Archive for August, 2005

Who follows this little book? by Teodoro Petkoff

August 31, 2005

 


Who follows this little book? by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual




Jorge Rodríguez reappeared yesterday in the press room of the CNE. A place where he feels comfortable.

Ever overconfident. JR asked to be forgiven-it would have been enough to offer his apology- for the errors contained in the printing of the book 15.08.04 A democratic experience, which gathers, although badly, his greatest works. JR likes fiction-he once won the short story contest of the El Nacional daily-but not in a proportion that would question his electoral-political work. He ordered-he said- an investigation to determine if the errors were the product of a “criminal conspiracy”. It seems like fiction, pure fantasy, but it is reality.

What the book episode reveals, is that the revisions of the CNE-and that of JR, can not be trusted.

A minor matter: after all, the institution is only in charge of determining how votes are shared in the country.

A man of words, thus, JR decides on higher word matters, such as the Constitution, with a lightness that is more than worrisome. He insists that the organization under his command does not have the legal instruments to ban the separation of list and personal votes (the so called morochas or twins), which is what allows, for example, that MVR, with 30% of the valid votes, obtained 64% of the positions up for grabs in the elections of the recent August 7th. The consecration of the morochas is irreversible according to the best knowledge of JR, unless the Organic Law of Suffrage and political participation is modified.

Fiction and pseudo legalities are the strengths of JR

If he read the little books, he could save some apologies and avoid wasting time investigating “criminal conspiracies”.

Article 239 of the Constitutional book gives the authority to the Electoral Power to “resolve the doubts and voids” that electoral laws “contain or stir up”. Could this be an instrument Mr. Rodríguez? The same article, later, compels it to guarantee “the personalization of suffrage and proportional representation”. And you know, Mr. Rodríguez, because you have said it, that the morochas attempt against this representation.

You know it, you say that you disagree with that mechanism, but you allow that UVE, without being registered as a national party, postulates candidates and partners them up with MVR. What a curious way of demonstrating you disagree with the morochas. Can we use the term conspiracy, Mr. Rodríguez?

Chavez may fool Jesse Jackson, about himself and Venezuela, but he can’t fool us.

August 30, 2005


I find it
remarkable that Hugo Chavez even
dares to suggest
that he will ask for the extradition of a US citizen for
calling for his assassination, when between the two of them, the only man who has a track record killing
people is Chavez himself. Besides the 200 killed in the 1992 coup, there are
over one hundred deaths in opposition marches, people from both sides, because when
the shooting begins, the bullets haven’t figured out how to distinguish opposition
bodies from his supporters. And afterwards, these crimes simply go unpunished.

But
just the same, hundreds of his supporters have been selectively killed in Guarico state by the state police, but in a despicable
deal
at the top, which Chavez was part of,
as stated publicly by his advisers, Governor Manuitt, whose police forced
committed the barbaric killings, as determined by the pro-Chavez dominated National
Assembly, was exonerated in private for the good of the revolution and the case has been laid to rest.

But
if it
is a crime for Robertson to call for the assassination of Hugo Chavez,
what can
we think of the hundreds of times that Hugo Chávez has threatened us
with the “weapons” he has? His own citizens, the people that he is
supposed to lead without discrimination
were repeatedly threatened on nationwide television with the “arms” and
the “weapons”
of the revolution. Wasn’t Chávez doing the same thing he is accusing
Robertson of, but
against millions of his people? Isn’t that threatening a genocide?
Should we then impeach
him? Try him? Deport him? Get rid of him? After all, Chavez is
Government and as such has a higher responsibility
than go around threatening and intimidating the citizens of his own
country. Which
he has done for seven years.

Oh yes,
ever since Chavez managed to twist around the results of the referendum he has
been showing us the face of the “new” and “gentler” and “nicer” Chavez and his
buddy, the murderous Dictator Fidel Castro, but those of us that have seen the
hatred in his face, that have felt his threats when he has told us the
revolution is armed, will never forget or forgive. Those of us who saw the
shameless attacks, killings and injuries of the opposition marchers will never
forgive or forget. Those of us that have seen the relentless prosecution of the
Government’s enemies when hideous crimes go unnoticed and impune, will always
remember. Those of us that daily see the signs and evidence of blatant corruption
and exhibition of wealth and power by Government officials with absolute
impunity will never pardon them. Those of us that have seen the daily defense
of this autocratic regime by servile followers, will always remind those that
supported it of their role as direct collaborators. There will be no excuses.


So please
Mr. Chavez do not try to tell us you are a nice guy, because you aren’t. You only
care about Hugo Chavez, his power and his perks. You have run over your friends
and allies at every turn and continue to do so. From that day in 1992 that you
brought 200 soldiers to Caracas
to participate in the coup, without telling them what they were about to do, to the day that you told the
Generals that you had resigned, you have done nothing but show a lack of
scruples and an incredible ability to lie and cheat.

So don’t
tell me about Mr. Robertson, you are just like him, you only believe in threats
and confrontations and if it is needed, you can kill, maim and injure in order
to save yourself and the revolution. Robertson probably can’t.

And I can’t
help but wonder what that fool Jesse Jackson is doing here. A man that claims
to stand against nuclear power visiting you, who is just starting a nuclear
program or claiming to be. A man who claimed to stand against militarism, which happens to be you
favorite trait and obsession. A man who claims to defend the rights of
minorities to vote, a right that you have stepped and trampled over
with treachery and tricks. To say nothing of Chavez’ sexist and racist
remarks
against the highest ranked African American woman ever to hold
public office in the US., discussed here.
Just because of that, Mr. Jackson, you should despise Mr. Chavez. It was offensive to
everything you ever stood for and agaisnt what any decent people should defend.

But I
guess that just like Mr. Chavez, the principles of politicians all have a price,
I just did not know that Jackson’s
was so low, just an airplane ride, a tin medal and a few gallons of cheap gas.

Democracy in the Venezuelan pretty revolution marches on

August 29, 2005

It was a wonderful weekend for the democracy in the Venezuelan
revolution as one could see democratic acts and statements sprouting
all over the place. I picked the three best ones for your enjoyment:

–Chavista leader Lina Ron on the “twin” electoral system and the upcoming elections for the National assembly:

All
electoral mechanisms that were used were valid. Of course I agree with
the “twin”system; what I do not share is what some comrades are saying
that we have to leave one third of the seats in the Assembly to the
oppsoition and we will keep the rest. I think we have to take all of
them away. It must be a revolutionary National Assembl, completely
bolivaraian, in these circumstances I would not even give them any
water”

–Chavista Deputy of the National Assembly Iris Varela on how Chavez’ MVR will choose its candiadets for teh National Assembly:

“Those
who do not accept discipline and loyalty to the desision taht they will
be chosen in Caracas by the leadership will be left out”

To think she was a member of so many patrties before joining the revolution.

–And
then hats off to this group of Chavistas expressing their love of the
oppossition, fellow Venezuelan men and women, by using the marchers
last Saturday for target practice (Note gun in right hand of guy with the light cap on the right):

Yes, democracy is really moving forward in the pretty revolution. At all levels!

Interesting Reading on oil prices

August 28, 2005

To all of those who worry about the price of oil and want to learn more
about it, there are a bunch of interesting articles, starting with last week’s Magazine article in the New York Times “The Breaking Point” which suggests there will be a huge crisis in the next decade. Then there is this article by Steven Levitt Of “Freakanomics
fame (I did not like the book, the examples were hard to get into, even
if the problems were interesting). The article is called “Peak Oil:
Welcome to the medias new version of Shark Attacks” and concludes that
the article is wrong and in some sense argues the opposite. In that
article a few articles are cited including this one,
which suggests that triple digit oil prices would change the behavior
of people and just looking at production is not for an economist
Finally, there is this article in which John Tierney bets with Mr. Oil
Doomsday himself Mathew Simmons that oil will not be $200 by 2010.

In Levitt’s article, he remidns us of the many predictions of doom for
mankind. Without dating myself, I was a student when Paul Erlich’s Limits to Growth
came out. It was mathematical modelling showing how earth was running
out of most natural resourecs and establishing time frames for this to
occur that are past us. While the scientific work was wrong, it did
raise awareness about finite resources, which is very good. However, in
my own personal opinion, I know oil will be higher twenty years from
now, but I am pretty sure it will be lower between now and then. Why?
Because it has gone up too fast, to levels at which too many abandoned,
unexplored and unknown technologies are feasible. Just last week, I
read a report by a well known investment bank upgrading the stock of Archer Daniels Midland,
the largest processor of corn and soybeans in the world, to a buy. One
of the main reasons for doing it was that AMD is starting to produce
plastics from corn. At these prices, it becomes feasible and
profitable. Think about it

Two hybrids, two species

August 28, 2005

On the left above is a hybrid, Brassoleilocattleya Ronald Hauserman,
a spectacular flower, very large and the plants flowers at least twice
a year. On the righ is an unknown hybrid. I bought this at an exhibit
in the US as a species which was supposed to be a Cattleya Loddigessi
Tony Boss, the best of the species. Instead I got this hybrid and I am
not much of a hybrid person.

Above left and middle a Dendrochilum which I have had for ten years
and just flowered for the first time, the label is missing and so far I
have not been able to identify it. There are 120 species of
Dendrochilum in Southeast Asia. On the right is Stelli Argentata, these
little flowers are about 1/8 of an inch in size.

Another opposition march repressed, nothing new in Venezuela

August 27, 2005

Another opposition march repressed. A small march, mostly women, had
permission from the police and the municipalities to go all the way to
the National Assembly to hand in a document about political prisoners.
The police blocked the path of the march, pro-Chavez groups attacked
and there are six injured two critical.

Once again, the opposition has no possibility of exercizing its rights.

The police and National Guard act against the march.

The President of the Assembly who had guaranteed that they would not be attacked, blames the opposition.

The loyal Chavistas who attacked the march are unharmed and nobody from the Government criticizes them.

Another day in the pretty revolution!

(Meanwhile pro-Chavez groups are free to roam in Bolivar Square protesting against Pat Robertson, obviously they did not need a permit)

Cattleya Walkeriana

August 27, 2005

This Cattelya Walkeriana, a species from Brazil, bloomed this week.
I have a few Walkerianas and this is definitely the best one of the
purple ones I have. On the left I tried to show, not very succesfully,
both flowers at once, the sun hitting them from the right gives it a
more purplish tint than it really is. On the right I show the flower
and the second flower is almost perpendicular, which shows how “flat”
the sepals and petals are. This is one of the hallmarks of a good
flower. This plant is actually a cut from a mature plant that I traded
for with a friend about a year ago. The plant is very small and barely
rooted, but if this is the sign of things to come. Wow!

A nice corruption racket with official deposits in the Venezuelan banking system

August 27, 2005

As
a public service to the revolution I will explain a corrupt practice in
detail, maybe one of the readers knows someone in power who can explain
it to someone in power or the Comptroller and something may be done
about it.

OK, let’s start at the beginning with the hints that something funny is going on:

Hint
#1: In 1998, official deposits, that is deposits from all Government
institutions, in the banking system were about 1% of all monetary
liquidity (all the bolivars in the financial system).

Hint #2: According to the monthly banking report which you can get in Reporte Diario de La Economia from July 22nd.,
official deposits in the banking system are today Bs. 14.54 billions
(in Spanish) or Bs. 14.54 trillion in English, or just so you can see
all the zeroes:

Bs. 14,547,270,000,000 (US$ 6.76 billion)


Or 1.4547 10+13 in scientific notation. We are not talking “millardos”, we are talking “millones de millardos”.

Now, go the Central Bank
pages, go to statistical information, go to monetary aggregates
(weekly), there you find what monetary liquidity is and couple of weeks
ago it was:

Bs. 50.73 trillions (US$ 23.6 billion)

Thus,
the Government has 28.6% of the monetary liquidity deposited in the
private banking system. Why the increase from 1% to 28.6% since 1998?
Does it make any sense?

Additionally,
there are official deposits that do not appear in the balance sheets of
banks. They occur when a bank “transfers” an investment to a public
institution, with an agreement to buy it back. These are not even taken
into account in our argument and discussions.

Hint
#3: Public institutions get their budget every month. Thus, they should
get 8.33% of their budget each month. Therefore they all have, on
average, 3.4 months of “savings” in the bank, rather than spending it
on the “people”, “the revolution”, “social programs” and the like. Why
do public institutions keep that money in the bank? Another thing that
does not amke sense.

Hint #4: Look at the banks’ official deposits. There are 37 commercial banks in Venezuela.
Two are Government owned. Of all banks, 16 have percentages of official
deposits that are above the national average of 28.6% of the monetary
liquidity. Three have double
the national average, with one as high as having 77% of its deposits as
official deposits. None of these are official banks, they are all
private.

Hint
#6: How can it make sense for the Government to issue local debt in
Bolivars at a certain interest rate, so that the Government can pay the
monthly budget of its own institutions, which simply turn around and
deposit their money, which I assume has a purpose, in commercial banks
to get a lower interest rate than that paid by the Government?

Let me explain this with a diagram what I am saying:


The
Government ( Doric building on the left) issues a bond (document above)
that pays let’s say 18% interest per year, the bank (tall modern
building) buys it, gets that 18% and pays a Government institution 10%
interest, (on the right in blue) for having its deposits in it.

But
see the problem? The Government is paying the banks 18%, so that it can
pay Government instituions 10-12% for depositing tehir money. Weird no?

Sound fishy? You bet it is. Let’s make the explanation very graphical. How does a bank usually work?


The bank lends money (on the left) to someone charging them 18%
interest (this is called a loan), from which it pays the depositor
10-12% on the right (in a CD, for example). The problem is that the
balance is never perfect, banks do not (can not) lend all the money
they have, so they also buy Government or private bonds to pay
depositors with the interest they get. They also keep some cash at hand.

The problem is that because of the lack of investment in Venezuela in the last eight years, credit demand has been very low and banks typically have four to five times more deposits than loans. So, what to do with the excess money?

Well,
typically if banks have too much excess money, interest rates go down
and credit demand increases. Or private companies issue more bonds. Or
the Government issues more bonds. In
Venezuela
it has been the Government issuing more bonds in the last few years, so
that it can spend more. But, as explained above it is very inefficient
and that goes to the heart of the matter of this post.

You
see, it does not make any sense that 28.6 % of banks deposits are
official deposits. That means that the Government pays 2.6 trillion Bs.
(US$ 1.2 billion) to banks so that they can pay the Government
institutions 1.4 trillion (US$ 615 million). Absurd, no? You bet,
somebody pockets the difference.

The
key is that difference between the two, those 1.2 trillion Bs. or US$
500 million. In the middle are the banks that make part of that money,
Government officials that get paid commissions to deposit their money
in certain banks and some “intermediaries” that get paid to “find”
those deposits for the banks. Nice corruption racket, no?

This
obviously does not make sense, but it continues and even grows as time
goes by. The “profits” have gone down as the spreads (or difference)
between the rate paid by the bonds and that paid to deposits has
shrunk. But if that spread is today 6-8%, for two or three years from
2001-2004 it was more closer to 10-14%, or around US$ 1 billion per
year.

Obviously
not all of the official deposits move under commissions, there are
banks that don’t pay them, for example, but a big chunk is corruption
related. Since we are talking about some US$ 4 billion in the last four
years, think about what that means if only one third of the money moves
on the basis of commission. These are some very rich crooks indeed.

Now,
Government officials know this, so obviously the money is being spread
around widely to sustain the system. Thus, I was quite pleased to hear
that the Government was going to start a “Banco del Tesoro” or Treasury
Bank that would act as a payment agent for the Government and eliminate
this racket. Well, the idea does not appear to be as pure
as I thought. According to the announcement by Government officials,
the Banco del Tesoro will be a commercial bank that will compete with
the private banking system and act as payment agent for the Government.
But official deposits will still exist and the Banco del Tesoro will
buy Government bonds much like any other bank. So, you have to wonder
if all they are doing is simply centralizing this corruption racket, so
that a few can benefit from it.


Stopping
all this is actually quite easy: i) Streamline payments to Government
institutions so that you don’t advance to them more than one month of
their budget at a time, ii) Have them have accounts at Government banks
which bear no interest or iii) simply have the Government issue
payments directly. (This is the way it is done in the
US and most of the world, institutions ask the Treasury for payment and you get a check directly from the Government’s Treasury)

Neither of these three appears to be in the works at this time. You be the judge. 

Death by asphyxia in Venezuela

August 25, 2005

Daniel and I never posted jointly before, we talked about this, I
looked into some details and he wrote it. To me this is too important
an issue, not only the tragedy, but the defense by the Mayor blaming
everyone but his administration. The truth is that this had never
happened before and it happens because of neglect as Chavez is on the
12th. day abroad, giving away our money and our oil right and left.

Death by asphyxia in Venezuela

To
all the diseases that we once thought were all but eliminated in
Venezuela but who in this past 6 years seem to be making a come back
(Malaria, e.g.), add a new one: death by asphyxia in Venezuelan public
hospitals. Yesterday the big news was that in the night of Tuesday to
Wednesday four people died of asphyxia at the Magallanes de Catia hospital as
the supply of Oxygen run out. A media firestorm erupted. One side
blamed the victim and the suppliers of gas and the other side blamed
the total anarchy of Caracas
public hospitals administration and the huge debt accumulated by the
state to its doctors and providers; these can only be expected to hold
the hat for so long until they just cannot provide their services
anymore.

There is no point in arguing this case as the
guilt of the state is only too obvious, such incidents multiplying fast
as the collapse of the radiotherapy services in public hospitals
reported in recent weeks demonstrates. It seems that all intentions and
cash go for Barrio Adentro, the public relations program touted urbi et orbi
for propaganda purposes while the hospitals infrastructure and services
keep degrading. Unfortunately for Chavez, his propaganda tool of Barrio Adentro,
for all its possible virtues, cannot go much more past some aspirin and
simple stitches: it is a basic primary health care and it cannot
perform the complex functions of hospitals, or even “half way”
hospitals such as our “ambulatorios”.

But let’s look at the government excuse of budgetary constraints. Two characters to examine.

Barreto, mayor at large of Caracas,
claims that the monies are not coming through (for which declaration he
surely will be reprimanded severely!) This admission of how the
Venezuelan budget has become Chavez personal purse where the states and
cities cannot even get the share imposed by law shows the evil of
centralized power. But even if we were more than willing to grant
Barreto this excuse, the way he uses the monies that reach him are
simply abject. Last July Barreto was involved in some totally
un-transcendental dispute about the true name and foundation date of Caracas. This made him order a few paid advertisements in Caracas
newspapers, including even a FULL FOUR PAGES in El Nacional, on August
2 if memory serves me well. I regret that I have not saved it or taken
a picture to use it today as it could not be found in El Nacional.
However, Miguel did send me this picture attached which shows already a
half a page paid add. By the way you can observe just by the
composition the pamphlet nature of the ad.

or this other ad where the Mayor touts the “win” by the Chavista, paid by the municipality.

This picture by itself cost, I am told, 6 million
bolivares. The four pages which were at national level cost at least as
much. And there were more, in more papers. So, let’s not be nitpickers
and say that all his little campaign for massaging Barreto
pseudo-intellectual ego cost Caracas
town hall 15 million. I am told that the oxygen bottle that were
missing cost 400 000 each. A simple calculation shows that Barreto’s
ego trip could have bought 37 oxygen tanks. How many people could be
saved? The reader can draw its own conclusions.

But some might
say that I am unfair with Barreto, the mayor of such a large
metropolitan area cannot be bothered with oxygen tanks inventories. So
let’s look at Asia Villegas, the one in charge of medical supplies in Caracas town hall. That woman, instead of looking into how many Band-Aids were needed for Caracas hospitals did manage to pick up a feud with the US embassy. The reason? She was refused a DIPLOMATIC visa to go to the US for some women’s right conference. The embassy quickly pointed out that since she was not a national government employee she was asked to justify the reasons to demand a special visa when
she could apply for a normal visa like this blogger would do. She
preferred to make a big stink out of it, probably considering that as
the sister of the ambassador to Mexico
and of the star anchor man of the state TV, VTV, she should be treated
like royalty. Such a revealing glimpse into the mind of chavismo!

There is no conclusion needed, the reader’s intelligence is enough to decide.

PS:
This post although written by me has been researched and discussed by
Miguel and myself. It is thus signed by both of us and will later
appear in Miguel’s blog. The outrage must denounced in a single voice. You are invited to copy and paste in your own site and add your signature.

Bye, bye Pat, apology accepted

August 24, 2005

So, we close the Robertson chapter with his statements today. As far as
I can tell, there were two, based on the timing of the news by CNN. He
first denied that he had suggested Chavez be assasinated, which is not
correct, he did use the word assasination. He claimed that he had said
the US should “take him out: referring to Chavez, saying that could
just be a kidnapping. I guess he was thinking Noriega. Later, he apologized for his statements.
It is a bit confusing from the CNN report to tell whether this was two
separate events. I believe they were. He first tried to deny he had
said it and later he probably realized how foolish he looked and
apologized. In fact, somebody that works with Robertson even started making comments in some blogs like in John Robb’s blog,
where someone from the Christian Broadcasting Network bothered to post
the denial. Of course, users can’t make comments dissapear, so she did
not post the apology later.

All in all, a shameful event. I find it quite interesting that the
response was more subdued in Venezuela than in the US. I think the
Chavez administration did the right thing, dismissing it mostly as the
words of a nut, which is interesting given that he is not a personality
that is well known here. There were some exagerations, but hey, what
can you expect, there are excitable people everywhere. All religious
institutions were quick to condenm the statements by Robertoson.Why the
US media made such a big deal is difficult for me to understand. Even
the blogging world blew it out of proportion, my post last night was one of the top ten posts of the day at truth laid bear for quite a while. Fortunately, it is slowly dissapearing into the oblivion where it belongs.

So, we move on, Thank God! (Not Pat’s)

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