Archive for March 3rd, 2005

Overwhelmed, outraged and amazed, but routine?

March 3, 2005

Blogging is a funny activity, there are days that there is little to post about, so I just don’t post much. But at the same time there are days that are full of stuff, some of it so outrageous, that I don’t even dare sit down to blog, because I believe no matter how absurd, ridiculous or strange an item may be, I have to try to reason through it and explain it in detail, without being emotional about it. But reason is clearly not something that is being used too much or too often here in Venezuela. The actions of this so called Government appear at times to me to be simply erratic and others so outrageous, that I do not even know where to begin explaining things.


Thus, this long post will be what I would have posted about the last few days had I not been almost at the point of not having any words to express my outrage and amazement at these events.


 


Cuban ID Cards


 


You want outrage? Take for example the announcement that the Government will give the contract for the National ID card system to the Cuban Government. First of all, “Cuban technology” sounds to me as much of an oxymoron as “competent Venezuelan Government”.


 


Second, it is extremely scary, I would say amazingly scary, to be informed that the ID system will be manufactured and designed by what is, after North Korea, the most efficient police state on this planet, at this time. But the news appears in print and it is as if nothing had happened. As if it were not enough that now Cuban agents can act freely in Venezuela, take depositions and do investigations after the two countries signed a treaty of mutual penal assistance. It is as if the Cuban police state will be moved to Caracas to help control people like me or those around me. The human rights implications of the whole thing are so freaky that I am not sure I know even where to begin writing about it. 


 


I mean, this is the same Government who held a bidding process in 2001, in which three private companies competed for a contract to do the exactly same thing. A Korean company won the contract which later the Government tried to cancel due to charges made by one of the competitors who was theoretically very close to the Government. But it may have been just a rumor.


 


The Government not only cancelled the contract unilaterally, but it is being sued for the indemnization of US$ 68 million according to the contract. Of course, since the Supreme Court will decide the case, these silly and naive Koreans have the same chance of winning, that Carlos Ortega has of being found innocent of the charges against him.


 


So, in a country with strict laws that regulate how any Government contract has to be opened for bids, the Government argues that a treaty it signed with Cuba, approved by nobody, allows it to subscribe this contract without anyone having a say about it. I just wonder what the PC’s will be, old Russian 386’s?


 


Strange military movements


 


It all begins with rumors, then all of a sudden a reporter has been jailed for taking pictures and then everyone is saying that something funny was happening in the city of Maracay, South of Caracas, where there is a big Air force base. Of course, that “something funny” that was happening were real troop movements. A “coup” attempt aborted, something strange?


 


You disregard it as nothing much, but then you see the reporter who has been jailed saying that he took pictures of the troop movements that supposedly never took place. In fact, the first press release says the reporter was jailed for covering a demonstration in front of the Air Force base. Except the reporter says there was no demonstration, just troop movements.


 


So, you forget about it, obviously these are just rumors by overanxious people and just when you are happy you did not blog about it, none other than General Raul Baduel, who is overambitious and somewhat of a real crackpot (as if we did not have enough of them) comes out and says that the troop movement was routine. But while Baduell says everything is normal, the press secretary of Aragua states says: “The situation is normal now, the 3,000 people that surrounded the military headquarters have gone back home”


 


Hold it! Three thousand people surround the headquarters, nobody reports it and there are routine military movements? Come again? Of course, the press reports very little of it, given that famous article of the muzzle law that says you can not cause uncertainty or create instabilities in the population. Unless you want to go to jail. Do you?


 


But hey! It is still only rumors, even if spooky Baduel spoke.


 


Arrests


 


I make a post about Carlos Ortega being arrested; I try to remember that Enrique Mendoza was charged that day. Then I remember I forgot TV announcer Napoleon Bravo, who was also charged that same day. Or Banker (?) Ignacio Salvatierra who has now being charged twice! A record that I am certain will not last very long. So, ten bankers will be charged this week. How many next week?. And then I hear that the person charged for hiring the mysterious paramilitary force in the outside of Caracas last year, has yet to be identified by any of the more than 100 members of that force. But he is still in jail!


 


Hey! And I forgot and I apologize, former pro-Chavez private property invader “Commander Manuitt” who invaded buildings in Caracas in the name of the revolution, towing a cow and all, has been condemned to six years in jail for being more radical than Chavez. Will she be reivindicated in the future?


 


Chavez the trader: Presidential arbitrage


 


Hugo Chávez wanted to be President, baseball player, TV announcer and now…he is a trader! Huguito joined the ranks of the Wall Street traders yesterday, when in a moment of amphetaminic euphoria he announced that Venezuela will buy US$ 500 million of Argentinean bonds to “back” that country and express its confidence in it.


 


It makes you wonder when you know that in a couple of weeks Venezuela will issue 500 million euros in debt to pay for an issue coming due. Instead of buying Argentina’s debt, why don’t we just pay part of Venezuela’s foreign debt, instead of playing Presidential arbitrage? Could he be thinking of defaulting in the future? Naw! Say the foreign analysts. Not be so sure says the Devil.


 


Mercal and endogenous development


 


And then, while the Government is supposedly promoting something called “endogenous” development, the country’s second biggest Government enterprise after PDVSA is Mercal. Mercal is the company that provides food for the poor at attractive and subsidized prices. But something is weird, Mercal does not buy local products, it imports them, in a perverted interpretation of endogenous development and the promotion of local agriculture. So the Head of Mercal, even before the devaluation today, said he had to increase prices because shipping is up, services are up and there has been a devaluation, which made everyone wonder what he was talking about. But see, Mercal by now is selling as many tons a year as the largest food company in the country, but is devoting very little of its efforts to promoting local development and employment. Problem is, it is more profitable (for them) to import and this revolution is capitalistic despite Chavez’ change in direction towards socialism last Saturday. And that in itself is another whole story I have been ignoring.


 


Universities


 


It used to be that if anyone attacked the concept of autonomy of universities, hooded students would jump to the streets riot and create havoc in Caracas. But I guess they were all pro-Chavze, because after six years of failure in trying to win an election at any of the public universities in Venezuela, the Government has decided that they prefer to go back to the system of Stalinist democracy, rather than the participatory democracy that Chavez promised to deliver. You see, participatory democracy has a tremendous flaw they had not considered: You may lose elections if the CNE does not organize the process and is fair, like it happens at every stupid University where all the oligarchic, left-wing Professors and students continue to oppose the Government.


 


So, the Government has decided to issue a decree that takes away most of the power from the elected University Presidents (called Rectors here), and create a council at the Ministry of Higher Education that will control everything. You just have to love the revolution and its corrupted ingenuity!


 


Thus, I read this post back and it all seems so unreal, so amazing that people are not our protesting, screaming and fighting for their rights. But I guess this is what totalitarian regime looks like after a while. Particularly if the psychological pressure on the government is so strong. Or the leaders are so weak.


 


(A friend points out I forgot the aircraft carrier in Curacao, sorry, I was not sure if they went there to play in the casino, buy Gouda cheese or they are attacking tonight)

Devaluation announced

March 3, 2005

The Government announced today that it had devalued the  currency by 10.7% from Bs. 1,920 per US$ tp Bs. 2,150 per US$ as was projected in the 2005 budget. It was uncclear if this percentage was given out of incompetence or simply another attempt to fool some of the people some of the time as the true percentage is 11.97%.


This devaluation had been expected for quite a while, ever since former Minister of Finance Nobrega had announced it for January 1st. The budget was calculated at this exchange rate, but the delay implies a deficit of 2% with respect to the original budget. The devaluation is effective immediately.


The parallel market fist jumped up to near 2900 per US$ to later drop to 2740, closing around 2790.

Pick your favorite Chavez quote

March 3, 2005

Chavez today in Uruguay, what’s your favorite?:


Quote 1: “The US is preparing the ground for my assassination”


 


Which ground, I thought he walked on water?


 


Quote 2: “Venezuela to stop oil exports to the US if I am killed.”


 


Will Venezuela care once he is dead?


 


Quote 3: “The US pressuring me to commit suicide.”


 


Did God revel this to him or is he feeling the pressure in his own deranged mind and he is thinking of doing it?


 


Quote 4:”The US using a communication war against me”.


 


I thought he was the one that talked all day.


 


 


I pick #3, it reveals sooo much!

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