Archive for April, 2004

Soldiers burnt with flame thrower?

April 28, 2004

A former reporter who is now an Accion Democratica Deputy in the National Assembly, charged today that the soldiers burnt in the Mara Fort in Zulia state were burnt with a flame thrower. Reportedly, frame thrower are used in border opertaions between Colombia and Venezuela which is what Fort Mara is mostly used for. Sounds too far fetched to me, but if true it will give a level of human rights abuse within the military that nobody in Venezuela ever dreamed of.

Soldiers burnt with flame thrower?

April 28, 2004

A former reporter who is now an Accion Democratica Deputy in the National Assembly, charged today that the soldiers burnt in the Mara Fort in Zulia state were burnt with a flame thrower. Reportedly, frame thrower are used in border opertaions between Colombia and Venezuela which is what Fort Mara is mostly used for. Sounds too far fetched to me, but if true it will give a level of human rights abuse within the military that nobody in Venezuela ever dreamed of.

Coordinadora announces it will participate in signatuer ratification process

April 28, 2004

 


The Coordinadora Democrática (CD) which in theory represents the opposition announced yesterday that it will participate in the process for the ratification of the signatures requesting a recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez.


 


The decision was not an easy one. In fact, most of the major political parties actually disagreed with it, thinking that it was a matter of principle and there had been too may tricks on the part of the Government and the CNE to give any credibility to the process. In the end it appeared as if the opinion of Súmate and the fact that a large majority of those that participated in the process wanted to continue, helped the CD make its own decision. Súmate is NGO that has participated in the opposition signature gathering processes helping organize and evaluate them.


 


Most major political parties were absent from the press conference in which Miranda Governor Enrique Mendoza announced the decision to go forward. While some parties had expressed that they will cooperate if the decision was to participate, the absence of Proyecto Venezuela, COPEI, Primero Justicia and Causa R at the podium of the event could not be missed. Primero Justicia said that while it disagreed with the decision it will help the process.


Sumate said the goal of obtaining the required signatures was feasible as long as certain conditions were met.  Chief among them was the fact that the process had to be efficient in order to handle the lines of people that may show up. This appears to be the main concern at this time.


 


In the end, 1.91 million signatures were deemed valid by the CNE, 1.19 need to be ratified and 375 thousand were simply discarded. In the end 45% of the signatures were set aside and 11% were invalid.


 


Sumate was highly critical of the CNE. It said that when comparing databases 27% of the signatures changed status from the second to the third database, without any additional verification taking place during that time. Even more remarkable were the many anecdotes circulating, including the fact that the signature of one of the main negotiators for the opposition with the CNE simply disappeared as well as a number of major opposition leaders whose signatures were set aside and will have to be ratified. The CNE later said these charges were false.


 


The CD will now hold a number of activities from now until the day when the process will take place. There will be activities during the first week to help people identify the location of the 2700 centers where people will be able to go to ratify their signatures. On May 8th. there will be a drive to have people go to each of the polling station and find out whether their signatures as valid, invalid or need to be ratified. The week before the process the CD will attempt to contact everyone that has expressed their desire to ratify their signature in order to guarantee the largest possible turnout.


 


Some people think it will be impossible to get the required number of people to go. While it is true that people are tired of the whole process, it should be pointed out that abstention should not be high for this part of the process; after all, those that signed in November will be motivated to have their signature validated.


The question at this time is whether there will be additional tricks on the way. One such stealth trick took place on Tuesday this week when the President of the Supreme Court named a pro-Chavez Justice of the Court to write opinions on the conflicts between the different Halls. This is just manipulation to gain time. If and when the majority of the full Court is against it, a new justice who is part of the majority will then need to be appointed to write the opinion. This essentially blocks the possibility of a full Court decision by at least one month.

Coordinadora announces it will participate in signatuer ratification process

April 28, 2004

 


The Coordinadora Democrática (CD) which in theory represents the opposition announced yesterday that it will participate in the process for the ratification of the signatures requesting a recall referendum against President Hugo Chavez.


 


The decision was not an easy one. In fact, most of the major political parties actually disagreed with it, thinking that it was a matter of principle and there had been too may tricks on the part of the Government and the CNE to give any credibility to the process. In the end it appeared as if the opinion of Súmate and the fact that a large majority of those that participated in the process wanted to continue, helped the CD make its own decision. Súmate is NGO that has participated in the opposition signature gathering processes helping organize and evaluate them.


 


Most major political parties were absent from the press conference in which Miranda Governor Enrique Mendoza announced the decision to go forward. While some parties had expressed that they will cooperate if the decision was to participate, the absence of Proyecto Venezuela, COPEI, Primero Justicia and Causa R at the podium of the event could not be missed. Primero Justicia said that while it disagreed with the decision it will help the process.


Sumate said the goal of obtaining the required signatures was feasible as long as certain conditions were met.  Chief among them was the fact that the process had to be efficient in order to handle the lines of people that may show up. This appears to be the main concern at this time.


 


In the end, 1.91 million signatures were deemed valid by the CNE, 1.19 need to be ratified and 375 thousand were simply discarded. In the end 45% of the signatures were set aside and 11% were invalid.


 


Sumate was highly critical of the CNE. It said that when comparing databases 27% of the signatures changed status from the second to the third database, without any additional verification taking place during that time. Even more remarkable were the many anecdotes circulating, including the fact that the signature of one of the main negotiators for the opposition with the CNE simply disappeared as well as a number of major opposition leaders whose signatures were set aside and will have to be ratified. The CNE later said these charges were false.


 


The CD will now hold a number of activities from now until the day when the process will take place. There will be activities during the first week to help people identify the location of the 2700 centers where people will be able to go to ratify their signatures. On May 8th. there will be a drive to have people go to each of the polling station and find out whether their signatures as valid, invalid or need to be ratified. The week before the process the CD will attempt to contact everyone that has expressed their desire to ratify their signature in order to guarantee the largest possible turnout.


 


Some people think it will be impossible to get the required number of people to go. While it is true that people are tired of the whole process, it should be pointed out that abstention should not be high for this part of the process; after all, those that signed in November will be motivated to have their signature validated.


The question at this time is whether there will be additional tricks on the way. One such stealth trick took place on Tuesday this week when the President of the Supreme Court named a pro-Chavez Justice of the Court to write opinions on the conflicts between the different Halls. This is just manipulation to gain time. If and when the majority of the full Court is against it, a new justice who is part of the majority will then need to be appointed to write the opinion. This essentially blocks the possibility of a full Court decision by at least one month.

Corruption in CADIVI back in the news

April 27, 2004

Today the charges of corruption at CADIVI picked up. Tal Cual’ Editorial is on the subject, a lot like what I discussed a couple of days ago. Adina Bastidas was definitely on the offensive again yesterday (El Nacional by subscription only). She charged that fifty (50!) CADIVI workers were caught charging a commission for speeding up handing out foreign currency. Of course, she said little about what has been done about it. What use it to know about it and not charge them? I did find surprising that she says that private debt is not being approved yet, when it is the second largest item for which foreign currency ahs been given out.


Meanwhile the Head of the exchange office Mr. Hernandez Behrens has been extremely quiet on the issue, which we find disturbing. You have to give credit to former Vice-President Bastidas; at least she is going public with it!!

The Religious Policeman

April 27, 2004

It’s not easy to find a blog that is so fascinating that you go back and read the whole thing from the beginning, but Saudi blogger The Religious Policeman certainly fits that category. Absolutely fascinating stuff, the culture, the Government, the religion, as well as the fact that the blogger is so far removed, but so much alike any of us at the same time. I loved the parts about how technology is being used to skirt the rules or how technology is changing the rules. Read it! You will enjoy it.

Of spooks and blogs

April 27, 2004

Via Lucienne.com, a news site, I learn about the article in Investors Business Daily (which I usually read, but had not looked at today) about  “blog tracking” by US intelligence agencies. Some highlights:


Some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others”


The CIA and FBI haven’t publicly commented about use of blogs in their work, but many D.C. observers believe both agencies monitor certain blogs.


At least one nation, China, is actively tracking blogs. It’s also reportedly trying to block blogs. Several press reports earlier this year said the government shut two blogging services and banned access to all Web logs by Chinese citizens.”


 


Even more interesting (and surprising!), the link to the article says:


 


“If anything, this is an understatement. Check out the blog situation on Venezuela – the information not covered by the media is just incredible. If spies are not tracking this, they are missing out big-time.

Long live blogs!”


 


Which is followed up by a comment with advertising for the usual suspects as well as yours truly:


 


“We can post links to our favorite blogs any time we like to add background. Here are my favorite Venezuelan blogs in English. Boy do they dish the dirt:

Caracas Chronicles
Daniel’s Venezuelan Blog
VCrisis
Devil’s Excrement
Gustavo Coronel’s Blog
Militares Democraticos


 


From Caracas I say hi to all the spooks from both sides. I mean you guys from the .mil and the .cu’s of the world, we know you are watching…and we find it soooo cool!.

Of spooks and blogs

April 27, 2004

Via Lucienne.com, a news site, I learn about the article in Investors Business Daily (which I usually read, but had not looked at today) about  “blog tracking” by US intelligence agencies. Some highlights:


Some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others”


The CIA and FBI haven’t publicly commented about use of blogs in their work, but many D.C. observers believe both agencies monitor certain blogs.


At least one nation, China, is actively tracking blogs. It’s also reportedly trying to block blogs. Several press reports earlier this year said the government shut two blogging services and banned access to all Web logs by Chinese citizens.”


 


Even more interesting (and surprising!), the link to the article says:


 


“If anything, this is an understatement. Check out the blog situation on Venezuela – the information not covered by the media is just incredible. If spies are not tracking this, they are missing out big-time.

Long live blogs!”


 


Which is followed up by a comment with advertising for the usual suspects as well as yours truly:


 


“We can post links to our favorite blogs any time we like to add background. Here are my favorite Venezuelan blogs in English. Boy do they dish the dirt:

Caracas Chronicles
Daniel’s Venezuelan Blog
VCrisis
Devil’s Excrement
Gustavo Coronel’s Blog
Militares Democraticos


 


From Caracas I say hi to all the spooks from both sides. I mean you guys from the .mil and the .cu’s of the world, we know you are watching…and we find it soooo cool!.

No democracy for Hong Kong either

April 27, 2004

Just to keep things in perspective, China has just announced that there will be no elections for Hong Kong’s Chief Executive in 2007 and no legislative elections in 2008. I guess here we can still hope or dream we will have something even earlier than that. Over there it is simply a resounding no from a higher authority.


Maybe I should just move to Kowloon, start a blog (The Dragon’s Excrement?) and help out there while things settle down here. I could even learn Chinese in the process.

Fighting corruption with a five year delay?

April 25, 2004

 


I have been meaning to write about the weird signals coming out of the Government on corruption and Descifrado beat me to parts of it. Interestingly enough, Tal Cual picked up the Descifrado story verbatim on Friday, which I do not recall ever seeing before


 


Basically, for the last month, there have been rumblings about corruption in CADIVI, the exchange control office, with most accusations directed straight at former Vice-President Adina Bastidas who is on the Board of CADIVI, with rumors saying that she introduces herself as the Vice-President of that office, a position that simply does not exist.


 


Everyone has stories about corruption in CADIVI, that you can speed up processes by paying a small amount and reportedly you can get foreign currency for almost any purpose, at a price. Earlier I wrote an article showing that the levels of private foreign debt approved to receive foreign currency at the official rate last year, appeared to be too large when compared to what was given to imports in 2003.


 


Well, to everyone’s surprise, Ms. Bastidas went on the offensive, saying there is indeed corruption in CADIVI. In a TV program on the official channel, she asked for an unbiased investigation of the charges. (sounds like the opposition, no?). She went even further, saying that the corrupt forces within CADIVI claim to be with her when they ask for commissions and use her name as a way of projecting confidence. Bastidas even said that she has been denouncing corruption in CADIVI in the committee that oversees policy, but is she has it has been very quiet as her TV appearance was the first time that anyone heard about it. That committee has very high Government officials in it, including the Minister of Finance.


 


But if that was surprising, imagine when none other than Hugo Chavez spoke against corruption in his Government for the first time in the last five years. While the President always mentions those that got rich during the first forty years of democracy, he had never refereed to the many corruption cases in his Government. As early as 2000, Chavez then Chief of the Intelligence Police Jesus Urdaneta denounced 43 corruption cases all of which have gone without investigation, which led to Urdaneta’s resignation.


 


Well, Chavez was very direct last week saying that some are trying to get rich off the revolution, something that he will not tolerate. Meanwhile, the Head of CADIVI, whose motto is “God is love and prosperity” (No exaggeration, check the web page: Dios es amor y prosperidad!) has yet to say anything about the charges in a clear sign, as Descifrado clearly points out, that there is a strong internal war within the exchange control office.


 


For once, I was actually eagerly waiting to see if Chavez mentioned corruption again in his Sunday nationwide address “Alo Presidente”, but he cancelled it for health reasons. Oh, shucks!


 


(By the way, for those that believe in the separation of church and state, this is a logo from CADIVI’s page:



Translation: let’s pray for a christian Venezuela……..)

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