Archive for January 30th, 2004

The smoking gun for cheating and bad faith

January 30, 2004

 


Today’s big news was the accusation by leaders of Movimiento al Socialism (MAS) that the Consejo Nacional electoral had disqualified 20% of the signatures gathered by the opposition to ask for Hugo Chavez’ recall. While El Nacional (by subscription) decided to make a big deal about it, it was simply old news and incorrect, but it provided clear proof that there was something very sneaky going on at the CNE at the verification levels, which merited last week’s conflict between international observers and Government authorities.


 


The truth was that not a single signature has been disqualified yet from the petition. In the first stage of the verification process, those forms (there are ten signatures per form) that have irregularities are set aside to be inspected by the quality control group as well as the technical committee. These two instances will decide whether the forms will be included in the verification of the signatures or not. The big scandal the week that the OAS and Carter met with CNE authorities was precisely over the fact that all of a sudden the number of questionable forms jumped from single digit levels to as high as 60%.


 


The table below clearly demonstrates that there was bad faith in the process. The verification of the forms was done alphabetically state by state. This table taken from page 2 of Tal Cual shows how after checking thirteen states the percentage of forms set aside for irregularities never exceeded 10%. Given that the opposition handed in close to 30% more signatures than it needed to activate the recall vote, this meant that the process was moving smoothly towards a recall. But then all of a sudden and in a manner which can not be justified by statistics, the same criteria began yielding rejection levels as high as 65%!. This was what raised all the issues that lead to allowing international observers to participate in all stages of the verification process. Just the week before the CNE had decided that they would not participate precisely in the stages where the validity of these forms would have been decided. Thus, as the Tal Cual headline clearly said it today, no signatures have been disqualified. That is certainly the good news. The bad news is that there is clearly a pattern of cheating and bad faith present which is aimed at blocking the possibility of a Presidential recall. Fortunately for the opposition, the people carrying this out are so stupid, that their blatant attempt at hijacking the will of the people has been clearly exposed. Unfortunately, not one of those CNE workers has been fired yet, while the CNE union continues to charge that more people are being fired in order to hire more pro-Chavez workers. Moreover, since the President of the CNE continues to defend the fact that he knows what is going on at all levels within his organization, he is either being taken for a ride or not as honorable as he claims to be.



Note added on Saturday January 31st.: The Table above does not include Zulia State which was completed yesterday. In that State 61.15% of the forms were put under observation bringing the total to 93,975 or roughly 939,750 signatures. The regulations say that only signatures can be invalidated, but this is definitely a source of concern.


 

The media, Kerry, Dean and Iraq

January 30, 2004

 


Although I have been concerned by events in Venezuela I have been following closely what has been happening in the Democratic primary in the US. I must say that from reading the traditional newspapers I got the feeling that Dean was the sure winner, while reading the bloggers I got a completely different picture. In fact, newspapers gave me the impression that Dean was first followed by Clark and then Kerry. Bloggers gave me the impression Kerry was their preference but was far behind. Then Dean lost in Iowa, had his little explosion and seems to be history now.


 


Since I am on the subject, you should read this response by an Iraqi blogger to Dean’s statement:


 


“You can say that it’s great that Saddam is gone and I’m sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.”


 


An excerpt:


 


I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

The media, Kerry, Dean and Iraq

January 30, 2004

 


Although I have been concerned by events in Venezuela I have been following closely what has been happening in the Democratic primary in the US. I must say that from reading the traditional newspapers I got the feeling that Dean was the sure winner, while reading the bloggers I got a completely different picture. In fact, newspapers gave me the impression that Dean was first followed by Clark and then Kerry. Bloggers gave me the impression Kerry was their preference but was far behind. Then Dean lost in Iowa, had his little explosion and seems to be history now.


 


Since I am on the subject, you should read this response by an Iraqi blogger to Dean’s statement:


 


“You can say that it’s great that Saddam is gone and I’m sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.”


 


An excerpt:


 


I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

Violence hits Merida today

January 30, 2004


Lots of violence today in the student city of Merida today in Southwestern Venezuela. Opposition students had organized a march to protest the summons received by many opposition leaders and the Bishop of Merida over the events of April 2002. The march could not proceed because the police used tear gas and plastic bullets to stop the students as they approached downtown Merida. In the middle of the confusion, unknown groups assaulted the headquarters of opposition party Acción Democrática (AD) and burned it. In the last report there were four students and two cops injured. As usual, justice was one-sided, the Governor of Merida state ordered an investigation of the leader of the Universidad de Los Andes Student Union for his role in the violence today, but no investigation has been opened on either the police or those that burned down the AD headquarters. Curiously the Prosecutor in the case happens to be the same one the Attorney General used in the case of the Puente El LLaguno shootings on April 10th. 2002, who were freed by the judge after the case was moved to a Court in Aragua state. That Prosecutor is an expert on environmental matters but is regularly used in cases with important political implications by our esteemed and cynical Attorney General.


 


 Let us hope that this is not a preview of things to come.

Violence hits Merida today

January 30, 2004


Lots of violence today in the student city of Merida today in Southwestern Venezuela. Opposition students had organized a march to protest the summons received by many opposition leaders and the Bishop of Merida over the events of April 2002. The march could not proceed because the police used tear gas and plastic bullets to stop the students as they approached downtown Merida. In the middle of the confusion, unknown groups assaulted the headquarters of opposition party Acción Democrática (AD) and burned it. In the last report there were four students and two cops injured. As usual, justice was one-sided, the Governor of Merida state ordered an investigation of the leader of the Universidad de Los Andes Student Union for his role in the violence today, but no investigation has been opened on either the police or those that burned down the AD headquarters. Curiously the Prosecutor in the case happens to be the same one the Attorney General used in the case of the Puente El LLaguno shootings on April 10th. 2002, who were freed by the judge after the case was moved to a Court in Aragua state. That Prosecutor is an expert on environmental matters but is regularly used in cases with important political implications by our esteemed and cynical Attorney General.


 


 Let us hope that this is not a preview of things to come.

Central Bank Director slams Government policies

January 30, 2004

 


After reading this morning’s interviews with Central Bank Director Domingo Maza Zavala in today’s El Universal and El Nacional (by subscription only page A-14) I was planning to do very much what Tal Cual did in its front page today of highlighting Maza Zavala’s criticism of the Government’s economic policy, item by item. What is interesting is that the statements are made by a one time Chavez sympathizer, who used to be considered a Marxist economist and is now the leading critic of the Government’s economic policy. I am amazed at the fact that I agree so much with Maza’s statements these days. During the Caldera exchange controls in 1995, when Maza was first named to the Board of the Central Bank, we used to have the “Maza Zavala weekly Award” given to the Government official who made the most stupid comment on the economy during the week. How times change! today Maza criticizes the Government regularly with great precision and today he slammed the Government, making very straightforward observations about its erroneous economic policies. Here is Maza’s list:


 


-There is an attempt to transform PDVSA into a different organization, whose destiny we do not know, in such a way that our oil potential could decline.


-Oil potential needs investment, if not, it drops, which is what is happening. Oil should contribute 30% to GDP and that contribution has dropped to 23%.


-Last year imports were US$ 9-10 billion and over half of that was financed outside the controlled exchange market.


-The parallel market grows because of the official restriction, the problem is not lack of foreign currency, the Central bank assigns the exhange control office US$ 1.5 billion a month and the office returns half of that.


-It is dangerous to submit the country to shortages of medicines, foodstuffs…


-The Government proposes to increase expenditures to extraordinary levels putting money in circulation in a profusive and diffusive way.


-An effective recovery rests on the private sector, we gain nothing by recovering to fall again.


-He criticized the growth in internal debt which went from 2 trillion Bs. to Bs. 22 trillion.


-Internal debt is a risk to the banking system at 25-30% of assets (it is more!!).


-We are facing an increasing inefficiency of public expenditure, the multiplication of administrative institutions, and growth without organization.


-Private investment has been at a rate of 8% of GDP, it should be at 25%.


-There is no such thing as excess international reserves.


-The parallel exchange rate of Bs . 2700 per US$ is the one used in fixing prices and thus inflation.


 


Wow! No wonder Chavez does not like the Central Bank.

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