Archive for February 24th, 2004

The big rip off is on, very sad day for Venezuela

February 24, 2004

 


By the usual 3-2 vote, the Consejo Nacional Electoral decided to keep under observation 148,000 forms with the signatures for the petition requesting for President Chavez’ recall. Next week, a decision will be made on how people will be able to contest the exclusion of their signature from the petition. Sobella Mejias, who voted against the decision, said this is a flagrant violation of the regulations the CNE approved and of the Constitutional right for requesting a recall. This is a very dirty decision and a rip off by the pro-Chavez members of the CNE, violates the law and goes against the tradition of what a person’s signature is worth and means.


 


Essentially in one big swipe, the CNE managed to set aside close to 1.4 million signatures of the 3.4 million submitted by the opposition, managing in this way to reduce the number below the 2.4 million required to hold a referendum to recall Hugo Chavez. The trick was to disqualify those signatures in which the person at the poll booth gathering the petition filled out the data, copying it from the national idenity card of the person signing. This was legal as the regulations only said that the person had to sign and stamp his/her fingerprint and the data had to match that of the electoral registry.  International observers monitored the process and both the OAS and the Carter Center knew that the opposition had the required minimum for the recall to take place.


 


What apparently will happen now, is that hundreds of thousands of people will once again have to go out to say they did sign the petition. This is a travesty, a simple petition has turned into a complex process in which the person’s signature and fingerprint were questioned without any basis whatsoever. The burden of proof was on the electoral body to show they were fake, not the other way around. Getting enough people to go and say they did sign is doable, but this uses up time, which is of the essence. According to the country’s Constitution, if the recall vote takes place after Aug. 19th., Chavez’ fourth anniversary in office, instead of electing a new President, the Vice-President takes over.


 


This is the third time that a referendum petition handed in by the opposition is blocked on the basis of technicalities. So much for the “participative” democracy that Hugo Chavez used to proclaim.


 


It is a very sad day for Venezuelan democracy, whatever is left of it.

Carnival, the CNE and Guyana

February 24, 2004

 


The country is simply dead. No Alo Presidente on Sunday (a blessing!). Few politicians around, as the urgency of the political crisis is set aside for a few days, while people celebrate Venezuela’s non-existent Carnival. Instead, they go to the beach, to their hometown and those that are stuck at home or in the barrios throw water or eggs at passersbys. Such tradition!.


 


And speaking of tradition, Venezuelan politicians can’t even keep a promise for two days. Last Friday, the President of the CNE was on TV saying how the Board would work hard all weekend to resolve the huge issues facing them. But they acted with the same faithfulness and responsibility that characterizes Venezuelan fatherhood, no sooner had Carrasquero made his statement, that a caller to a TV program said that he was at the airport leaving for Maracaibo. The next day, he was not there but the other four Directors were. On Sunday they were still working, sans Carrasquero, but by today the CNE was a deserted as the rest of the city.


 


Thus the beat goes on and the only big topic of discussion was Chavez’ statements in Guyana, right before the Carnival holidays. You can read more details in Daniel’s blog but I can’t pass it up.


 


Essentially, Venezuela has had a long standing dispute with Guyana over a territory which is about 16% that of Venezuela (and 40% of Guyana’s!). At the turn of the century, there was a decision by an international Court that that area belonged to Guyana, then a British colony. Later, it was discovered through the will of one of those that participated in the decision, that it had all been fixed. Since 1949, Venezuela has been “claiming” this area. Venezuela has taken it to international courts and the “fight” has dragged on for years. It is a very emotional issue of the type I dislike.


 


Venezuela signed an agreement, known as the Geneva agreement, to look for a peaceful solution to the dispute. In 1999, the United Nations named a mediator to try to find a solution to the problem. Chavez’ own new Constitution defines the borders of the country and includes the Guyana territory within it, by defining the borders as those at the time of the “Capitania General” around 1810. Moreover, when the current Vice-President was Minister of Defense he got all worked up once, denouncing that Guyana was trying to assign areas within the claimed territory to oil companies for exploration. (It is not demonstrated that there is oil there anyway)


 


Last week. Chavez went to Guyana on an official visit and surprised everyone by giving the green light to that country’s President to begin oil exploration in the claimed area. This is a complete about face of the policy of the last six Venezuelan Governments including Chavez’.


 


The question is then, why would the supposedly hyper nationalistic Chávez change his mind on this issue all of a sudden? Easy, if Chavez were to stop the recall referendum, the OAS will likely attempt to invoke the Democratic letter of that organization, of which Venezuela is a signee. However, the countries of the CARICOM would have to vote against Venezuela for that to happen. Not an easy thing, given that Venezuela sells subsidized oil to many of these countries. Thus, the opposition charges, Chavez changed his mind simply to save his own skin.


 


 


In my mind, this is one of those nationalistic issues that seem to bring the worst in people. I find it amazingly hypocritical that politicians that have not been able to take care (then and now) of the almost one million square kilometers of land we already have, actually want to add more to it, to mismanage it or ignore it. But I am sure someone is going to get mad at me for thinking the Guyana claim is not that important. Sorry, I just don’t.  


 


Do we need that area to survive? Is it crucial to our development? Would we do anything with it if it were given back to us? Do the citizens of that area speak English or Spanish? Do they want to be part of Venezuela or Guyana? 


 


If we were up to me, I would negotiate something sensible with Guyana so that both countries could get on with their lives, the politicians screwing the citizens as usual. Of course, any agreemnet would have to be done under the law, with the approval of the National Assembly, which would have to change the Constitution and approve the treaty. This is essentially impossible. And this is where Chavez blew it; he can not act like he did at the personal level and make a decision which violates the law and the Constitution. But what else is new? Unfortunately this distracts attention from the more pressing problems of the country.

Carnival, the CNE and Guyana

February 24, 2004

 


The country is simply dead. No Alo Presidente on Sunday (a blessing!). Few politicians around, as the urgency of the political crisis is set aside for a few days, while people celebrate Venezuela’s non-existent Carnival. Instead, they go to the beach, to their hometown and those that are stuck at home or in the barrios throw water or eggs at passersbys. Such tradition!.


 


And speaking of tradition, Venezuelan politicians can’t even keep a promise for two days. Last Friday, the President of the CNE was on TV saying how the Board would work hard all weekend to resolve the huge issues facing them. But they acted with the same faithfulness and responsibility that characterizes Venezuelan fatherhood, no sooner had Carrasquero made his statement, that a caller to a TV program said that he was at the airport leaving for Maracaibo. The next day, he was not there but the other four Directors were. On Sunday they were still working, sans Carrasquero, but by today the CNE was a deserted as the rest of the city.


 


Thus the beat goes on and the only big topic of discussion was Chavez’ statements in Guyana, right before the Carnival holidays. You can read more details in Daniel’s blog but I can’t pass it up.


 


Essentially, Venezuela has had a long standing dispute with Guyana over a territory which is about 16% that of Venezuela (and 40% of Guyana’s!). At the turn of the century, there was a decision by an international Court that that area belonged to Guyana, then a British colony. Later, it was discovered through the will of one of those that participated in the decision, that it had all been fixed. Since 1949, Venezuela has been “claiming” this area. Venezuela has taken it to international courts and the “fight” has dragged on for years. It is a very emotional issue of the type I dislike.


 


Venezuela signed an agreement, known as the Geneva agreement, to look for a peaceful solution to the dispute. In 1999, the United Nations named a mediator to try to find a solution to the problem. Chavez’ own new Constitution defines the borders of the country and includes the Guyana territory within it, by defining the borders as those at the time of the “Capitania General” around 1810. Moreover, when the current Vice-President was Minister of Defense he got all worked up once, denouncing that Guyana was trying to assign areas within the claimed territory to oil companies for exploration. (It is not demonstrated that there is oil there anyway)


 


Last week. Chavez went to Guyana on an official visit and surprised everyone by giving the green light to that country’s President to begin oil exploration in the claimed area. This is a complete about face of the policy of the last six Venezuelan Governments including Chavez’.


 


The question is then, why would the supposedly hyper nationalistic Chávez change his mind on this issue all of a sudden? Easy, if Chavez were to stop the recall referendum, the OAS will likely attempt to invoke the Democratic letter of that organization, of which Venezuela is a signee. However, the countries of the CARICOM would have to vote against Venezuela for that to happen. Not an easy thing, given that Venezuela sells subsidized oil to many of these countries. Thus, the opposition charges, Chavez changed his mind simply to save his own skin.


 


 


In my mind, this is one of those nationalistic issues that seem to bring the worst in people. I find it amazingly hypocritical that politicians that have not been able to take care (then and now) of the almost one million square kilometers of land we already have, actually want to add more to it, to mismanage it or ignore it. But I am sure someone is going to get mad at me for thinking the Guyana claim is not that important. Sorry, I just don’t.  


 


Do we need that area to survive? Is it crucial to our development? Would we do anything with it if it were given back to us? Do the citizens of that area speak English or Spanish? Do they want to be part of Venezuela or Guyana? 


 


If we were up to me, I would negotiate something sensible with Guyana so that both countries could get on with their lives, the politicians screwing the citizens as usual. Of course, any agreemnet would have to be done under the law, with the approval of the National Assembly, which would have to change the Constitution and approve the treaty. This is essentially impossible. And this is where Chavez blew it; he can not act like he did at the personal level and make a decision which violates the law and the Constitution. But what else is new? Unfortunately this distracts attention from the more pressing problems of the country.

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