Archive for October 3rd, 2004

Brother: Can you spare some democracy?

October 3, 2004

Psychologist Axel Capriles says in today’s El Nacional that Venezuelans have no democratic culture and that forty years ago a political elite “invented” Venezuelan democracy when it defeated the military dictatorship but that there was no real conscience of democracy.


Well, I don’t know if Capriles’ generalization is correct but it is truly amazing to me that neither side, Government or opposition, is really trying to even follow what the Venezuelan Constitution so clearly states in Article 67, that candidates have to be selected by the members of political parties, implying that a primary needs to be held for all positions. But primaries are rare in Venezuela and until last week’s Tachira primary, none had been held since 1993 by any political party.


 


The Tachira primary was interesting and now there seems to be a new form of “Chavismo” that is fielding candidates independent of Chavez’ choices. Basically, these are pro-Chávez groups that are not supportive of MVR’s Candidates or the way they were chosen. This does not mean that they followed the Constitution either, while many claim to have chosen their candidates “from the bottom”, the mechanisms that were used are not transparent or clear, but they seem to be fighting for much needed democracy.


 


These parallel pro-Chávez groups have fielded more than 35 candidacies for Governor in 16 states and have their own candidates in about half the cities that are electing Mayors at the end of October. To eliminate confusion, the campaign command of Chávez’ MVR will distribute nationwide a list of Chavez approved candidates so as not to leave any doubt among its supporters of who the approved candidates are.


 


The opposition faces the same confusion and problem, with AD being the party that has apparently blocked the possibility for at least fielding alliances. The solution is somewhat half-assed, rather than using democracy, they are using polls to determine which candidate has more popularity, a remarkable approach in a country where most people don’t believe in polls.


 


To me the opposition blew an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that it had significant different beliefs than the Chavistas, but it failed to grab the moment, which as Capriles says is evidence of the absence of democratic culture. So, they have no different beliefs there when you come down to it.


 


Interestingly, the only party that has made a very concrete, democratic and selfish proposal has been Primero Justicia, which has offered to renounce to all of its candidacies in the interest of unity as long as a reasonably open proposal is made to select single candidates to all positions.


 


In the end, it comes down not only to a problem of whether we have a democratic culture or not, but also of the lack of independent powers and checks and balances. If the Attorney general, People’s Ombudsman or the Supreme Court suggested that those candidates not selected by democratic means according to the Constitution would be barred from running, then everything would be quite different. But then again, if there were independent powers, everything would be so different anyway.

Brother: Can you spare some democracy?

October 3, 2004

Psychologist Axel Capriles says in today’s El Nacional that Venezuelans have no democratic culture and that forty years ago a political elite “invented” Venezuelan democracy when it defeated the military dictatorship but that there was no real conscience of democracy.


Well, I don’t know if Capriles’ generalization is correct but it is truly amazing to me that neither side, Government or opposition, is really trying to even follow what the Venezuelan Constitution so clearly states in Article 67, that candidates have to be selected by the members of political parties, implying that a primary needs to be held for all positions. But primaries are rare in Venezuela and until last week’s Tachira primary, none had been held since 1993 by any political party.


 


The Tachira primary was interesting and now there seems to be a new form of “Chavismo” that is fielding candidates independent of Chavez’ choices. Basically, these are pro-Chávez groups that are not supportive of MVR’s Candidates or the way they were chosen. This does not mean that they followed the Constitution either, while many claim to have chosen their candidates “from the bottom”, the mechanisms that were used are not transparent or clear, but they seem to be fighting for much needed democracy.


 


These parallel pro-Chávez groups have fielded more than 35 candidacies for Governor in 16 states and have their own candidates in about half the cities that are electing Mayors at the end of October. To eliminate confusion, the campaign command of Chávez’ MVR will distribute nationwide a list of Chavez approved candidates so as not to leave any doubt among its supporters of who the approved candidates are.


 


The opposition faces the same confusion and problem, with AD being the party that has apparently blocked the possibility for at least fielding alliances. The solution is somewhat half-assed, rather than using democracy, they are using polls to determine which candidate has more popularity, a remarkable approach in a country where most people don’t believe in polls.


 


To me the opposition blew an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that it had significant different beliefs than the Chavistas, but it failed to grab the moment, which as Capriles says is evidence of the absence of democratic culture. So, they have no different beliefs there when you come down to it.


 


Interestingly, the only party that has made a very concrete, democratic and selfish proposal has been Primero Justicia, which has offered to renounce to all of its candidacies in the interest of unity as long as a reasonably open proposal is made to select single candidates to all positions.


 


In the end, it comes down not only to a problem of whether we have a democratic culture or not, but also of the lack of independent powers and checks and balances. If the Attorney general, People’s Ombudsman or the Supreme Court suggested that those candidates not selected by democratic means according to the Constitution would be barred from running, then everything would be quite different. But then again, if there were independent powers, everything would be so different anyway.

Brother: Can you spare some democracy?

October 3, 2004

Psychologist Axel Capriles says in today’s El Nacional that Venezuelans have no democratic culture and that forty years ago a political elite “invented” Venezuelan democracy when it defeated the military dictatorship but that there was no real conscience of democracy.


Well, I don’t know if Capriles’ generalization is correct but it is truly amazing to me that neither side, Government or opposition, is really trying to even follow what the Venezuelan Constitution so clearly states in Article 67, that candidates have to be selected by the members of political parties, implying that a primary needs to be held for all positions. But primaries are rare in Venezuela and until last week’s Tachira primary, none had been held since 1993 by any political party.


 


The Tachira primary was interesting and now there seems to be a new form of “Chavismo” that is fielding candidates independent of Chavez’ choices. Basically, these are pro-Chávez groups that are not supportive of MVR’s Candidates or the way they were chosen. This does not mean that they followed the Constitution either, while many claim to have chosen their candidates “from the bottom”, the mechanisms that were used are not transparent or clear, but they seem to be fighting for much needed democracy.


 


These parallel pro-Chávez groups have fielded more than 35 candidacies for Governor in 16 states and have their own candidates in about half the cities that are electing Mayors at the end of October. To eliminate confusion, the campaign command of Chávez’ MVR will distribute nationwide a list of Chavez approved candidates so as not to leave any doubt among its supporters of who the approved candidates are.


 


The opposition faces the same confusion and problem, with AD being the party that has apparently blocked the possibility for at least fielding alliances. The solution is somewhat half-assed, rather than using democracy, they are using polls to determine which candidate has more popularity, a remarkable approach in a country where most people don’t believe in polls.


 


To me the opposition blew an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that it had significant different beliefs than the Chavistas, but it failed to grab the moment, which as Capriles says is evidence of the absence of democratic culture. So, they have no different beliefs there when you come down to it.


 


Interestingly, the only party that has made a very concrete, democratic and selfish proposal has been Primero Justicia, which has offered to renounce to all of its candidacies in the interest of unity as long as a reasonably open proposal is made to select single candidates to all positions.


 


In the end, it comes down not only to a problem of whether we have a democratic culture or not, but also of the lack of independent powers and checks and balances. If the Attorney general, People’s Ombudsman or the Supreme Court suggested that those candidates not selected by democratic means according to the Constitution would be barred from running, then everything would be quite different. But then again, if there were independent powers, everything would be so different anyway.

A gasoline revolution?

October 3, 2004

In 1993, then AD Presidential candidate Claudio Fermin inserted in his campaign program a proposal to subsidize having all public transportation vehicles convert to natural gas as a way of removing the price of gasoline from being a political issue. Once the change had been completed, then gasoline prices would be raised to international levels and PDVSA would not be subsidizing the gasoline for those that can afford a car in Venezuela, which are not exactly the poor. At the same time, public transportation would use natural gas that is mostly burned in Venezuela and sold cheaply.


Fermin lost the election, Caldera came in as President and two years later was forced to sign an agreement with the IMF after the financial crisis, which imposed the condition that gasoline prices had to be adjusted to the FOB price periodically (I can’t remember whether it was quarterly or every six months). In this manner, every three or six months the price of a liter of gasoline was adjusted slightly and the issue disappeared from Venezuelan politics until Chavez won the election and froze gasoline prices again.


 


The math is fairly simple, a liter of gasoline costs 4.6 US dollar cents or 20 cents a gallon (3.5 cents and 15.4 cents at the parallel exchange rate). In terms of barrels, a barrel of gasoline goes for around US$ 48 per barrel and costs PDVSA about US$ 6.5 per barrel to produce. Since internal consumption is 240,000 barrels a day of gasoline, according to today’s El Nacional (page A-20), we are talking about a subsidy that costs PDVSA about US$ 9.96 million per day, which turns into US$ 3.6 billion subsidy per year!


 


I don’t know how many public transportation vehicles there are in Venezuela, but I do know there are about 2.6 million total vehicles. If I assume that one million are for public transportation of any sort, and that the conversion to natural gas costs $1,500 (it used to cost $1,000), then for half of the amount that is being subsidized yearly, the Government could pay the conversion of every single public transportation vehicle to natural gas and eliminate the subsidy. The money thus saved could be used elsewhere.


 


Now, this would truly be revolutionary, no?

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