Archive for February, 2005

The Final Carter Report and my critique on the panel that looked at the statistical evidence of fruad

February 26, 2005

Being a masochist, I have read most of the final Carter Center report on Venezuela and the recall referendum. I will not go through the agony of commenting on all of the things I disagree with, but I did find it a little too self-serving.


However, there is one part that I definitely have to talk about, because I have devoted lots of time to it in my personal life and in this blog: Chapter 13, in which the report talks about an “independent” panel on the allegations of statistical evidence for fraud. (pages 127-134).


 


First on the Panel. There were four people in the panel who had the background that qualified them to be on it. However, the report says that they were “independent” experts who had not been involved in the Venezuelan recall referendum. I disagree. Prof. Jonathan Taylor was used as a consultant by the Carter Center the week after the recall vote and his work was subject to criticism by the Venezuelan scientific community, which led him change his work and his conclusions. So, I would take exception to his presence in the panel as an “independent”.


 


In fact, it appears to me that by “independent” the Carter Center seemed to imply that none of them were Venezuelan. A truly “independent” panel should not have included anyone that was involved, worked on or published on the subject of the Venezuela recall in the days following the vote. This would have disqualified both Prof. Rubin and Prof. Taylor.


 


Now, as a scientist I find the whole procedure absurd anyway. Scientific ideas need to be discussed and debated, the most useful panel would have been one of independents in which all of those that did some work on the subject are invited to defend, discuss and debate their work and that of others.


 


The Carter Center has four conclusions. The first one agrees with the work of two of the “independent” panelists, but disagrees with the work of Jimenez and Valladares discussed in my section rrStudies and included in the discussion. Once again, Taylor’s work is quoted but no mention is ever made of why Jimenez is wrong.


 


The second conclusion refers to the work of Hausmann and Rigobon. The conclusion is that there are “other” reasons why these results were obtained, which have not been tested.


 


The third one refers to another conclusion by Hausmann and Rigobon and it is said that “the panel has attempted to replicate” the results and concluded that the anomaly is small. Maybe this should have been a reason to have someone like Rigobon on the panel. After all, many people have been unable to replicate Taylor’s work, but that does not mean that either side is right or wrong.


 


Finally, the panel concludes that there is insufficient evidence that Benford’s law applies to election results. Now, here I must ask: How many undergraduates does it take to screw this particular light bulb?


 


First of all, the data for the Yes vote in the recall does follow Benford’s Law. Second, the data from the 200 Venezuelan Presidential election also follows Benford’s law. So, why didn’t the independent panel hire a couple of undergraduates to reproduce the work of Pericci and Mykoss on the recall vote and the Venezuelan Presidential elections, instead of using data from Chicago or the results for the Valladares’s model? Now, that seems too involved and convoluted to me! In fact, I think the Carter Center should have looked at the last three or four Presidential elections and referenda in Venezuela. By doing that simple study, which can probably be done on a weekend by a couple of undergraduates, then instead of saying that there is “insufficient” evidence, they could have reached a very solid conclusion and would not have to use the word “insufficient”.


 


In fact, if you look at the first graph that Mykoss has here, you would be hard pressed to say that the result of the 2000 Presidential election does not follow Benford’s law and that was an election in Venezuela, not Chicago! The same could be said of Pericci and Torres, how do you explain that the Si follows Benford’s law, but the No does not?


 


In fact, in my old days as a Professor and Researcher, if this were the conclusions of a lab report by a student or a paper submitted to me as a referee, I would have given them a very low grade or rejected the paper. More likely, I would have sent them back to start all over again from the beginning, telling them that their procedures for setting up the panel were not scientific and it was biased. I would have also suggested that they needed to do a lot more work to support their conclusions, before their lab report or paper is completed.


 


Finally, I can only express my amazement that no mention is made of the Exit poll studies that question the results of the recall vote. In fact, the term Exit poll is never mentioned in the text! While there can be errors in the techniques used to make these polls, the study by Sanso and Prado has some really strong conclusions, which would be difficult to explain away even if the exit poll techniques were far from perfect. In fact, since it is never mentioned, I can only wonder if it was simply set aside for the reason that they could not explain it away…


 


As we say in Spanish “Piensa mal y Acertaras”

The fake crowds of the fake revolution in Venezuela

February 25, 2005

This revolution is so fake that even the poster of their adoring crowds are sometimes faked. Below the picture of the poster being published in the papers as advertising for Governor  of Anzoategui Tarek William Saab, where he is shown surrounded by a crowd of admirers, supposedly on the celebration of the success of his first 100 days in office. Except that the picture is simply fake as shown in the three blowups, where one can see that the people in the picture “repeat” as the whole thing is simply acollage of the same people repeated in the picture. If he is so popular, why fake it? Oh, the fake revolution!



Are you sleeping Mr. Prosecutor? by Teodoro Petkoff

February 25, 2005

Ten days ago the sister of assasinated prosecutor Danilo Anderson denied knowing her brother had the property he was supposed to have had, including the two Jet Skis that she had supposedly admitted knowing about in what she said was her forged testimony which waseaked to the press. Well, yesterdy a video surfaced in which Anderson’s sister is seen with a group of people taking the two Jet Skis away from the place where they had been stored. Today, Teodoro Petkoff takes the Prosecutor Isaias Rodriguez to task for allowing the case to be meddled with:


Are you sleeping Mr. Prosecutor? by Teodoro Petkoff


 


In the decade of the sixties, poet Caupolicán Ovalles made famous a poem of his whose title asked President Betancourt: Are you sleep Mr. President? We could ask the same today to Isaias Rodriguez. (The Prosecutor). It must be difficult for him to get to sleep. Each day new evidence shows that some hairy hand wants to complicate the case of Danilo Anderson. A little while back his sister, Lourdes Suarez Anderson, categorically denied that she had had knowledge of the existence of two jet skis that her brother had acquired and that the testimony in which she supposedly recognized the existence of these aquatic vehicles were forged. Today, however, a video appeared where young Lourdes, together with a bunch of other people, takes the jet skis away from the place where they were being kept. That is, she did indeed know of their existence and the testimony, obviously was not forged. She did say what she later denied saying. Thus, the attempt to tangle up the matter, planting doubts over the authenticity of the testimony (which was leaked to the press) appears to have failed. At least the testimony with Lourdes Anderson’s statement was not forged, which lead us to believe that the other weren’t either. From whose arm, comes the hairy hand that wants to shuffle the cards again?

Weil: Before and after the Vargas aid

February 25, 2005

Weil on Vargas: Before and after the billions in aid:


Oil Revenues Hide Chavez’s Economic Ineptitude

February 25, 2005

Venezuelan Vladimir Chelmisky in today’s Wall Street Journal: Oil Revenues Hide
Chavez’s Economic Ineptitude


By VLADIMIR CHELMINSKI
February 25, 2005; Page A19


CARACAS — After six tumultuous years in power, the claim by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that he is leading Venezuelans toward greater prosperity cannot be sustained. Any serious analysis of our economy shows a dramatic deterioration in Venezuelan well-being. A series of feel-good government programs only help ameliorate the negatives that would otherwise accrue to Chavez with his disastrous handling of the economy.


 


In 1998, the vast majority of Venezuelans were very poor and had no good reason to hope for a better future. For decades, the quality of life had been deteriorating. The democratic process seemed to function well only for the benefit of politicians and their friends. The political parties that had alternated in power since 1958, Social Democrats and Social Christians, were very much the same. Both offered socialism with political freedom. Their policies paid lip service to the poor but always proved counterproductive. Private property and contracts meant little in their laws. Two-thirds of willing workers could not find employment in the formal economy and The Heritage/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom classified Venezuela as “mostly repressed.” The country needed dramatic change.


 


In that same year, presidential candidate Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez swept the country’s imagination with a good assessment of our problems, but wrongly naming economic liberalism as the cause of the misery. He promised a new state with new laws and sold hope to the poor. In December 1998 he won the presidency and for some time after his inauguration, he continued to gain popularity.


 


It is true that Mr. Chavez has expanded pension payments and implemented programs that did not exist before, like the 11 “missions” programs. Three of these programs are educational. “Misión Robinson” is designed to teach people to read. Participants receive a monthly stipend of 160,000 Bolivars (about $83) and in six months they may receive a sixth-grade diploma and can graduate to “Misión Ribas” where they have the same stipend and in six months may earn a high school diploma. In other words, an adult with no previous schooling can earn in just one year what normally takes 11 years.


 


There is no question that a monthly stipend is popular among the unemployed or those who earn very little but the quality of these diplomas is suspect. For the government, enrollment helps boost employment statistics since those studying do not count as unemployed.


Another “mission” program provides Cuban doctors, to live and work full-time inside poor communities, ready to help with minor health problems at any time, free of any cost to patients. But as in education, the quality of this care is an unknown. If a medical doctor with a Harvard degree arrives in Venezuela , he cannot work until he revalidates it. But a Cuban doctor’s credentials are taken for granted. Moreover, no one knows the cost of these doctors to the nation since they seem to be provided in exchange for Venezuelan oil to Cuba.


 


Yet another “mission” sells food staples at significant discounts from regulated prices. This is destroying the private sector at the retail, wholesale and industrial level.


 


Meanwhile the fundamentals in the economy are troubling. The central bank says the economy grew 17.3% last year, one of the highest rates in the world, but this was after a 9.2% economic contraction in 2003 and an 8.9% contraction in 2002. Despite exchange and price controls imposed to rein in inflation, in the past two years we have had an inflation rate only surpassed by Zimbabwe. In 2004 inflation was 19.2% and in 2003 it was 27.1%. The central government ran a deficit of 3.8% of gross domestic product in 2004, even with unusually high oil prices, fictitious central bank foreign-exchange profits and record tax collections.


 


The financial transaction tax of .5% is particularly damaging. Because most of the population is poor and does not use checks, the government says the tax won’t affect them. This ignores the fact that business passes its cost onto consumers. In addition, there are consumer taxes which I estimate create a 22% mark-up on staples. Tax rules now stipulate that even the purchase of a cup of coffee requires the consumer to tell the vendor his tax identification number and address.


 


A main characteristic of our repressed economy is the imposition of exchange and price controls two years ago. We’ve seen this movie before. Venezuela had these controls from 1983 to 1989 and from 1994 to 1996. In both cases, corruption ballooned, and the economy sank. In the end, they had to be discarded amid scarcities and hyperinflation.


 


Another economically pernicious measure introduced by this government is property confiscation. Earlier this year, the country’s most productive ranch, owned by the British company Vestay Group LTD since 1903, became the target of a potential confiscation with plans to partition it for “cooperatives.” This may be popular with the poor but if the past is any guide, the newcomers will either starve or go back to where they came from. Meantime, the nation will have lost a major productive asset. Next we’ll be wondering why there is not enough investment and job creation.


 


Mr. Chavez still has credibility among his disciples and his charisma may carry him for some time to come, despite rising crime, filthier cities, declining services, an expanding informal economy and more beggars in the street than ever before. His followers are so infatuated that they do not pay attention to the contradictions in his speech or his numerous promises never fulfilled. But when the price of oil comes down, the “missions” will be unsustainable and the bloom is sure to fall off the rose.

The Economist: Is the United States’ nightmare of “a second Cuba” coming true in Venezuela?

February 25, 2005

Is the United States‘ nightmare of “a second Cuba” coming true in Venezuela? from The Economist


EVER since he was first elected as Venezuela‘s president in 1998, Hugo Chávez has been fond of anti-American rhetoric. American officials long ignored this, preferring to watch what the Venezuelan did rather than what he said. Since Mr Chávez trounced his opponents in a recall referendum last August, not only has he turned up the volume of his “anti-imperialist” pronouncements, but some of his words are turning into deeds. As a result, some in Washington are starting to become alarmed about Mr Chávez and the wider regional implications of his leftist-nationalist “revolution”.

<!–
D(["mb","

\r\n

Mr Chávez, a former army \r\nofficer, recently declared himself to be a Fidelista, a follower, that \r\nis, of Cuba\’s communist president, Fidel Castro, his closest ally. He has \r\nordered Venezuela\’s armed forces to draw up a new Cuban-style strategy in which \r\nthe top priority has become preparing to fight a war of resistance against a \r\nhypothetical invasion by the United States, now seen as the principal adversary. \r\nTo this end, Mr Chávez has recently ordered a doubling of the army\’s reserve, to \r\nmore than 100,000 troops under his personal command. “Popular defence units” of \r\n50 to 500 civilians are to be set up in workplaces and on farms.

\r\n

\r\n

At the same time, the \r\npresident is shopping for arms. In recent months, he has bought from Russia 40 \r\nMi35 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. He is negotiating for up to 24 \r\nBrazilian Super-Tucano ground-attack planes and four Spanish naval corvettes. \r\nThe United States has protested to Russia over its arms sales, and wonders out \r\nloud what they are for. So do the armed forces in Colombia, the Americans\’ \r\nclosest ally in the region, with which Venezuela shares a disputed border. The \r\nanswer, say Venezuelan officials, is partly to replace outdated kit, and partly \r\nto do what both the United States and Colombia have been pressing for: to defend \r\nthe border against incursions by Colombian leftist guerrillas, rightist \r\nparamilitaries and drug-traffickers.

\r\n

A senior Colombian \r\nofficial asks what will happen to the Venezuelan army\’s existing rifles. He \r\nfears that these, and perhaps some of the ammunition for the new Kalashnikovs, \r\nwill find their way to the FARC guerrillas in their \r\ncountry, who are ideological soulmates of Mr Chávez.

\r\n

“,1]
);

//–>


Mr Chávez, a former army officer, recently declared himself to be a Fidelista, a follower, that is, of Cuba‘s communist president, Fidel Castro, his closest ally. He has ordered Venezuela‘s armed forces to draw up a new Cuban-style strategy in which the top priority has become preparing to fight a war of resistance against a hypothetical invasion by the United States, now seen as the principal adversary. To this end, Mr Chávez has recently ordered a doubling of the army’s reserve, to more than 100,000 troops under his personal command. “Popular defence units” of 50 to 500 civilians are to be set up in workplaces and on farms.


At the same time, the president is shopping for arms. In recent months, he has bought from Russia 40 Mi35 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. He is negotiating for up to 24 Brazilian Super-Tucano ground-attack planes and four Spanish naval corvettes. The United States has protested to Russia over its arms sales, and wonders out loud what they are for. So do the armed forces in Colombia, the Americans’ closest ally in the region, with which Venezuela shares a disputed border. The answer, say Venezuelan officials, is partly to replace outdated kit, and partly to do what both the United States and Colombia have been pressing for: to defend the border against incursions by Colombian leftist guerrillas, rightist paramilitaries and drug-traffickers.


A senior Colombian official asks what will happen to the Venezuelan army’s existing rifles. He fears that these, and perhaps some of the ammunition for the new Kalashnikovs, will find their way to the FARC guerrillas in their country, who are ideological soulmates of Mr Chávez.


<!–
D(["mb","A second issue on which \r\nVenezuela\’s stance is changing is oil. The United States has long been the main \r\nmarket for Venezuela\’s oil exports. Now Mr Chávez is negotiating trade and \r\ninvestment deals with Russia, Brazil, Iran and China. The next step, some in \r\nWashington worry, will be that Venezuela will start diverting its oil from the \r\nUnited States to China. That is not an immediate possibility: China lacks \r\nrefineries to process Venezuela\’s heavy crude. But it may happen in the medium \r\nterm. Mr Chávez has signalled a desire to sell Citgo, a state-owned Venezuelan \r\ncompany that refines and retails the country\’s oil in the United States. Even \r\nso, Venezuela\’s foreign minister stressed this week that his country will \r\n“always be a reliable supplier to the United States”.

\r\n

A third controversy is \r\nMr Chávez\’s tightening grip at home. Since the referendum, the opposition has \r\nall but disappeared as a coherent force. The chavista majority in the \r\nlegislature has appointed an expanded—and avowedly “revolutionary”—supreme \r\ncourt, which in turn has named a new electoral authority, with a 4-1 \r\npro-government majority.

\r\n

These developments have \r\nproduced differing reactions across the Americas. In recent weeks, the United \r\nStates has unleashed a barrage of criticism of Mr Chávez. Condoleezza Rice, the \r\nsecretary of state, called his government a “negative force” in the region and \r\nsome aspects of his rule “very deeply troubling”.

\r\n

For half a century, \r\nAmerican policy in Latin America has been dominated by the desire to prevent a \r\n“second Cuba”. Some officials in Washington fear that is what is now emerging in \r\nVenezuela. They also worry that Venezuela may be soft on “narco-terrorism”, and \r\ntrying to export its “revolution” to the rest of the region. As a result, they \r\nwant to isolate Mr Chávez.”,1]
);

//–>

A second issue on which Venezuela‘s stance is changing is oil. The United States has long been the main market for Venezuela‘s oil exports. Now Mr Chávez is negotiating trade and investment deals with Russia, Brazil, Iran and China. The next step, some in Washington worry, will be that Venezuela will start diverting its oil from the United States to China. That is not an immediate possibility: China lacks refineries to process Venezuela‘s heavy crude. But it may happen in the medium term. Mr Chávez has signalled a desire to sell Citgo, a state-owned Venezuelan company that refines and retails the country’s oil in the United States. Even so, Venezuela‘s foreign minister stressed this week that his country will “always be a reliable supplier to the United States”.


A third controversy is Mr Chávez’s tightening grip at home. Since the referendum, the opposition has all but disappeared as a coherent force. The chavista majority in the legislature has appointed an expanded—and avowedly “revolutionary”—supreme court, which in turn has named a new electoral authority, with a 4-1 pro-government majority.


These developments have produced differing reactions across the Americas. In recent weeks, the United States has unleashed a barrage of criticism of Mr Chávez. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, called his government a “negative force” in the region and some aspects of his rule “very deeply troubling”.


For half a century, American policy in Latin America has been dominated by the desire to prevent a “second Cuba”. Some officials in Washington fear that is what is now emerging in Venezuela. They also worry that Venezuela may be soft on “narco-terrorism”, and trying to export its “revolution” to the rest of the region. As a result, they want to isolate Mr Chávez.

<!–
D(["mb","

\r\n

But George Bush is \r\nfinding it hard to persuade the rest of Latin America to do this. Last week, \r\nColombia\’s president, Álvaro Uribe, met Mr Chávez, putting a diplomatic face on \r\na bitter dispute following the abduction in Caracas and subsequent arrest in \r\nColombia of a senior FARC leader. However temporary, this \r\nrapprochement, brokered in part by Mr Castro and backed by Brazil, Chile and \r\nPeru, ended up making the United States, rather than Venezuela, look isolated. \r\nOne day later, Brazil\’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, visited Caracas to \r\nseal a “strategic alliance”, signing two dozen trade and investment accords. \r\nLula even praised Venezuelan democracy, to the dismay of the remnants of the \r\nopposition, which insists that the referendum was rigged.

\r\n

Should the region be \r\nworried, as America argues? The Colombian official, noting Mr Chávez\’s speeches \r\nabout recreating the “greater Colombia” that in the 1820s briefly united the two \r\ncountries under his hero, Simón Bolívar, is convinced that Venezuela, despite \r\nits repeated denials, is helping the FARC.

\r\n

Brazil, whose president \r\nrepresents a more moderate brand of leftism than Mr Chávez\’s, takes a more \r\nrelaxed view. According to a senior Brazilian diplomat in Brasília, the \r\nreferendum removed any doubts about Mr Chávez\’s democratic legitimacy. Brazil \r\ndoes not see any danger of an arms race—indeed, nobody objects to the mooted \r\nsale of Super-Tucanos. Some Brazilians see dealing with Venezuela as a way of \r\nreducing the risk of intervention by the United States, whose presence in \r\nColombia they dislike. The diplomat notes that Brazil has sealed similar \r\n“strategic alliances” with Argentina and Peru. Brazil\’s dialogue with Venezuela \r\nhas the blessing of Washington.

\r\n

“,1]
);

//–>


But George Bush is finding it hard to persuade the rest of Latin America to do this. Last week, Colombia‘s president, Álvaro Uribe, met Mr Chávez, putting a diplomatic face on a bitter dispute following the abduction in Caracas and subsequent arrest in Colombia of a senior FARC leader. However temporary, this rapprochement, brokered in part by Mr Castro and backed by Brazil, Chile and Peru, ended up making the United States, rather than Venezuela, look isolated. One day later, Brazil‘s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, visited Caracas to seal a “strategic alliance”, signing two dozen trade and investment accords. Lula even praised Venezuelan democracy, to the dismay of the remnants of the opposition, which insists that the referendum was rigged.


Should the region be worried, as America argues? The Colombian official, noting Mr Chávez’s speeches about recreating the “greater Colombia” that in the 1820s briefly united the two countries under his hero, Simón Bolívar, is convinced that Venezuela, despite its repeated denials, is helping the FARC.


Brazil, whose president represents a more moderate brand of leftism than Mr Chávez’s, takes a more relaxed view. According to a senior Brazilian diplomat in Brasília, the referendum removed any doubts about Mr Chávez’s democratic legitimacy. Brazil does not see any danger of an arms race—indeed, nobody objects to the mooted sale of Super-Tucanos. Some Brazilians see dealing with Venezuela as a way of reducing the risk of intervention by the United States, whose presence in Colombia they dislike. The diplomat notes that Brazil has sealed similar “strategic alliances” with Argentina and Peru. Brazil‘s dialogue with Venezuela has the blessing of Washington.


\r\n

Certainly, Mr Chávez\’s \r\nintentions are sufficiently ambiguous to warrant close scrutiny by South \r\nAmerica\’s democrats. The United States this week dismissed claims by Mr Chávez \r\nand Mr Castro that it is planning to assassinate the Venezuelan leader. Any \r\nattempt to execute “regime change” in Venezuela—such as the failed coup in 2002 \r\nwhich the United States did not condemn—would be rejected in the region as the \r\nousting of an elected leader. But whatever the neighbours say, rising tension \r\nbetween the United States and Venezuela will be a dominant theme in the region \r\nfor the foreseeable future.

\r\n

\r\n
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n
\r\n
Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. \r\n All rights reserved.

\r\n

\r\n

 

\r\n

 

“,1]
);

//–>

The prevailing attitude in Latin America is that Mr Chávez has not yet crossed the line between democracy and authoritarianism—and that he is unlikely to do so unless he feels cornered by the United States. According to this view, Mr Chávez’s “revolution”, paid for by oil wealth, would be hard to imitate elsewhere. So, it is argued, there is more to be gained by engaging Mr Chávez in a democratic South America than by isolating him.


Certainly, Mr Chávez’s intentions are sufficiently ambiguous to warrant close scrutiny by South America‘s democrats. The United States this week dismissed claims by Mr Chávez and Mr Castro that it is planning to assassinate the Venezuelan leader. Any attempt to execute “regime change” in Venezuela—such as the failed coup in 2002 which the United States did not condemn—would be rejected in the region as the ousting of an elected leader. But whatever the neighbours say, rising tension between the United States and Venezuela will be a dominant theme in the region for the foreseeable future.

The Economist: Is the United States’ nightmare of “a second Cuba” coming true in Venezuela?

February 25, 2005

Is the United States‘ nightmare of “a second Cuba” coming true in Venezuela? from The Economist


EVER since he was first elected as Venezuela‘s president in 1998, Hugo Chávez has been fond of anti-American rhetoric. American officials long ignored this, preferring to watch what the Venezuelan did rather than what he said. Since Mr Chávez trounced his opponents in a recall referendum last August, not only has he turned up the volume of his “anti-imperialist” pronouncements, but some of his words are turning into deeds. As a result, some in Washington are starting to become alarmed about Mr Chávez and the wider regional implications of his leftist-nationalist “revolution”.

<!–
D(["mb","

\r\n

Mr Chávez, a former army \r\nofficer, recently declared himself to be a Fidelista, a follower, that \r\nis, of Cuba\’s communist president, Fidel Castro, his closest ally. He has \r\nordered Venezuela\’s armed forces to draw up a new Cuban-style strategy in which \r\nthe top priority has become preparing to fight a war of resistance against a \r\nhypothetical invasion by the United States, now seen as the principal adversary. \r\nTo this end, Mr Chávez has recently ordered a doubling of the army\’s reserve, to \r\nmore than 100,000 troops under his personal command. “Popular defence units” of \r\n50 to 500 civilians are to be set up in workplaces and on farms.

\r\n

\r\n

At the same time, the \r\npresident is shopping for arms. In recent months, he has bought from Russia 40 \r\nMi35 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. He is negotiating for up to 24 \r\nBrazilian Super-Tucano ground-attack planes and four Spanish naval corvettes. \r\nThe United States has protested to Russia over its arms sales, and wonders out \r\nloud what they are for. So do the armed forces in Colombia, the Americans\’ \r\nclosest ally in the region, with which Venezuela shares a disputed border. The \r\nanswer, say Venezuelan officials, is partly to replace outdated kit, and partly \r\nto do what both the United States and Colombia have been pressing for: to defend \r\nthe border against incursions by Colombian leftist guerrillas, rightist \r\nparamilitaries and drug-traffickers.

\r\n

A senior Colombian \r\nofficial asks what will happen to the Venezuelan army\’s existing rifles. He \r\nfears that these, and perhaps some of the ammunition for the new Kalashnikovs, \r\nwill find their way to the FARC guerrillas in their \r\ncountry, who are ideological soulmates of Mr Chávez.

\r\n

“,1]
);

//–>


Mr Chávez, a former army officer, recently declared himself to be a Fidelista, a follower, that is, of Cuba‘s communist president, Fidel Castro, his closest ally. He has ordered Venezuela‘s armed forces to draw up a new Cuban-style strategy in which the top priority has become preparing to fight a war of resistance against a hypothetical invasion by the United States, now seen as the principal adversary. To this end, Mr Chávez has recently ordered a doubling of the army’s reserve, to more than 100,000 troops under his personal command. “Popular defence units” of 50 to 500 civilians are to be set up in workplaces and on farms.


At the same time, the president is shopping for arms. In recent months, he has bought from Russia 40 Mi35 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. He is negotiating for up to 24 Brazilian Super-Tucano ground-attack planes and four Spanish naval corvettes. The United States has protested to Russia over its arms sales, and wonders out loud what they are for. So do the armed forces in Colombia, the Americans’ closest ally in the region, with which Venezuela shares a disputed border. The answer, say Venezuelan officials, is partly to replace outdated kit, and partly to do what both the United States and Colombia have been pressing for: to defend the border against incursions by Colombian leftist guerrillas, rightist paramilitaries and drug-traffickers.


A senior Colombian official asks what will happen to the Venezuelan army’s existing rifles. He fears that these, and perhaps some of the ammunition for the new Kalashnikovs, will find their way to the FARC guerrillas in their country, who are ideological soulmates of Mr Chávez.


<!–
D(["mb","A second issue on which \r\nVenezuela\’s stance is changing is oil. The United States has long been the main \r\nmarket for Venezuela\’s oil exports. Now Mr Chávez is negotiating trade and \r\ninvestment deals with Russia, Brazil, Iran and China. The next step, some in \r\nWashington worry, will be that Venezuela will start diverting its oil from the \r\nUnited States to China. That is not an immediate possibility: China lacks \r\nrefineries to process Venezuela\’s heavy crude. But it may happen in the medium \r\nterm. Mr Chávez has signalled a desire to sell Citgo, a state-owned Venezuelan \r\ncompany that refines and retails the country\’s oil in the United States. Even \r\nso, Venezuela\’s foreign minister stressed this week that his country will \r\n“always be a reliable supplier to the United States”.

\r\n

A third controversy is \r\nMr Chávez\’s tightening grip at home. Since the referendum, the opposition has \r\nall but disappeared as a coherent force. The chavista majority in the \r\nlegislature has appointed an expanded—and avowedly “revolutionary”—supreme \r\ncourt, which in turn has named a new electoral authority, with a 4-1 \r\npro-government majority.

\r\n

These developments have \r\nproduced differing reactions across the Americas. In recent weeks, the United \r\nStates has unleashed a barrage of criticism of Mr Chávez. Condoleezza Rice, the \r\nsecretary of state, called his government a “negative force” in the region and \r\nsome aspects of his rule “very deeply troubling”.

\r\n

For half a century, \r\nAmerican policy in Latin America has been dominated by the desire to prevent a \r\n“second Cuba”. Some officials in Washington fear that is what is now emerging in \r\nVenezuela. They also worry that Venezuela may be soft on “narco-terrorism”, and \r\ntrying to export its “revolution” to the rest of the region. As a result, they \r\nwant to isolate Mr Chávez.”,1]
);

//–>

A second issue on which Venezuela‘s stance is changing is oil. The United States has long been the main market for Venezuela‘s oil exports. Now Mr Chávez is negotiating trade and investment deals with Russia, Brazil, Iran and China. The next step, some in Washington worry, will be that Venezuela will start diverting its oil from the United States to China. That is not an immediate possibility: China lacks refineries to process Venezuela‘s heavy crude. But it may happen in the medium term. Mr Chávez has signalled a desire to sell Citgo, a state-owned Venezuelan company that refines and retails the country’s oil in the United States. Even so, Venezuela‘s foreign minister stressed this week that his country will “always be a reliable supplier to the United States”.


A third controversy is Mr Chávez’s tightening grip at home. Since the referendum, the opposition has all but disappeared as a coherent force. The chavista majority in the legislature has appointed an expanded—and avowedly “revolutionary”—supreme court, which in turn has named a new electoral authority, with a 4-1 pro-government majority.


These developments have produced differing reactions across the Americas. In recent weeks, the United States has unleashed a barrage of criticism of Mr Chávez. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, called his government a “negative force” in the region and some aspects of his rule “very deeply troubling”.


For half a century, American policy in Latin America has been dominated by the desire to prevent a “second Cuba”. Some officials in Washington fear that is what is now emerging in Venezuela. They also worry that Venezuela may be soft on “narco-terrorism”, and trying to export its “revolution” to the rest of the region. As a result, they want to isolate Mr Chávez.

<!–
D(["mb","

\r\n

But George Bush is \r\nfinding it hard to persuade the rest of Latin America to do this. Last week, \r\nColombia\’s president, Álvaro Uribe, met Mr Chávez, putting a diplomatic face on \r\na bitter dispute following the abduction in Caracas and subsequent arrest in \r\nColombia of a senior FARC leader. However temporary, this \r\nrapprochement, brokered in part by Mr Castro and backed by Brazil, Chile and \r\nPeru, ended up making the United States, rather than Venezuela, look isolated. \r\nOne day later, Brazil\’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, visited Caracas to \r\nseal a “strategic alliance”, signing two dozen trade and investment accords. \r\nLula even praised Venezuelan democracy, to the dismay of the remnants of the \r\nopposition, which insists that the referendum was rigged.

\r\n

Should the region be \r\nworried, as America argues? The Colombian official, noting Mr Chávez\’s speeches \r\nabout recreating the “greater Colombia” that in the 1820s briefly united the two \r\ncountries under his hero, Simón Bolívar, is convinced that Venezuela, despite \r\nits repeated denials, is helping the FARC.

\r\n

Brazil, whose president \r\nrepresents a more moderate brand of leftism than Mr Chávez\’s, takes a more \r\nrelaxed view. According to a senior Brazilian diplomat in Brasília, the \r\nreferendum removed any doubts about Mr Chávez\’s democratic legitimacy. Brazil \r\ndoes not see any danger of an arms race—indeed, nobody objects to the mooted \r\nsale of Super-Tucanos. Some Brazilians see dealing with Venezuela as a way of \r\nreducing the risk of intervention by the United States, whose presence in \r\nColombia they dislike. The diplomat notes that Brazil has sealed similar \r\n“strategic alliances” with Argentina and Peru. Brazil\’s dialogue with Venezuela \r\nhas the blessing of Washington.

\r\n

“,1]
);

//–>


But George Bush is finding it hard to persuade the rest of Latin America to do this. Last week, Colombia‘s president, Álvaro Uribe, met Mr Chávez, putting a diplomatic face on a bitter dispute following the abduction in Caracas and subsequent arrest in Colombia of a senior FARC leader. However temporary, this rapprochement, brokered in part by Mr Castro and backed by Brazil, Chile and Peru, ended up making the United States, rather than Venezuela, look isolated. One day later, Brazil‘s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, visited Caracas to seal a “strategic alliance”, signing two dozen trade and investment accords. Lula even praised Venezuelan democracy, to the dismay of the remnants of the opposition, which insists that the referendum was rigged.


Should the region be worried, as America argues? The Colombian official, noting Mr Chávez’s speeches about recreating the “greater Colombia” that in the 1820s briefly united the two countries under his hero, Simón Bolívar, is convinced that Venezuela, despite its repeated denials, is helping the FARC.


Brazil, whose president represents a more moderate brand of leftism than Mr Chávez’s, takes a more relaxed view. According to a senior Brazilian diplomat in Brasília, the referendum removed any doubts about Mr Chávez’s democratic legitimacy. Brazil does not see any danger of an arms race—indeed, nobody objects to the mooted sale of Super-Tucanos. Some Brazilians see dealing with Venezuela as a way of reducing the risk of intervention by the United States, whose presence in Colombia they dislike. The diplomat notes that Brazil has sealed similar “strategic alliances” with Argentina and Peru. Brazil‘s dialogue with Venezuela has the blessing of Washington.


\r\n

Certainly, Mr Chávez\’s \r\nintentions are sufficiently ambiguous to warrant close scrutiny by South \r\nAmerica\’s democrats. The United States this week dismissed claims by Mr Chávez \r\nand Mr Castro that it is planning to assassinate the Venezuelan leader. Any \r\nattempt to execute “regime change” in Venezuela—such as the failed coup in 2002 \r\nwhich the United States did not condemn—would be rejected in the region as the \r\nousting of an elected leader. But whatever the neighbours say, rising tension \r\nbetween the United States and Venezuela will be a dominant theme in the region \r\nfor the foreseeable future.

\r\n

\r\n
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n
\r\n
Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. \r\n All rights reserved.

\r\n

\r\n

 

\r\n

 

“,1]
);

//–>

The prevailing attitude in Latin America is that Mr Chávez has not yet crossed the line between democracy and authoritarianism—and that he is unlikely to do so unless he feels cornered by the United States. According to this view, Mr Chávez’s “revolution”, paid for by oil wealth, would be hard to imitate elsewhere. So, it is argued, there is more to be gained by engaging Mr Chávez in a democratic South America than by isolating him.


Certainly, Mr Chávez’s intentions are sufficiently ambiguous to warrant close scrutiny by South America‘s democrats. The United States this week dismissed claims by Mr Chávez and Mr Castro that it is planning to assassinate the Venezuelan leader. Any attempt to execute “regime change” in Venezuela—such as the failed coup in 2002 which the United States did not condemn—would be rejected in the region as the ousting of an elected leader. But whatever the neighbours say, rising tension between the United States and Venezuela will be a dominant theme in the region for the foreseeable future.

When the going gets tough, cry murder!

February 24, 2005

 


May 4th. 2002: José Vicente Rangel: “I know from the best of sources that the possibility of a Presidential assassination is being considered and we also have the information that there are obsessed people that are pushing some military officers to embark in a new coup”


 


Oct. 20th. 2002. Hugo Chavez: “Caliber 84 mm. length 1.20 meters, initial speed 290 meters per second, maximum reach 500 meters, average time of flight 1.2 seconds. It is an individual weapon, portable, easy to discard. We have aborted a Presidential assassination, a little more and we would not be here, a little more and we would not know what happened in Venezuela


 


Dec. 14th. 2002. Jose Vicente Rangel: “In Venezuela there are experts sharpshooters that are trying to catch the President at any moment. We don’t discard generalized terrorism, assassinations of various Government and opposition leaders. But a cold coup will not take place.”


 


Dec. 18th. 2002. Hugo Chavez: “If for any reason the thesis of my assassination became a reality, if I get killed, there could be a war. Because it involves me, I take care of myself.”


 


March 13th. 2003: Roy Chaderton (Foreign Minister): “I am bringing to this meeting evidence about the calls by the media in Venezuela and from other counties of the hemisphere made in favor of the assassination of the Venezuelan President. Venezuelan media and TV present this to the world as the most normal thing.”


 


July 27th. 2003. Hugo Chavez: “They are preparing my assassination. I have told this to the Dominican President. If they were preparing here an attempt against the Dominican President and I did not do anything to avoid it would not be dignified”


 


May 9th. 2004: Hugo Chavez: “There are people in the US that are thinking all the time on how to have a war in Venezuela, to later justify an invasion. And one of the ways they have thought about it is a presidential assassination…”


 


Oct. 27th. 2004: “Hugo Chavez:” I have received warnings form other parts of the world telling me: Careful Chavez! Take care of yourself because this time, it is serious, there


are preparing your assassination. I say it responsibly and I promise I will take care of myself and they will not manage to do it”


 


Feb. 13th. 2005. Fidel Castro:” If Chávez is assassinated the whole responsibility will fall on the Government of George W. Bush”


 


Feb 20th. 2005. Hugo Chávez: “If something happens to me George W. Bush will be responsible”


 


Feb. 24th. 2005. Nicolas Maduro: “We have identified the source of this threat  and the names of two people who are behind it, John Negroponte, intelligence tsar and Porter Gross, Director of the CIA.


 


Feb. 23d. 2005: Ali Rodriguez at the OAS: “I ratify the alert about a possible assassination; nobody can imagine the consequences of this action”


The sad thing is, it works, by now, people have forgotten about the floods, the fake data of how many died, Danilo Anderson’s murder, corruption, missing funds and all that…


 


Oh yes, and despite this great intelligence work, nobody is ever caught, no proof is ever revealed, nobody is ever prosecuted for trying to assassinate Chavez.

Two looks at the Carter Center and Venezuela, then and now and tomorrow?

February 23, 2005

I view my role in this blog as simply providing information, I try to provide links and be at least consistent in what I say. I don’t claim I am even close at that. Being right is even further away from my thoughts. I have found that being right in politics is quite difficult and don’t even try to be right, just honest.


Today, someone in the comments section seemed to suggest the opposition (or me!) believed too much in the Carter Center. I did not; I wish I had been wrong! I still believe that we should ignore him and actually have never trusted him very much. I would not even bother meeting with him or his representatives tomorrow. One reader (AM) actually went through my blog and found my old quotes on Carter and his efforts. Another one (JA) reached a conclusion exactly the opposite of mine, thinks we should meet with the Carter Center, thus here are my old views, a Venezuelan that could care less about Carter and his efforts opinions and JA, an American that has shown to me cares as much about the fate of my country, as I do. JA’s opinions are taken directly from the comments section:


 


Miguel:


 


Nov 16th. 2002


 


My friends, this is fascism and Venezuela is slowly melting into a


dictatorship under the eyes of the stupid people like the Carter


Center, the OAS and Human Rights Watch who have played right into the


hands of the cynicism of the Chavez Government.


 


Oct. 12, 2002


 


Either he was naive and believed what our President told him or the


Carter Center received a contribution from the Venezuelan Government


that now stops them from speaking out. A few days ago I translated and


posted a very good article with the promises made by Hugo Chavez to


Jimmy Carter. Venezuelans are still waiting to hear from the Carter


Center on these issues.


 


The Carter Center published a denial about receiving a contribution


from the Venezuelan Government that was too carefully worded for my


taste. It says:


 


“Son erróneos los reportes recientes aparecidos en Venezuela que


indican que el Centro Carter habría recibido una donación de parte del


Gobierno venezolano en relación con la invitación para ayudar a


facilitar la reconciliación nacional y el diálogo. El Centro Carter no


ha aceptado y no aceptaría fondos de parte del Gobierno venezolano en


relación con este esfuerzo”


 


Translated:


 


“The reports that recently appeared in Venezuela which indicate that


the Carter Center received a donation from the Venezuelan Government


related to the invitation to help facilitate the dialogue and national


reconciliation are erroneous. The Carter Center has not accepted and


will not accept funds from the Venezuelan Government related to these


efforts”


 


Note how carefully it is stated TWICE using the word “related”  when


it says “related to the invitation” or “related to that effort”,


clearly defining that there is no donation in relation to the visit.


My reading is that the Center did receive a donation unrelated to the


visit to mediate between the Government and the opposition, likely


into some other project of the Carter Center. So far, the Carter


Center has not issued a denial that it NEVER received a donation from


the Hugo Chavez Government. Once the Chavez Government leaves, which


will happen soon, we will know the complete truth. The shame will now


taint not only Jimmy Carter’s  reputation, but also that of the Nobel


Peace Prize. (Well, maybe its too late for that anyway, didn’t they


give it to Arafat too?)


 


Dec. 6 2002


 


I have been warning in these pages since I began about the real Hugo


Chavez. Gaviria, Carter and HRW have played into his hands. Only


yesterday, the opposition had to cancel a march on fears that there


would be a massacre.


 


There is much more in my blog, but this should be enough to prove my point that we should not waste our time in meeting with the Carter Center.


 


JA, has an opposite opinion, despite reaching similar conclusions about Carter, she thinks the opposition should meet with Carter:


 


I do not hesitate to condemn the lack of leadership in the opposition. This has been a tragedy for Venezuela. But those who believe Carter had little to do with Chavez’s victory are missing something very, very important. Carter was the unofficial representative of the US government. His funding came from the US State Department. Additionally, in the months running up to the Referendum and on August 15, 2004 Carter was seen by the world as the most credible actor in Venezuelan politics. If the opposition told Chavez and the CNE (the electoral authority) to go to hell, the world would have turned their back on the opposition because Carter gave his blessing to the rules and regulations established by the CNE. So, the United States was giving the opposition no other choices but to accept Carter. What was the opposition supposed to do and who would have supported them in boycotting the RR?


 



Carter’s sole objective when he came to
Venezuela was to limit social violence, no matter the cost. He turned the other cheek while hundreds of thousands of people were illegally turned into citizens and registered to vote. He turned the other cheek when outrageous sums of public money were spent on Chavez’s campaign. He turned the other cheek when Chavez used public TV to campaign endlessly and illegally. He looked the other way as abuse after abuse was committed and delay after delay was made to push back the referendum to give Chavez time to buy and steal as many votes as he could before the RR. The opposition screamed many times, but if Carter had called the fairness of the RR into doubt, he would have risked pushing the country into social upheaval. So in his mind, it was better to go forward with a rigged election than see injuries and possibly death.


 


In the early morning hours of August 16 when the CNE announced the RR result, almost all in Venezuela knew a grand theft had taken place, even Carter realized, even if he could not be sure of the magnitude. He could have questioned the legitimacy of the result, requesting time for a full audit and investigation, but to do so would have risked social upheaval–the very thing he so desperately wanted to prevent. So in his mind, he chose the least bad option, endorsing a fraudulent election, something he had already been doing for months.


 


So now the Carter Center is back in Caracas. Why now? They could have returned when it was clear that Chavez was going to stack the Supreme Court again. They could have returned when it was clear that the muzzle law on the press was going to be approved. They could have returned when it became evident that Chavez was giving safe haven to Farc terrorists. But a complete breakdown of checks and balances and democratic institutions was not a grave enough crisis for Carter to get involved. It is only when the US govt starts to focus on Venezuela that Carter decides to get involved (by the way, Carter has been cut off from State Department funding). Why should this get Carter into gear? Ehud Barak (former Prime Minister of Israel) stated recently that when the US denounces tyrants and talks about spreading liberty, it emboldens dissidents and opposition grouped living under tyranny. Carter understands that a more focused US could give hope! To the opposition, and give them a reason to take to the streets to fight for liberty and democracy once again. So Carter must swing into action, and make a call for dialogue in an attempt to crush the oppositions struggle for democracy–because such a struggle could get violent.


 


So what should the opposition do to confront this man, who has helped to prop up and unbending authoritarian? Two choices: 1) in a calm, cool, organized way explain to the world the outrageous electoral abuses that took place under Carter’s watch, and note the contrast with the Ukraine. If the opposition pursues this strategy they must stick to undeniable facts (there are plenty of them) while avoiding unsubstantiated accusations. Of course, this strategy requires a reasonable competent spokesperson, and there are plenty. 2) A second, less compelling strategy would be to try to ignore Carter, downplaying his visit, providing the press with as little to write about. Hopefully Carter would exit the scene. I prefer option 1, if it were done properly.

Two looks at the Carter Center and Venezuela, then and now and tomorrow?

February 23, 2005

I view my role in this blog as simply providing information, I try to provide links and be at least consistent in what I say. I don’t claim I am even close at that. Being right is even further away from my thoughts. I have found that being right in politics is quite difficult and don’t even try to be right, just honest.


Today, someone in the comments section seemed to suggest the opposition (or me!) believed too much in the Carter Center. I did not; I wish I had been wrong! I still believe that we should ignore him and actually have never trusted him very much. I would not even bother meeting with him or his representatives tomorrow. One reader (AM) actually went through my blog and found my old quotes on Carter and his efforts. Another one (JA) reached a conclusion exactly the opposite of mine, thinks we should meet with the Carter Center, thus here are my old views, a Venezuelan that could care less about Carter and his efforts opinions and JA, an American that has shown to me cares as much about the fate of my country, as I do. JA’s opinions are taken directly from the comments section:


 


Miguel:


 


Nov 16th. 2002


 


My friends, this is fascism and Venezuela is slowly melting into a


dictatorship under the eyes of the stupid people like the Carter


Center, the OAS and Human Rights Watch who have played right into the


hands of the cynicism of the Chavez Government.


 


Oct. 12, 2002


 


Either he was naive and believed what our President told him or the


Carter Center received a contribution from the Venezuelan Government


that now stops them from speaking out. A few days ago I translated and


posted a very good article with the promises made by Hugo Chavez to


Jimmy Carter. Venezuelans are still waiting to hear from the Carter


Center on these issues.


 


The Carter Center published a denial about receiving a contribution


from the Venezuelan Government that was too carefully worded for my


taste. It says:


 


“Son erróneos los reportes recientes aparecidos en Venezuela que


indican que el Centro Carter habría recibido una donación de parte del


Gobierno venezolano en relación con la invitación para ayudar a


facilitar la reconciliación nacional y el diálogo. El Centro Carter no


ha aceptado y no aceptaría fondos de parte del Gobierno venezolano en


relación con este esfuerzo”


 


Translated:


 


“The reports that recently appeared in Venezuela which indicate that


the Carter Center received a donation from the Venezuelan Government


related to the invitation to help facilitate the dialogue and national


reconciliation are erroneous. The Carter Center has not accepted and


will not accept funds from the Venezuelan Government related to these


efforts”


 


Note how carefully it is stated TWICE using the word “related”  when


it says “related to the invitation” or “related to that effort”,


clearly defining that there is no donation in relation to the visit.


My reading is that the Center did receive a donation unrelated to the


visit to mediate between the Government and the opposition, likely


into some other project of the Carter Center. So far, the Carter


Center has not issued a denial that it NEVER received a donation from


the Hugo Chavez Government. Once the Chavez Government leaves, which


will happen soon, we will know the complete truth. The shame will now


taint not only Jimmy Carter’s  reputation, but also that of the Nobel


Peace Prize. (Well, maybe its too late for that anyway, didn’t they


give it to Arafat too?)


 


Dec. 6 2002


 


I have been warning in these pages since I began about the real Hugo


Chavez. Gaviria, Carter and HRW have played into his hands. Only


yesterday, the opposition had to cancel a march on fears that there


would be a massacre.


 


There is much more in my blog, but this should be enough to prove my point that we should not waste our time in meeting with the Carter Center.


 


JA, has an opposite opinion, despite reaching similar conclusions about Carter, she thinks the opposition should meet with Carter:


 


I do not hesitate to condemn the lack of leadership in the opposition. This has been a tragedy for Venezuela. But those who believe Carter had little to do with Chavez’s victory are missing something very, very important. Carter was the unofficial representative of the US government. His funding came from the US State Department. Additionally, in the months running up to the Referendum and on August 15, 2004 Carter was seen by the world as the most credible actor in Venezuelan politics. If the opposition told Chavez and the CNE (the electoral authority) to go to hell, the world would have turned their back on the opposition because Carter gave his blessing to the rules and regulations established by the CNE. So, the United States was giving the opposition no other choices but to accept Carter. What was the opposition supposed to do and who would have supported them in boycotting the RR?


 



Carter’s sole objective when he came to
Venezuela was to limit social violence, no matter the cost. He turned the other cheek while hundreds of thousands of people were illegally turned into citizens and registered to vote. He turned the other cheek when outrageous sums of public money were spent on Chavez’s campaign. He turned the other cheek when Chavez used public TV to campaign endlessly and illegally. He looked the other way as abuse after abuse was committed and delay after delay was made to push back the referendum to give Chavez time to buy and steal as many votes as he could before the RR. The opposition screamed many times, but if Carter had called the fairness of the RR into doubt, he would have risked pushing the country into social upheaval. So in his mind, it was better to go forward with a rigged election than see injuries and possibly death.


 


In the early morning hours of August 16 when the CNE announced the RR result, almost all in Venezuela knew a grand theft had taken place, even Carter realized, even if he could not be sure of the magnitude. He could have questioned the legitimacy of the result, requesting time for a full audit and investigation, but to do so would have risked social upheaval–the very thing he so desperately wanted to prevent. So in his mind, he chose the least bad option, endorsing a fraudulent election, something he had already been doing for months.


 


So now the Carter Center is back in Caracas. Why now? They could have returned when it was clear that Chavez was going to stack the Supreme Court again. They could have returned when it was clear that the muzzle law on the press was going to be approved. They could have returned when it became evident that Chavez was giving safe haven to Farc terrorists. But a complete breakdown of checks and balances and democratic institutions was not a grave enough crisis for Carter to get involved. It is only when the US govt starts to focus on Venezuela that Carter decides to get involved (by the way, Carter has been cut off from State Department funding). Why should this get Carter into gear? Ehud Barak (former Prime Minister of Israel) stated recently that when the US denounces tyrants and talks about spreading liberty, it emboldens dissidents and opposition grouped living under tyranny. Carter understands that a more focused US could give hope! To the opposition, and give them a reason to take to the streets to fight for liberty and democracy once again. So Carter must swing into action, and make a call for dialogue in an attempt to crush the oppositions struggle for democracy–because such a struggle could get violent.


 


So what should the opposition do to confront this man, who has helped to prop up and unbending authoritarian? Two choices: 1) in a calm, cool, organized way explain to the world the outrageous electoral abuses that took place under Carter’s watch, and note the contrast with the Ukraine. If the opposition pursues this strategy they must stick to undeniable facts (there are plenty of them) while avoiding unsubstantiated accusations. Of course, this strategy requires a reasonable competent spokesperson, and there are plenty. 2) A second, less compelling strategy would be to try to ignore Carter, downplaying his visit, providing the press with as little to write about. Hopefully Carter would exit the scene. I prefer option 1, if it were done properly.

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