Archive for November 27th, 2004

What Venezuela’s economy needs

November 27, 2004

 


Over ten years ago, I had lunch once or twice a week with a cousin. At these lunches we talked about many things, but we always came back to what needed to be done with the Venezuelan economy. We came up with a list of problems that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, after almost 12 years, the list has not changed much. Here is a more modern version of the list. I will try to discuss it item by item as time allows. They are in no particular order, except for the first one which I believe attacks most of the problems of our economy. If I had someones ear (even Chavez) this is what I would suggest:


 


1)      Dollarize the economy. Completely eliminate the Bolivar.


2)      Approve a pension fund bill that allows retirement at 65 for everyone and 60 if you have worked for 35 years. Pension plans would be based on contributions from workers.


3)      Emphasize primary education over university education. Strengthen technical and trade schools. Start food programs at elementary schools. Force universities to impose time limits on years of attendance to open spaces and save money.


4)      Create a meritocratic system for civil service managers.


5)      Give title to land in city barrios and farmlands occupied by squatters.


6)      Give away Government farmlands to farmers and give them title after a certain period of time.


7)      Reduce the size of the military.


8)      Design a plan to turn PDVSA into the largest oil company in the world. Give all citizens a direct stake in a fraction of the company.


9)      Privatize the country’s electrical network.


10)  Liberate the price of gasoline. Subsidize public transport to convert to natural gas. Use profits from new gasoline prices to start a long term stabilization fund with strict controls.


11)  Start a long range housing program with private sector help.


12)  Start a long range highway program with private sector help.


13)  Turn all health facilities to local Governments, including the budgets.


14)  Reduce import Duties.


15)  Allow for hourly and part time positions.


 


I am sure there was more, this is as far as my memory reaches now. Will add more if I remember.

Trying to fit the pieces together of the Anderson murder

November 27, 2004

There is so much information floating around that it is really hard to make sense of it all. But I will give it a try, because there are a lot of confusion and complex facts surrounding the murder of Danilo Anderson and its aftermath. Writing them helps understand things.


 


The Murder:


 


The bomb that blew up Anderson’s car was made out of 250 grams of C-4, reportedly the smallest size in which that explosive is available. Even if C-4 is not commonly available, it is mostly used by the military; sufficient amounts of it are missing from Venezuelan military facilities that anyone could have made the bomb. The police have been contradictory about where the device was placed. The first report talked about two devices or two timers which has never been mentioned again. After that, various police spokesmen have talked variously about a bomb on the outside of the chassis of the car and a bomb underneath the driver’s seat. In either case, the bombing was carried out with “military” precision, Anderson was killed and the car burned.


 


People are making a big deal out of Anderson’s cell phone surviving intact, but there may be any explanations for this. I think it was weirder that a high Government official had been murdered and a bunch of other Government officials showed up without any bodyguards, standing around publicly in an area where ten minutes earlier a bomb had exploded. There could have been other devices around. Are they that stupid?


 


The whole style smells like a military operation, not a police operation, but sometimes police members come out of the military anyway. However, as we will see below all of the “suspects” to date have been more police related than military and are connected by their love of guns.


 


The Reaction:


 


The Government acted with the outrage that the situation merited, but that it never exhibited with the over 170 people that have died in political acts during the last three or four years. The opposition unanimously condemned the murder. The Minister of Interior and Justice initially acted with caution. The same could not be said of the Vice-president and some Deputies of the National Assembly.


 


The Vice-President accused Cuban-Venezuelan activists in Miami and called on the US to expel some of them. This was prompted in part by irresponsible statements by TV personality Orlando Urdaneta that said the problems of Venezuela could be fixed with one well placed shot.


 


National Assembly member Iris Varela blamed Colombian paramilitary in association with former police members of the Metropolitan police in Caracas. Initially one of them was jailed for the case only to be later charged for the murders of April 11th. 2002.


 


The Attorney General said that Danilo Anderson was killed because he could not be bought, but never clarified who was trying to buy him or why.


 


Anderson’s funeral turned into a political act. The Government took advantage of it to make him look like a martyr with some of his biggest enemies showing up to carry the casket. One of the biggest mysteries was the apparent presence of one of the murderers of Altamira Square the day after the recall referendum, who was right at the front, quite close to the attorney General. Here are some blow ups from both the funeral and the pictures I posted on August 17th. of the murders. While the identification is not conclusive, the resemblance is quite strong. What is bothersome is that this man is supposed to be in jail. In fact, his lawyer today said he was in jail, leading everyone to question what he was doing at the funeral if it was him:


 



 


 


 


 


Side Story # 1: At this point it is important to point point out that one of Danilo’s best fiends Councilman Carlos Herrera began accusing the Vice President of being involved in the murder, saying Rangel was pressuring Anderson to remove some people from the list of those being charged for rebellion by being at the presidential Palace on April 12th.


 


Side Story #2: The man in the pictures above is supposedly of Colombian origin (not Cuban like many have said) and had lived in the Petare area of Caracas for years. He has claimed to work for Rangel’s son and said he was protected by the Vice-President.


 


Side Story #3: Some people in the list of those that went to the Presidential Palace that day have been reportedly blackmailed for up to US$ 500,000. One of them reportedly went to Rangel and told him that he refused to pay and would go public and make accusations about it. Maybe this explains #1, Rangel called Anderson and Anderson felt pressured enough to tell his friend.


 


The initial reaction of the Government to the murder suggests that it had nothing to do with it. However, much like the opposition, the Government is not a monolithic front that acts as one block and there are certainly radical fringe groups within it as capable as doing something that horrific, in the same manner that there are fringe groups in the opposition also capable of doing it.


 


At first sight, it is difficult to imagine what the Government could get out of it. On the contrary, the murder opens a can of worms that may lead many of those that are part of it to leave, out of fear the jobs they occupy which are badly paid. Moreover, if it was sanctioned by the Government it could only be known by a small group which would generate suspicions and backstabbing within it. Thus, the only reason to murder Anderson would be to make the opposition look bad and that would imply having planted evidence ahead of time to accuse certain groups which does not appear to be the case so far. But the death also opens a dangerous Pandora’s Box, showing both sides that such killings are indeed possible.


 


The opposition also gets nothing out of it, but its fringe groups who field cornered are certainly capable of it and Anderson certainly was very symbolic of persecution and intimidation to make him a symbol. The same could not be said for a Government sanctioned murder.


 


The Government Suspects


 


Sometime early this week, there was a confrontation between police and lawyer Antonio Lopez Castillo. Lopez Castillo was driving his girlfriend’s car when an unmarked Toyota tried to pass him and block his way. Lopez accelerates as the other car overtakes him, two heavily armed men get out of the car and Lopez runs over one of them. As Lopez gets out of his car with a weapon, he is shot numerous times and killed.


 


According to the Government, they were following Lopez as they suspected he was involved. However some suggest the cops thought they were following General Gonzalez Gonzalez, one of the leaders of Altamira square, who is in hiding. Below the picture of Lopez on the left and Gonzalez Gonzalez in two different shots, one taken by me at a mach in 2003.  They are both quite bald and have similar features. Witnesses say Lopez never managed to shoot and Lopez was shot many times and was given a last shot on the Head as he was lying on the ground.


 



 


 


 


The Government claims Lopez was an explosives expert. He was certainly a gun collector, but according to the head of the law firm where he worked he had little interest for politics. The Government claims he took a CIA course and had a diploma from it, which is really funny. I understand he took a private course on explosives. Lopez’ work as a lawyer had nothing to do with political cases. Lopez was a member of the shooting Club Magnum where many ex-cops and ex-military hang around. That may be as far as his involvement in this case goes.


 


For the Government this was however a problem, they had a dead body and no apparent reason to kill the suspect. Thus, they show up at Lopez’ parents house both of whom held important positions in the Caldera Administration in the 70’s and his mother was a social Christian Senator for many years.


 


Intelligence police showed up to search the house illegally, as they had no orders from a Judge. Later they claim there was a phone order, which is simply illegal. They immediately claimed to have found explosives all over the house as well as weapons, shown below, some of which Lopez’ mother said she had never seen. Reportedly, there were C-4 packages stuck to the underside of the kitchen table. One of the maids of the house said that she had never seen those explosives and the cops went straight to where they “found” them. Lopez’ parents where handcuffed and taken to jail and publicly mistreated. Even Vice-President Rangel said that they were not treated properly.  Ironically, the Head of Lopez’ law form was the Minister of Justice in 1959 who had to deal with the prosecution of the Dictators’ goons and hatchet men then.


 



 


Separately, another cop was killed in Barquisimeto yesterday and three other ex-cops have been detained on the case, one of them the Head of the Magnum club where Lopez used to practice. Separately the Minister of Justice continues to use a lot of innuendo, suggesting Anderson was being followed, according to videos from a shopping center, but has yet to show any of this evidence and how it relates to the suspects.


 


So far, I am not very convinced. I think the case points to military and all of these suspects, jailed and killed are unrelated to the case but somehow the Government could care less if they are guilty or not. Going after these cops with little evidence and shooting on sight is certainly not the way to go to clear the case. It may be too early to reach conclusions, stay tuned for more developments in the next few days. We might be able to see clearer then.

Trying to fit the pieces together of the Anderson murder

November 27, 2004

There is so much information floating around that it is really hard to make sense of it all. But I will give it a try, because there are a lot of confusion and complex facts surrounding the murder of Danilo Anderson and its aftermath. Writing them helps understand things.


 


The Murder:


 


The bomb that blew up Anderson’s car was made out of 250 grams of C-4, reportedly the smallest size in which that explosive is available. Even if C-4 is not commonly available, it is mostly used by the military; sufficient amounts of it are missing from Venezuelan military facilities that anyone could have made the bomb. The police have been contradictory about where the device was placed. The first report talked about two devices or two timers which has never been mentioned again. After that, various police spokesmen have talked variously about a bomb on the outside of the chassis of the car and a bomb underneath the driver’s seat. In either case, the bombing was carried out with “military” precision, Anderson was killed and the car burned.


 


People are making a big deal out of Anderson’s cell phone surviving intact, but there may be any explanations for this. I think it was weirder that a high Government official had been murdered and a bunch of other Government officials showed up without any bodyguards, standing around publicly in an area where ten minutes earlier a bomb had exploded. There could have been other devices around. Are they that stupid?


 


The whole style smells like a military operation, not a police operation, but sometimes police members come out of the military anyway. However, as we will see below all of the “suspects” to date have been more police related than military and are connected by their love of guns.


 


The Reaction:


 


The Government acted with the outrage that the situation merited, but that it never exhibited with the over 170 people that have died in political acts during the last three or four years. The opposition unanimously condemned the murder. The Minister of Interior and Justice initially acted with caution. The same could not be said of the Vice-president and some Deputies of the National Assembly.


 


The Vice-President accused Cuban-Venezuelan activists in Miami and called on the US to expel some of them. This was prompted in part by irresponsible statements by TV personality Orlando Urdaneta that said the problems of Venezuela could be fixed with one well placed shot.


 


National Assembly member Iris Varela blamed Colombian paramilitary in association with former police members of the Metropolitan police in Caracas. Initially one of them was jailed for the case only to be later charged for the murders of April 11th. 2002.


 


The Attorney General said that Danilo Anderson was killed because he could not be bought, but never clarified who was trying to buy him or why.


 


Anderson’s funeral turned into a political act. The Government took advantage of it to make him look like a martyr with some of his biggest enemies showing up to carry the casket. One of the biggest mysteries was the apparent presence of one of the murderers of Altamira Square the day after the recall referendum, who was right at the front, quite close to the attorney General. Here are some blow ups from both the funeral and the pictures I posted on August 17th. of the murders. While the identification is not conclusive, the resemblance is quite strong. What is bothersome is that this man is supposed to be in jail. In fact, his lawyer today said he was in jail, leading everyone to question what he was doing at the funeral if it was him:


 



 


 


 


 


Side Story # 1: At this point it is important to point point out that one of Danilo’s best fiends Councilman Carlos Herrera began accusing the Vice President of being involved in the murder, saying Rangel was pressuring Anderson to remove some people from the list of those being charged for rebellion by being at the presidential Palace on April 12th.


 


Side Story #2: The man in the pictures above is supposedly of Colombian origin (not Cuban like many have said) and had lived in the Petare area of Caracas for years. He has claimed to work for Rangel’s son and said he was protected by the Vice-President.


 


Side Story #3: Some people in the list of those that went to the Presidential Palace that day have been reportedly blackmailed for up to US$ 500,000. One of them reportedly went to Rangel and told him that he refused to pay and would go public and make accusations about it. Maybe this explains #1, Rangel called Anderson and Anderson felt pressured enough to tell his friend.


 


The initial reaction of the Government to the murder suggests that it had nothing to do with it. However, much like the opposition, the Government is not a monolithic front that acts as one block and there are certainly radical fringe groups within it as capable as doing something that horrific, in the same manner that there are fringe groups in the opposition also capable of doing it.


 


At first sight, it is difficult to imagine what the Government could get out of it. On the contrary, the murder opens a can of worms that may lead many of those that are part of it to leave, out of fear the jobs they occupy which are badly paid. Moreover, if it was sanctioned by the Government it could only be known by a small group which would generate suspicions and backstabbing within it. Thus, the only reason to murder Anderson would be to make the opposition look bad and that would imply having planted evidence ahead of time to accuse certain groups which does not appear to be the case so far. But the death also opens a dangerous Pandora’s Box, showing both sides that such killings are indeed possible.


 


The opposition also gets nothing out of it, but its fringe groups who field cornered are certainly capable of it and Anderson certainly was very symbolic of persecution and intimidation to make him a symbol. The same could not be said for a Government sanctioned murder.


 


The Government Suspects


 


Sometime early this week, there was a confrontation between police and lawyer Antonio Lopez Castillo. Lopez Castillo was driving his girlfriend’s car when an unmarked Toyota tried to pass him and block his way. Lopez accelerates as the other car overtakes him, two heavily armed men get out of the car and Lopez runs over one of them. As Lopez gets out of his car with a weapon, he is shot numerous times and killed.


 


According to the Government, they were following Lopez as they suspected he was involved. However some suggest the cops thought they were following General Gonzalez Gonzalez, one of the leaders of Altamira square, who is in hiding. Below the picture of Lopez on the left and Gonzalez Gonzalez in two different shots, one taken by me at a mach in 2003.  They are both quite bald and have similar features. Witnesses say Lopez never managed to shoot and Lopez was shot many times and was given a last shot on the Head as he was lying on the ground.


 



 


 


 


The Government claims Lopez was an explosives expert. He was certainly a gun collector, but according to the head of the law firm where he worked he had little interest for politics. The Government claims he took a CIA course and had a diploma from it, which is really funny. I understand he took a private course on explosives. Lopez’ work as a lawyer had nothing to do with political cases. Lopez was a member of the shooting Club Magnum where many ex-cops and ex-military hang around. That may be as far as his involvement in this case goes.


 


For the Government this was however a problem, they had a dead body and no apparent reason to kill the suspect. Thus, they show up at Lopez’ parents house both of whom held important positions in the Caldera Administration in the 70’s and his mother was a social Christian Senator for many years.


 


Intelligence police showed up to search the house illegally, as they had no orders from a Judge. Later they claim there was a phone order, which is simply illegal. They immediately claimed to have found explosives all over the house as well as weapons, shown below, some of which Lopez’ mother said she had never seen. Reportedly, there were C-4 packages stuck to the underside of the kitchen table. One of the maids of the house said that she had never seen those explosives and the cops went straight to where they “found” them. Lopez’ parents where handcuffed and taken to jail and publicly mistreated. Even Vice-President Rangel said that they were not treated properly.  Ironically, the Head of Lopez’ law form was the Minister of Justice in 1959 who had to deal with the prosecution of the Dictators’ goons and hatchet men then.


 



 


Separately, another cop was killed in Barquisimeto yesterday and three other ex-cops have been detained on the case, one of them the Head of the Magnum club where Lopez used to practice. Separately the Minister of Justice continues to use a lot of innuendo, suggesting Anderson was being followed, according to videos from a shopping center, but has yet to show any of this evidence and how it relates to the suspects.


 


So far, I am not very convinced. I think the case points to military and all of these suspects, jailed and killed are unrelated to the case but somehow the Government could care less if they are guilty or not. Going after these cops with little evidence and shooting on sight is certainly not the way to go to clear the case. It may be too early to reach conclusions, stay tuned for more developments in the next few days. We might be able to see clearer then.

Trying to fit the pieces together of the Anderson murder

November 27, 2004

There is so much information floating around that it is really hard to make sense of it all. But I will give it a try, because there are a lot of confusion and complex facts surrounding the murder of Danilo Anderson and its aftermath. Writing them helps understand things.


 


The Murder:


 


The bomb that blew up Anderson’s car was made out of 250 grams of C-4, reportedly the smallest size in which that explosive is available. Even if C-4 is not commonly available, it is mostly used by the military; sufficient amounts of it are missing from Venezuelan military facilities that anyone could have made the bomb. The police have been contradictory about where the device was placed. The first report talked about two devices or two timers which has never been mentioned again. After that, various police spokesmen have talked variously about a bomb on the outside of the chassis of the car and a bomb underneath the driver’s seat. In either case, the bombing was carried out with “military” precision, Anderson was killed and the car burned.


 


People are making a big deal out of Anderson’s cell phone surviving intact, but there may be any explanations for this. I think it was weirder that a high Government official had been murdered and a bunch of other Government officials showed up without any bodyguards, standing around publicly in an area where ten minutes earlier a bomb had exploded. There could have been other devices around. Are they that stupid?


 


The whole style smells like a military operation, not a police operation, but sometimes police members come out of the military anyway. However, as we will see below all of the “suspects” to date have been more police related than military and are connected by their love of guns.


 


The Reaction:


 


The Government acted with the outrage that the situation merited, but that it never exhibited with the over 170 people that have died in political acts during the last three or four years. The opposition unanimously condemned the murder. The Minister of Interior and Justice initially acted with caution. The same could not be said of the Vice-president and some Deputies of the National Assembly.


 


The Vice-President accused Cuban-Venezuelan activists in Miami and called on the US to expel some of them. This was prompted in part by irresponsible statements by TV personality Orlando Urdaneta that said the problems of Venezuela could be fixed with one well placed shot.


 


National Assembly member Iris Varela blamed Colombian paramilitary in association with former police members of the Metropolitan police in Caracas. Initially one of them was jailed for the case only to be later charged for the murders of April 11th. 2002.


 


The Attorney General said that Danilo Anderson was killed because he could not be bought, but never clarified who was trying to buy him or why.


 


Anderson’s funeral turned into a political act. The Government took advantage of it to make him look like a martyr with some of his biggest enemies showing up to carry the casket. One of the biggest mysteries was the apparent presence of one of the murderers of Altamira Square the day after the recall referendum, who was right at the front, quite close to the attorney General. Here are some blow ups from both the funeral and the pictures I posted on August 17th. of the murders. While the identification is not conclusive, the resemblance is quite strong. What is bothersome is that this man is supposed to be in jail. In fact, his lawyer today said he was in jail, leading everyone to question what he was doing at the funeral if it was him:


 



 


 


 


 


Side Story # 1: At this point it is important to point point out that one of Danilo’s best fiends Councilman Carlos Herrera began accusing the Vice President of being involved in the murder, saying Rangel was pressuring Anderson to remove some people from the list of those being charged for rebellion by being at the presidential Palace on April 12th.


 


Side Story #2: The man in the pictures above is supposedly of Colombian origin (not Cuban like many have said) and had lived in the Petare area of Caracas for years. He has claimed to work for Rangel’s son and said he was protected by the Vice-President.


 


Side Story #3: Some people in the list of those that went to the Presidential Palace that day have been reportedly blackmailed for up to US$ 500,000. One of them reportedly went to Rangel and told him that he refused to pay and would go public and make accusations about it. Maybe this explains #1, Rangel called Anderson and Anderson felt pressured enough to tell his friend.


 


The initial reaction of the Government to the murder suggests that it had nothing to do with it. However, much like the opposition, the Government is not a monolithic front that acts as one block and there are certainly radical fringe groups within it as capable as doing something that horrific, in the same manner that there are fringe groups in the opposition also capable of doing it.


 


At first sight, it is difficult to imagine what the Government could get out of it. On the contrary, the murder opens a can of worms that may lead many of those that are part of it to leave, out of fear the jobs they occupy which are badly paid. Moreover, if it was sanctioned by the Government it could only be known by a small group which would generate suspicions and backstabbing within it. Thus, the only reason to murder Anderson would be to make the opposition look bad and that would imply having planted evidence ahead of time to accuse certain groups which does not appear to be the case so far. But the death also opens a dangerous Pandora’s Box, showing both sides that such killings are indeed possible.


 


The opposition also gets nothing out of it, but its fringe groups who field cornered are certainly capable of it and Anderson certainly was very symbolic of persecution and intimidation to make him a symbol. The same could not be said for a Government sanctioned murder.


 


The Government Suspects


 


Sometime early this week, there was a confrontation between police and lawyer Antonio Lopez Castillo. Lopez Castillo was driving his girlfriend’s car when an unmarked Toyota tried to pass him and block his way. Lopez accelerates as the other car overtakes him, two heavily armed men get out of the car and Lopez runs over one of them. As Lopez gets out of his car with a weapon, he is shot numerous times and killed.


 


According to the Government, they were following Lopez as they suspected he was involved. However some suggest the cops thought they were following General Gonzalez Gonzalez, one of the leaders of Altamira square, who is in hiding. Below the picture of Lopez on the left and Gonzalez Gonzalez in two different shots, one taken by me at a mach in 2003.  They are both quite bald and have similar features. Witnesses say Lopez never managed to shoot and Lopez was shot many times and was given a last shot on the Head as he was lying on the ground.


 



 


 


 


The Government claims Lopez was an explosives expert. He was certainly a gun collector, but according to the head of the law firm where he worked he had little interest for politics. The Government claims he took a CIA course and had a diploma from it, which is really funny. I understand he took a private course on explosives. Lopez’ work as a lawyer had nothing to do with political cases. Lopez was a member of the shooting Club Magnum where many ex-cops and ex-military hang around. That may be as far as his involvement in this case goes.


 


For the Government this was however a problem, they had a dead body and no apparent reason to kill the suspect. Thus, they show up at Lopez’ parents house both of whom held important positions in the Caldera Administration in the 70’s and his mother was a social Christian Senator for many years.


 


Intelligence police showed up to search the house illegally, as they had no orders from a Judge. Later they claim there was a phone order, which is simply illegal. They immediately claimed to have found explosives all over the house as well as weapons, shown below, some of which Lopez’ mother said she had never seen. Reportedly, there were C-4 packages stuck to the underside of the kitchen table. One of the maids of the house said that she had never seen those explosives and the cops went straight to where they “found” them. Lopez’ parents where handcuffed and taken to jail and publicly mistreated. Even Vice-President Rangel said that they were not treated properly.  Ironically, the Head of Lopez’ law form was the Minister of Justice in 1959 who had to deal with the prosecution of the Dictators’ goons and hatchet men then.


 



 


Separately, another cop was killed in Barquisimeto yesterday and three other ex-cops have been detained on the case, one of them the Head of the Magnum club where Lopez used to practice. Separately the Minister of Justice continues to use a lot of innuendo, suggesting Anderson was being followed, according to videos from a shopping center, but has yet to show any of this evidence and how it relates to the suspects.


 


So far, I am not very convinced. I think the case points to military and all of these suspects, jailed and killed are unrelated to the case but somehow the Government could care less if they are guilty or not. Going after these cops with little evidence and shooting on sight is certainly not the way to go to clear the case. It may be too early to reach conclusions, stay tuned for more developments in the next few days. We might be able to see clearer then.

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