Archive for December, 2003

Rambling about these very quiet days

December 27, 2003

 


It is quite remarkable how everything simply dies for Christmas and New Year’s here in Venezuela. I worked yesterday, but the phones barely rang, it was very quiet. It was also quiet on the political front as both Government and opposition figures simply disappeared from the scene (feels great!) except for a few headline grabbers trying to take advantage of the absence of news. One of them was Antonio Ledezma who was trying to make an issue of the fact that 86 of the 250 boxes of the copies of the signatures had not been handed back to the Coordinadora Democrática. Essentially, each form and its copy had to be stamped as received, a laborious process. Then, you keep your stamped copy as proof that you indeed handed it in. Supposedly, the Secretary of the CNE had refused to let go of 86 of the 250 the boxes of copies. I am not too concerned about this, I am sure they had a Christmas party or something like that and closed down early.


 


It makes you wonder when a country needs growth and prosperity, how it can shut down so drastically for over two weeks. Basically, from Christmas day on there is no activity until January 5th. which happens to be a banking holiday. But traffic, a good measure of economic activity, really does not pick up again until mid January, as Venezuelans go to their home towns, visit family, go to Margarita and the lucky ones go abroad. I know this happens everywhere, but I have never seen anything like what happens here. In fact, yesterday, the eight or nine companies we work with in the US were mostly closed, with everyone taking Friday off. But I am sure most of them will be back on Monday in almost full force.


 


One person not taking the day of was Greg from the BBC, who is here in Caracas. Greg got in touch with me through the blog to interview me about why Venezuelans seem to be less and less involved with politics, despite what everyone may think and believe about it. (Any thoughts on this out there?) He came to my home in the afternoon with his Venezuelan girlfriend Ana, who is also a journalist. It was quite pleasant; it is always nice taking about Venezuela with someone from abroad, see how they view us, what their thoughts and concerns are. The interview itself was short, but we talked up a storm about quite a number of things for quite a while. Hope he reads this and we do it again with some glasses of wine in front of us next time!

Navidad, Navidad

December 24, 2003

 


Christmas Eve. Here in Venezuela, tonight is the night. Tonight is Christmas; tomorrow is only the day that baby Jesus brings the presents to the kids.  As economic and political problems fade away for a couple of days, that great tradition, getting together with your immediate family is the focus tonight. Of course, for us, “immediate” is also quite different, a very extended definition. Parties are huge, everyone gets together to eat hallacas, a banana leaf wrap containing corn flour with a stew that has chicken, pork, olives, onion and pimentos. (I am sure I am forgetting some ingredients). People play music ranging from the local gaitas to world famous Christmas carols. People dance, set fire works and laugh. Despite emigration 90% of my siblings are here in Caracas (nine out of ten) today, a good average I think. We will go to my sister’s, give presents, laugh, dance, eat, drink and sleep over so that we can see the kids opening their presents in the morning. Tomorrow, I will once again realize that I am getting old to go to bed so late and wake up so early. I will likely spend all day reading and sleeping, feeling good about Christmas. Friday, back to work even if briefly. To everyone, have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Day! and thanks for the many emails wishing me well, I am grateful that so many of you thought of me even if you don’t know me. Here is a picture of Plaza Altamira with Christmas ornaments. Hope it is a sign of things to come.


 


Navidad, Navidad

December 24, 2003

 


Christmas Eve. Here in Venezuela, tonight is the night. Tonight is Christmas; tomorrow is only the day that baby Jesus brings the presents to the kids.  As economic and political problems fade away for a couple of days, that great tradition, getting together with your immediate family is the focus tonight. Of course, for us, “immediate” is also quite different, a very extended definition. Parties are huge, everyone gets together to eat hallacas, a banana leaf wrap containing corn flour with a stew that has chicken, pork, olives, onion and pimentos. (I am sure I am forgetting some ingredients). People play music ranging from the local gaitas to world famous Christmas carols. People dance, set fire works and laugh. Despite emigration 90% of my siblings are here in Caracas (nine out of ten) today, a good average I think. We will go to my sister’s, give presents, laugh, dance, eat, drink and sleep over so that we can see the kids opening their presents in the morning. Tomorrow, I will once again realize that I am getting old to go to bed so late and wake up so early. I will likely spend all day reading and sleeping, feeling good about Christmas. Friday, back to work even if briefly. To everyone, have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Day! and thanks for the many emails wishing me well, I am grateful that so many of you thought of me even if you don’t know me. Here is a picture of Plaza Altamira with Christmas ornaments. Hope it is a sign of things to come.


 


The daily reality of a Mayor

December 22, 2003

 


Interesting interview in today’s El Nacional with the Mayor of Naguanagua. Naguanagua is in Carabobo state, a municipality of mostly poor people. The Mayor, Julio Castillo, is part of the Proyecto Venezuela party, which us led by former Presidential candidate Henrique Salas Romer. Castillo is reportedly very popular.


 


On his perception about how the people of Naguanagua see the present


 


I perceive a worrisome lack of hope when confronting their misery. The Chávez theme is not in the daily life of the very poor; their theme is how they are going to eat that day. Politics is discussed, but Venezuelan politicians have not understood that in popular areas, political opinions are not formed by the media.


 


What do people ask for?


 


The conscience of the people is diminishing due to the grave crisis. Each day, individual problems become more important than collective problems. …You find homes where people have not eaten in two or three days. What stresses me the most is the large number of problems I can not solve. One ends up just aiding people, giving bags of food.


 


What is your biggest concern?


 


The gap between needs and resources. It has truly been a nightmare to spend two years without a single bolivar from the Special Assignments law. It had never happened that a Government embezzled, because that is what is happening, the funds for the regions…..They owe us money…that is my biggest concern someone has our money and people do not get it because someone made the decision to strangle the regions.


 


On working together


 


We have worked with the National Guard and the local police and we have worked well. That is one of the great aspirations of the people, what is called unity. That the President, the Governor and the mayor work together to solve problems.


 


This is reality, the rest is BS.

A visit by the Dictator himself

December 22, 2003


 


After publicly inviting him last week, yesterday Hugo Chavez announced with joy that his friend Fidel Castro would be coming to visit Caracas today and would have lunch in the Presidential palace. Despite that announcement,  there were no reports of the Cuban Dictator showing up in Caracas today and reports indicated he was at The Orchila Island since Sunday, where Chávez met with him today. Curiously, La Orchila was developed by former Venezuelan Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez for his personal enjoyment and that of his friends. The only indication today that Castro was in Venezuela was a letter published in Cuba, reportedly from Caracas, in which he greets Cuban teachers who are in Venezuela. Obviously, Mr. Castro did or could not make any statements like that of the Russian Foreign Minister, who was also visiting the country today and expressed his desire for Venezuelans to solve their problems through the Constitution and democracy. The “Solidaridad” group, composed of politicians who supported Chavez’ bid for the Presidency and accompanied him until a little over a year ago, were highly critical of the deployment of resources so that Castro and Chavez could have lunch. One of its members criticized the expenses at a time when Venezuelans are going hungry and can not buy presents for their kids.


 


I personally find the visit by Fidel Castro at this time to be another proof of how insensitive Hugo Chávez is. At a time when what is being questioned is whether this is a democratic Government or not, inviting the leader of the Latin American Dictators to have “a little lunch” is simply insensitive, if not grotesque or obscene. To spend all of this money on this visit is also another demonstration that Chavez loves the opulence that surrounds his power. Maybe somebody pointed all of this out to Chavez after his impulse invitation of the Cuban President and that is why it was “dissapeared” from the media. If anyone wants to defend Castro’s visit to Venezuela, here you can find thousands of reasons, why I am not even willing to listen to them.  Yes, these are all real people, killed by Chavez’ good friend Fidel Castro. Try to explain that one to any civilized human being.

A visit by the Dictator himself

December 22, 2003


 


After publicly inviting him last week, yesterday Hugo Chavez announced with joy that his friend Fidel Castro would be coming to visit Caracas today and would have lunch in the Presidential palace. Despite that announcement,  there were no reports of the Cuban Dictator showing up in Caracas today and reports indicated he was at The Orchila Island since Sunday, where Chávez met with him today. Curiously, La Orchila was developed by former Venezuelan Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez for his personal enjoyment and that of his friends. The only indication today that Castro was in Venezuela was a letter published in Cuba, reportedly from Caracas, in which he greets Cuban teachers who are in Venezuela. Obviously, Mr. Castro did or could not make any statements like that of the Russian Foreign Minister, who was also visiting the country today and expressed his desire for Venezuelans to solve their problems through the Constitution and democracy. The “Solidaridad” group, composed of politicians who supported Chavez’ bid for the Presidency and accompanied him until a little over a year ago, were highly critical of the deployment of resources so that Castro and Chavez could have lunch. One of its members criticized the expenses at a time when Venezuelans are going hungry and can not buy presents for their kids.


 


I personally find the visit by Fidel Castro at this time to be another proof of how insensitive Hugo Chávez is. At a time when what is being questioned is whether this is a democratic Government or not, inviting the leader of the Latin American Dictators to have “a little lunch” is simply insensitive, if not grotesque or obscene. To spend all of this money on this visit is also another demonstration that Chavez loves the opulence that surrounds his power. Maybe somebody pointed all of this out to Chavez after his impulse invitation of the Cuban President and that is why it was “dissapeared” from the media. If anyone wants to defend Castro’s visit to Venezuela, here you can find thousands of reasons, why I am not even willing to listen to them.  Yes, these are all real people, killed by Chavez’ good friend Fidel Castro. Try to explain that one to any civilized human being.

Another attempt to derail petition: What else is new?

December 21, 2003

Pro-Chavez forces are once again trying to throw a stumbling block in the path of the referendum, this time by asking that the CNE digitize and check all of the fingerprints gathered with the petition in late December. Of course, if this was required, the process would not be completed before August as the CNE does not have either the equipment nor the know how required to do this. This has never been required in any Venzuelan election or in the two referenda held in 2000 to change and approve the new Constitution. To those that keep questioning whether the opposition has or not the required votes, I ask: If that were so, why not just have the referendum, beat the opposition and get it over with? The answer, to me, is quite obvious.

US Treasury department follows Al-Qaeda link in Venezuela

December 21, 2003

Local newspaper El Universal reports that the US Government is following a trail of money that financed the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks from Venezuela. According to the article, since the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center funds from Venezuela have helped finance Al-Qaeda. Reportedly, local banks are helping follow the money trail with agents from the Department of the Treasury. The money leads to three states: Zulia, Nueva Esparta (where Margarita island is located) and Tachira.

It’s the holiday season, relax

December 21, 2003

It’s the holiday season, relax and enjoy these pictures of orchids I just posted.

It’s the holiday season, relax

December 21, 2003

It’s the holiday season, relax and enjoy these pictures of orchids I just posted.

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