat work?


 


Bully #2. Gen. Garcia Carneiro appointed himself as Supreme Court, Electoral Board and Chavez puppet, all at once, to let the country “know” that there will not be a referendum this year, even going as far as naming the reasons as described here yesterday. But like all ignorant bullies Gen. Garcia Carneiro spoke, in his ignorance, as if there is no CNE right now. The current CNE can do all of the duties of the Electoral Board, except hold an election. Thus, the legal timeframe (90 days) has to be respected once the current CNE accepts the petition with the valid signatures. So, bully for him. As if this were not enough, another bully, the US State Department issued a statement criticizing Garcia Carneiro’s words, and saying that hey hope that both the Government and the opposition respect the agreements signed under the supervision of the OAS and the Carter Center.


 


Bully #3. Diosdado Cabello, the Minister of Infrastructure and former Vice-President said on Sunday in a local newspaper that it the Government had to prevent the recall referendum. Now, according to Webster’s to prevent means:


 


      To intercept; to hinder; to frustrate; to stop; to thwart.


 


Now, excuse me if I don’t understand something, can a democratic Government even attempt to or even think of intercepting, hindering, frustrating or thwarting an election that is a right guaranteed by the Constitution?. Somehow it sounds to me like a violation of all of the citizens’ rights as well as democratic principles. Can I dare call this totalitarian behavior? What’s next? The Government will hinder any attempt to have an election in 2006? Makes you wonder, no?


 


Clown #1. That sorry character called the People’s Ombudsman German Mundarain has reached the levels of the ridiculous if not the pathetic. Has anybody explained to him that his job is to defend the people? Mr. Mundarain does little but come out defending the Government, going as far as defending a bill that has not even been approved by the National Assembly two weeks ago severely criticized by Human Rights Watch. Well, today Mr. Mundarain went to the Supreme Court to defend the right of the National Assembly to select the Electoral Board. Now, last I heard, the Assembly can not only defend itself, but if it is a matter of law, it should be the Attorney General or the Government’s lawyer that argues in front of the Court. But how is the People’s Ombudsman defending the rights of the Venezuelans when we can not have elections because the Assembly ahs not selected the Electoral Board? How is it his business to work on this, while workers get shot by the National Guard, people’s rights to protest are violated daily and an insolent General pretends to interfere with our most basic rights? Does he understand his job or was he selected for that position because he was that sad and immoral character that he has proven to be?


 


Clown #2. In contrast to Clown #1, the comptroller Clodosvaldo Russian at least has the ability to maintain a low profile while corruption is rampant and shameful financial transactions are carried out at the highest levels of Government without him saying anything. But he did reach the level of being a clown when he was asked over the weekend whether corruption had increased in Venezuela. His answer? He said he did not know because he did not have a corruptometer. Now, Mr Russian (Yes, he is called Mr. Ruffian by many) happens to be the man in charge of controlling that funds are spent properly and that they are not diverted for anything but their original objective. If he has no corruptometer, maybe he should be thinking about getting one, because what it would show would shock the world that still thinks there is a sort of revolution going on in Venezuela.  


 


Clown #3. The President of PDVSA said today that there is a plan to sabotage the oil industry initiated last week when a bomb exploded at the PDVSA-Chuao building. Now, I would like him to explain to me how the opposition managed to place a bomb in that building that is heavily guarded by pro-Chavez former military and where security measures are quite heavy, to say the least. Moreover, with all the closed-circuit TV cameras in that building, how come the Government has not “shown” to us the faces of the opposition terrorists that so easily managed to begin this plot to sabotage the oil industry? Ditto for the Colombian and Spanish Consulates and all of those bombs blamed on the opposition.


 


The truth is that this is a revolution of bullies and clowns led by the Chief Jester/Bully who somehow failed to appear in public this weekend. But his day of reckoning is fast approaching.

FT on the debt buyback

July 21, 2003

 


The Financial Times has an article on Venezuela today, about the debt repurchase.


 


In the Financial Times Andy Webb talks about the debt buyback. I particularly liked the subtle way in which he suggests that there may have been something improper in the sale by a Government bank of precisely the same debt instruments that are being repurchased now (front running in financial terms):


 


“About $411m worth of the type of bonds targeted in the repurchase, DCBs and Flirbs, were bought in March and April through two privately owned brokerages – New York-based Global Partners Group, which used a credit line from Lehman Brothers, and Multiplicas, a local broker tied to Venezuelan bank Banesco.


The bonds were sold by Venezuelan state development bank Bandes in exchange for promissory notes issued by the ministry.


Bond prices were at a heavy discount earlier this year, and their holders stand to make a sizeable gain if tendered in the buy- back.”

Epidendrum Diffusum

July 20, 2003


I love the little flowers of Epidendrum Diffusum from Jamaica, hundreds of 3/8 inch flowers on a branch, they look like mosquitoes.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,690 other followers