Archive for December 12th, 2004

Magnificent Cattleya Percivaliana

December 12, 2004


Another magnificent Cattleya Percivaliana species from Venezuela. The flower is known for its stinky smell. The blow up on the right of the lip shows the detailed variety of colors it has. The yellows are strong, like egg yolk and the purples become almost red. Very nice example of this species.

Fear of the new law or censorship now in effect?

December 12, 2004

In today’s El Nacional there is an interview with Cesar Miguel Rondon by Milagros Socorro that shows the initial effects of the muzzle bill, which Noticiero Digital has linked to here.  Rondon says that reporters that reporters have no idea of what to protect themselves or inhibit themselves due to the new law. He describes how he calls “the rebellion of the street vendors” on Wednesday was not shown on TV because reporters were not sure whether they could show it or not. As he says “we had dramatic events…the best informed people in the country did not know what was going on…The media did not know whether it could transmit the images of what was happening or not….That night we learned via the Government’s TV channel that the media could have broadcasted the images if they had wanted to”


Rondon also says that the next day, when he showed the front page of the newspapers in his TV program, he blocked the pictures of the violence the previous day, “because in that time slot we can not show explicit violence” . He also says he did not even dare describe them.


 


This sounds to me like censorship. If anytime something happens, the TV stations are going to have to ask the Government TV channels whether they can show something or not, it looks like censorship, smells like censorship and tastes like censorship to me. It certainly limits freedom of speech when you can’t even know what is going on in the country. It may sound like growing pains, but if the same Government that pushed the rules and sanctions through does not define the scope of how the bill will be applied, then we a have in fact a censorship board in place.


 


And that was exactly the purpose of the Bill.

Fear of the new law or censorship now in effect?

December 12, 2004

In today’s El Nacional there is an interview with Cesar Miguel Rondon by Milagros Socorro that shows the initial effects of the muzzle bill, which Noticiero Digital has linked to here.  Rondon says that reporters that reporters have no idea of what to protect themselves or inhibit themselves due to the new law. He describes how he calls “the rebellion of the street vendors” on Wednesday was not shown on TV because reporters were not sure whether they could show it or not. As he says “we had dramatic events…the best informed people in the country did not know what was going on…The media did not know whether it could transmit the images of what was happening or not….That night we learned via the Government’s TV channel that the media could have broadcasted the images if they had wanted to”


Rondon also says that the next day, when he showed the front page of the newspapers in his TV program, he blocked the pictures of the violence the previous day, “because in that time slot we can not show explicit violence” . He also says he did not even dare describe them.


 


This sounds to me like censorship. If anytime something happens, the TV stations are going to have to ask the Government TV channels whether they can show something or not, it looks like censorship, smells like censorship and tastes like censorship to me. It certainly limits freedom of speech when you can’t even know what is going on in the country. It may sound like growing pains, but if the same Government that pushed the rules and sanctions through does not define the scope of how the bill will be applied, then we a have in fact a censorship board in place.


 


And that was exactly the purpose of the Bill.

Anonymous tips are only evidence in Anderson’s case

December 12, 2004

El Universal carries today an article which shows that the evidence used to jail the Guevara brothers is all based on anonymous tips received by the police over the phone. This information coincides with that published by Patricia Poleo in El Nuevo Pais  and another paper, which you can find here and here. The second Poleo link shows the actual documents from the police showing that they really know very little about the case. Sadly, they show a “map” found in the office of Juan Carlos Sanchez, who was killed by the police, which supposedly “proves” that he was involved in the case. In reality, the map does not include either the location of where Anderson was before the bomb, or that of the bomb, so it is incredible they want to relate it to the case.


The truth is that the Anderson case is as far from being resolved as it was a couple of weeks ago. It was only Thursday that the police mentioned they were after the people that published the obituary published here two weeks ago and there is evidence that murdered lawyer Antonio Lopez Castillo had been threatened by the same police forced that killed him. He had reportedly gone to the prosecutor’s office a few months ago to denounce some officers for extortion and following him. Thus, the “solved case” appears to be stuck in a dead end.  Unfortunately, two people are dead and others have suffered in the rush to find the guilty, which we all want identified.


 


By the way, that last link is to a fairly new site Noticiero Digital, which scans things from newspapers that do not have website such as El Nuevo Pais or Las Verdades de Miguel, as well as links to articles in El Nacional which require a subscription. All articles have a discussion if you register. For those that speak Spanish, I recommend it as a good new source of information.

Anonymous tips are only evidence in Anderson’s case

December 12, 2004

El Universal carries today an article which shows that the evidence used to jail the Guevara brothers is all based on anonymous tips received by the police over the phone. This information coincides with that published by Patricia Poleo in El Nuevo Pais  and another paper, which you can find here and here. The second Poleo link shows the actual documents from the police showing that they really know very little about the case. Sadly, they show a “map” found in the office of Juan Carlos Sanchez, who was killed by the police, which supposedly “proves” that he was involved in the case. In reality, the map does not include either the location of where Anderson was before the bomb, or that of the bomb, so it is incredible they want to relate it to the case.


The truth is that the Anderson case is as far from being resolved as it was a couple of weeks ago. It was only Thursday that the police mentioned they were after the people that published the obituary published here two weeks ago and there is evidence that murdered lawyer Antonio Lopez Castillo had been threatened by the same police forced that killed him. He had reportedly gone to the prosecutor’s office a few months ago to denounce some officers for extortion and following him. Thus, the “solved case” appears to be stuck in a dead end.  Unfortunately, two people are dead and others have suffered in the rush to find the guilty, which we all want identified.


 


By the way, that last link is to a fairly new site Noticiero Digital, which scans things from newspapers that do not have website such as El Nuevo Pais or Las Verdades de Miguel, as well as links to articles in El Nacional which require a subscription. All articles have a discussion if you register. For those that speak Spanish, I recommend it as a good new source of information.

Bustillos still missing

December 12, 2004

Silvino Bustillo’s wife said today that her husband is still missing and the authorities have yet to call her to testify. Bustillos disappeared on Oct. 31st. when he was being followed by intelligence police officers. He was reported dead, but his lawyer said he had called and aunt. The lawyer later said it may not have been him. He has not been heard from since.

Rangel trying to stop motgage bill?

December 12, 2004

According to an article in today’s la Razon, Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel has asked President Chavez not to approve the mortgage debtor’s bill that I described last week. The Bill has already been discussed twice in the full Assembly and would need only the President’s signature to become the law.


It would be very positive if the story is true, as the Bill would not be in the best interests of the country and would in the end benefit those that don’t need it. I find myself in Rangel’s side, something which does not happen very often.


 


The article by Luisa Elena Martinez in la Razon is actually very critical of Rangel’s position. It is full of sentences that have become clichés in the last few years like “the bill favors those that are judicially weak and gives them their right to housing”. “What is being done is establishing rules by mandate of the Constitution which reivindicates the Social State and where there is no room for financial speculation”


 


What the banks oppose is not that the bill does not allow for indexed mortgages as the article makes believe, but the fact that the Bill forces banks to lend a fixed percentage of their credit portfolio to these mortgages at very low interest rates, which would not be a good business proposition for banks, or anyone for that matter. In fact, there is a similar preferential rate for agricultural loans, most of which go to rich farmers and not to those that it should go to. I know a guy who has a cattle ranch that borrows at these preferential rates and turns around and places the funds in CD’s at another bank making two or three percentage points in the process.


 


Mind you, these loans are not new, they have existed for decades, but the National Assembly now wants to extend it to mortgages and “microcredits”. If all of these are approved, banks would have to set aside 48% of their credit portfolio for these credits for special interests which in the end don’t do what they were meant to do.

A silly story: El Avila, Pakea and my sister’s book

December 12, 2004

Today I went up to the town of Galipan in the Avila mountain which separates Caracas from the sea. To those that have never been here, El Avila is a spectacular sight, which is probably what attracted the Spaniards to the valley in which Caracas is. This is what it looks like:



 


 


To add to the perspective, think about the fact that Caracas is 1,000 meters above sea level (3,000 feet). Well, El Avila at it highest peak is like 2,700 meters or 8,000 feet, these mountains are truly majestic. El Avila has been a National park for a long time, converted to a national park by the transition Government in 1958, after the Perez Jimenez Dictatorship was overthrown.


 


When it was declared a National Park, only those that lived there could remain there and improve their homes, but new building within the park was barred. There was a little agricultural town called Galipan up there, whose inhabitants grew flowers and were separated from Caracas by the difficult dirt road that connected it to it. Imagine going up some 6,000 feet in less than five miles, it is steep! And it was only dirt, it was very messy, particularly if it rained.


 


About some twenty years ago, the Government built a road up there and people began going there to visit. A Restaurant opened up, now there are about half a dozen. Many wealthy Venezuelans have purchased homes up there, improved them and use them as vacation homes.  Caracas is typically 10 C warmer than Galipan, it gets chilly up there.


 


Last week my brother invited me to go to Casa Pakea today. Casa Pakea is by far the best Restaurant up in Galipan. It is run by a Basque who reportedly got there after leaving Spain for belonging to a certain separatist organization. The food is wonderful. It is a fixed menu of six dishes for a fairly cheap price of Bs. 48,000 per person, about $19 dollars at the parallel exchange rate. You bring your own wine, which makes it a perfect chance to have a good wine with great food, at a reasonable price.


 


The views are incredible, you are above the clouds, and the mountains change colors as if by magic. Here are two pictures:


 



 


 


To enter the Park, you have to go by a National Guard station, tell them where you are going. Sometime they search your car, but usually you just go straight thru. You have to go up in a four wheel drive vehicle (I guess it is more important on the way down). We went in my sister’s car, a big red thing, Dodge I think it is, that is banged up all over. It is like a four wheel drive van. There are few like that in Venezuela as it was given to her husband as payment for a debt and it was imported from the US. So, it is easily recognizable.


 


This sister of mine is a reporter/writer and just completed her first book “Excess Baggage” which won an important award for books by first time writers.


 


I tell you this as background, because when we entered the park, rather than let us thru, the National Guard told my brother who was driving to please park the car on the side. He approached and asked him where we were going and to get out of the car. Then he asked him what was in the trunk. My brother said he did not know, that the car was my sister’s not his. At that point the Guard asked my sister to get out of the car and go see the Guard that was at the desk in the kiosk where you first stop. That Guard asked my brother if she was his wife and was she a writer.


 


That Guard asked my sister: do you remember me? She said no. Well, it turns out that he had stopped my sister in the same van a few weeks ago and she had no papers for the car (typical!), no identification. She told him she was a writer, was in a rush to get the proofs of her book and they were going to close. He let her go at that time.


 


He told her that van was recognizable anywhere and said: “Do you have papers for the van today” She said yes, but he did not ask her to produce them. Then he asked “And how is your book”. Incredibly, my sister had just given us copies of the book at her home before we left for lunch, so she said: “It is doing very well, it was published this week”. My brother came to the car, got a copy and she ended up dedicating a copy to the National Guardsman. He asked her for her e-mail to send her his opinion about the book when he finished it!


 


After our meal, we went by the same kiosk said hi and he called out “I am already reading the part about the lady, very nice book”. So, my sister now has a fan in the Venezuelan National Guard.


 


It might be a silly story, but it was very nice and fun and we laughed about it all afternoon. By the way, the food was delicious too!!!


 


By the way, driving home, we were stopped by the Caracas police, the van had no plate in the front, which is illegal…she keeps going like this she will know all cops in Caracas soon. Maybe sell a lot of books?

A silly story: El Avila, Pakea and my sister’s book

December 12, 2004

Today I went up to the town of Galipan in the Avila mountain which separates Caracas from the sea. To those that have never been here, El Avila is a spectacular sight, which is probably what attracted the Spaniards to the valley in which Caracas is. This is what it looks like:



 


 


To add to the perspective, think about the fact that Caracas is 1,000 meters above sea level (3,000 feet). Well, El Avila at it highest peak is like 2,700 meters or 8,000 feet, these mountains are truly majestic. El Avila has been a National park for a long time, converted to a national park by the transition Government in 1958, after the Perez Jimenez Dictatorship was overthrown.


 


When it was declared a National Park, only those that lived there could remain there and improve their homes, but new building within the park was barred. There was a little agricultural town called Galipan up there, whose inhabitants grew flowers and were separated from Caracas by the difficult dirt road that connected it to it. Imagine going up some 6,000 feet in less than five miles, it is steep! And it was only dirt, it was very messy, particularly if it rained.


 


About some twenty years ago, the Government built a road up there and people began going there to visit. A Restaurant opened up, now there are about half a dozen. Many wealthy Venezuelans have purchased homes up there, improved them and use them as vacation homes.  Caracas is typically 10 C warmer than Galipan, it gets chilly up there.


 


Last week my brother invited me to go to Casa Pakea today. Casa Pakea is by far the best Restaurant up in Galipan. It is run by a Basque who reportedly got there after leaving Spain for belonging to a certain separatist organization. The food is wonderful. It is a fixed menu of six dishes for a fairly cheap price of Bs. 48,000 per person, about $19 dollars at the parallel exchange rate. You bring your own wine, which makes it a perfect chance to have a good wine with great food, at a reasonable price.


 


The views are incredible, you are above the clouds, and the mountains change colors as if by magic. Here are two pictures:


 



 


 


To enter the Park, you have to go by a National Guard station, tell them where you are going. Sometime they search your car, but usually you just go straight thru. You have to go up in a four wheel drive vehicle (I guess it is more important on the way down). We went in my sister’s car, a big red thing, Dodge I think it is, that is banged up all over. It is like a four wheel drive van. There are few like that in Venezuela as it was given to her husband as payment for a debt and it was imported from the US. So, it is easily recognizable.


 


This sister of mine is a reporter/writer and just completed her first book “Excess Baggage” which won an important award for books by first time writers.


 


I tell you this as background, because when we entered the park, rather than let us thru, the National Guard told my brother who was driving to please park the car on the side. He approached and asked him where we were going and to get out of the car. Then he asked him what was in the trunk. My brother said he did not know, that the car was my sister’s not his. At that point the Guard asked my sister to get out of the car and go see the Guard that was at the desk in the kiosk where you first stop. That Guard asked my brother if she was his wife and was she a writer.


 


That Guard asked my sister: do you remember me? She said no. Well, it turns out that he had stopped my sister in the same van a few weeks ago and she had no papers for the car (typical!), no identification. She told him she was a writer, was in a rush to get the proofs of her book and they were going to close. He let her go at that time.


 


He told her that van was recognizable anywhere and said: “Do you have papers for the van today” She said yes, but he did not ask her to produce them. Then he asked “And how is your book”. Incredibly, my sister had just given us copies of the book at her home before we left for lunch, so she said: “It is doing very well, it was published this week”. My brother came to the car, got a copy and she ended up dedicating a copy to the National Guardsman. He asked her for her e-mail to send her his opinion about the book when he finished it!


 


After our meal, we went by the same kiosk said hi and he called out “I am already reading the part about the lady, very nice book”. So, my sister now has a fan in the Venezuelan National Guard.


 


It might be a silly story, but it was very nice and fun and we laughed about it all afternoon. By the way, the food was delicious too!!!


 


By the way, driving home, we were stopped by the Caracas police, the van had no plate in the front, which is illegal…she keeps going like this she will know all cops in Caracas soon. Maybe sell a lot of books?

A silly story: El Avila, Pakea and my sister’s book

December 12, 2004

Today I went up to the town of Galipan in the Avila mountain which separates Caracas from the sea. To those that have never been here, El Avila is a spectacular sight, which is probably what attracted the Spaniards to the valley in which Caracas is. This is what it looks like:



 


 


To add to the perspective, think about the fact that Caracas is 1,000 meters above sea level (3,000 feet). Well, El Avila at it highest peak is like 2,700 meters or 8,000 feet, these mountains are truly majestic. El Avila has been a National park for a long time, converted to a national park by the transition Government in 1958, after the Perez Jimenez Dictatorship was overthrown.


 


When it was declared a National Park, only those that lived there could remain there and improve their homes, but new building within the park was barred. There was a little agricultural town called Galipan up there, whose inhabitants grew flowers and were separated from Caracas by the difficult dirt road that connected it to it. Imagine going up some 6,000 feet in less than five miles, it is steep! And it was only dirt, it was very messy, particularly if it rained.


 


About some twenty years ago, the Government built a road up there and people began going there to visit. A Restaurant opened up, now there are about half a dozen. Many wealthy Venezuelans have purchased homes up there, improved them and use them as vacation homes.  Caracas is typically 10 C warmer than Galipan, it gets chilly up there.


 


Last week my brother invited me to go to Casa Pakea today. Casa Pakea is by far the best Restaurant up in Galipan. It is run by a Basque who reportedly got there after leaving Spain for belonging to a certain separatist organization. The food is wonderful. It is a fixed menu of six dishes for a fairly cheap price of Bs. 48,000 per person, about $19 dollars at the parallel exchange rate. You bring your own wine, which makes it a perfect chance to have a good wine with great food, at a reasonable price.


 


The views are incredible, you are above the clouds, and the mountains change colors as if by magic. Here are two pictures:


 



 


 


To enter the Park, you have to go by a National Guard station, tell them where you are going. Sometime they search your car, but usually you just go straight thru. You have to go up in a four wheel drive vehicle (I guess it is more important on the way down). We went in my sister’s car, a big red thing, Dodge I think it is, that is banged up all over. It is like a four wheel drive van. There are few like that in Venezuela as it was given to her husband as payment for a debt and it was imported from the US. So, it is easily recognizable.


 


This sister of mine is a reporter/writer and just completed her first book “Excess Baggage” which won an important award for books by first time writers.


 


I tell you this as background, because when we entered the park, rather than let us thru, the National Guard told my brother who was driving to please park the car on the side. He approached and asked him where we were going and to get out of the car. Then he asked him what was in the trunk. My brother said he did not know, that the car was my sister’s not his. At that point the Guard asked my sister to get out of the car and go see the Guard that was at the desk in the kiosk where you first stop. That Guard asked my brother if she was his wife and was she a writer.


 


That Guard asked my sister: do you remember me? She said no. Well, it turns out that he had stopped my sister in the same van a few weeks ago and she had no papers for the car (typical!), no identification. She told him she was a writer, was in a rush to get the proofs of her book and they were going to close. He let her go at that time.


 


He told her that van was recognizable anywhere and said: “Do you have papers for the van today” She said yes, but he did not ask her to produce them. Then he asked “And how is your book”. Incredibly, my sister had just given us copies of the book at her home before we left for lunch, so she said: “It is doing very well, it was published this week”. My brother came to the car, got a copy and she ended up dedicating a copy to the National Guardsman. He asked her for her e-mail to send her his opinion about the book when he finished it!


 


After our meal, we went by the same kiosk said hi and he called out “I am already reading the part about the lady, very nice book”. So, my sister now has a fan in the Venezuelan National Guard.


 


It might be a silly story, but it was very nice and fun and we laughed about it all afternoon. By the way, the food was delicious too!!!


 


By the way, driving home, we were stopped by the Caracas police, the van had no plate in the front, which is illegal…she keeps going like this she will know all cops in Caracas soon. Maybe sell a lot of books?

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