Archive for August, 2006

Another Barretazo by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

August 31, 2006


Crazy day today, as the Chavez Government via
its spokesmen VP
Jose Vicente Rangel
and Jesse Chacon, publicly
disagreed with the measure of attempting to expropriate the golf courses by
Metropolitan Mayor Barreto as the Mayors of Chacao and Baruta sued Barreto for defamation
and the like. Rangel even goes as far as pointing out that there is not even
money to carry out Barreto’s projects.

But then comes autistic Barreto and completely
agrees with them
, by assuming all of the responsibility and saying Chavez
has nothing to do with his decision and saying he respects the same rule of law
that he seems to have violated in his decrees and attempts to expropriate the golf
courses. Go figure what is in the mind of this guy that he can come out and say
he agrees wholeheartedly with something that is meant to criticize his actions.
Of course, he ends his press release by sucking up to the almighty leader

Here is Petkoff’s take on the issue

Another Barretazo by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Until we are given notice and until we see the
decree of expropriation of Country Club and Valle Arriba signed and validated
by Hugo Chavez, we have to consider the one issued by Barreto as the act of a buffoon,
one more act by that incompetent mayor, that wants to cover up with it the outrageous
behavior that on two occasions he perpetrated last week, with the downpour of
insults and badmouthing that he poured onto the Mayors of Chacao and Baruta, as
well as onto the middle class in general. And cover up also, of course, with demagoguery,
his gigantic failure as Mayor. On top of that, it is so obvious that this is
simply a retaliation against the mayors that the expropriated clubs are precisely
located within the municipalities they run. In turn, one can presuppose that
the La Lagunita golf courses were saved because many of the nouveau rich that
the mega corruption of Chavismo has produced have built and bought luxurious
and expensive homes in this sector. “Don’t intervene my golf courses” must have
been the warning to the great expropriator.

Beyond the fact that the decree doe not
fulfill any of the regulations established in the law of Expropriations, this
is not a matter for this discussion. This is clearly a political matter and the
metropolitan mayor, with his customary irresponsibility and lack of judgment,
has acted without measuring the consequences both politically and socially- besides
the economic ones- of his acts, which in his megalomaniac delirium must be
considered like something comparable to the takeover of the Winter Palace of
St. Petersburg in 1917. If this is not rectified, it is obvious that in the
middle of the electoral campaign this grab for power can only lead to a brutal
increase in political tensions and who knows towards which type of undesirable confrontations.
In fact, even in the Chavista world this does not go unnoticed, more so if you
take into account that yesterday Barreto was subjected to the disciplinary
committee of MVR, so that he may respond for his grotesque speeches of last
week. It is evident that this expropriating measure is not aimed at confronting
the deficit in housing. In fact, there is no prior study-as the Law of expropriations
orders- about the usefulness for reasons of public cause of the land.

It is simply a political attack on the Mayors
of Chacao and Baruta.

But there is more.

Barreto belongs to the Taliban sector of Chavismo,
completely opposed to the existence of a political climate which is less
violent and tense.

All of his actions are directed to feed reactions
equal in sign in certain sectors of the opposition. In fact, the proposed “expropriation”
is simply a provocation, a red cloth. In fact a normal and peaceful electoral campaign
is not convenient for the Talibans. They need an atmosphere of violence and confrontation.
It is within that where they believe they can stop the slow, but sustained unraveling
of the popularity of their candidate. But their objective is not only to provoke
the opposition.

The arrow is also directed –and perhaps with a higher priority-towards
those sectors of Chavismo that have publicly rejected any identification with communism
and have guaranteed the defense of property rights. Remember Ojo de Agua.

Expropriations of golf courses: Threat to property rights or much ado about nothing?

August 29, 2006


Today the
Mayor of the Metropolitan area of Caracas Juan Barreto created another ruckus
by issuing a decree declaring the “forced acquisition” of the golf courses at
Caracas Country Club and Valle Arriba Country Club. Last week, in his by now infamous speech,
Barreto had threatened that he was going to expropriate the golf courses at La
Lagunita Country Club, but that particular course was not part of the decree today.

The
question is what does this mean? Is it a real serious threat to private
property rights? Is it legal? Does he mean it or is it just political?

To begin
with, expropriation is part of Venezuela’s
legislation. However, to be able to expropriate, you have to first show that
the expropriation is for the “common good” and serves a social purpose, in this
case this should be done by the city council, but was not done prior to the decree. The second step
is to issue a decree and finally, you can not take over the property until you
have provided the owners with “adequate” compensation and legal recourse. Thus, in terms of the
legal framework, the process begins weakly, due to the absence of the decision
by the city council on the matter.

The next
question is what is adequate compensation for this land? That is harder to
gauge given the extensions of land and their implied valuations, but le’s say the area is
some two million square meters per course and at $1,000 per square meter you
are talking a few billion dollars each of the golf courses.

The Metropolitan
Mayor’s office certainly does not have that type of money to spend around and
in Venezuela
it does not have the legal ability to issue bonds, so the Central
Government
would have to do it. Would the Central Government be interested?
Anything is
possible in the revolution, but it seems like a mighty steep price for
something which has relatively low impact, no more than 10-15,000
hosuing units. The land we are talking about can be
seen below in these maps from Google Earth, showing at equivalent
scales the 18
holes of each course, with Country Club on the left below and Valle
Arriba on the right. You shoudl be able to discern the golf courses
easily:

 

The
problem is that the process required to build housing would simply not stop here. In order to truly use
these land for building residential units for people, one would have to change
the zoning from recreational to residential and then obtain the required
building permits. The difficulty is that both rezoning and permits are out of
the hands of the Metropolitan Mayor’s office and are only within the domain of the
individual municipalities where the golf courses are. In this case, Country
Club is 85% within the Chacao municipality and Valle Arriba is within the
Baruta municipality. Curiously, the La Lagunita golf course mentioned last week by
Barreto, was not included and that one is within the El Hatillo municipality
which is not in the hands of the Primero Justicia party, which Barreto seems to
despise.

I believe
that this is just a ploy to distract attention and generate confrontation. The Chavez
administration’s style has always been to walk a fine line from a legal point of
view. Fights and confrontations are always carried out within gray areas in
legislation, so that it is quite confusing to discern whether the Government is
within its rights or not.

There is
no such gray area here. The Venezuelan
Constitution
guarantees the right to private property in its Article 115, which says in it that
only for reasons of public utility or social reasons, under a firm sentence and
opportune and just payment can the expropriation of anything be declared. It
would take a large step to fulfill these conditions. Moreover, it is very clear
from a legal point of view that the Mayor of the Metropolitan area can neither
rezone or approve construction permits within the municipalities involved,
which would then also require a huge legal step and violation of the law, for
them to go over the Mayors of Chacao and Baruta. It would thus be a huge
violation of the law and abuse of power for the Metropolitan Mayor to do this.
So far, the Chavez administration has always been hesitant to take such a
drastic and clear step of clearly stepping outisde the realm of the rule of law .

Note that
I do not imply that they may not want to do it, or are incapable of doing it.
It just does not seem like they would pull something like that off just before
the Presidential election, when polls clearly say that 76% of Venezuelans strongly
believe in the right to private property.

However,
creating this scandal certainly distracts attention from the important issues.
It is not only a confusing issue, but clearly golf courses only get the
sympathy of a minority. Perhaps candidate Manuel Rosales had the right idea
when he said today that he would not let “an outgoing Government set the agenda
for discussion in the Presidential campaign”.

There were
however some strong reactions to the decree today. A City Councilman from the
Metropolitan area called
it demagoguery
, Rosales’ running mate Julio Borges said Caracas needed an
integral urban plan not “hormonal responses”, Baruta Mayor said that the
Metropolitan Mayor did not have legal authority to even expropriate and Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez said
that
the Minister of Housing has
already said there are n plans to build anything in those golf courses and
reiterated that the La Carlota airfield could be used to build housing in a
large extension of land.

Barreto
rejected once again the possibility of the use of La Carlota for
building
housing. This is truly a huge puzzle. Chacao Mayor Lopez has proposed a
project
for that area. The La Carlota airport is only used these days for
helicopters (all other flights were banned)
but it occupies a huge part of the city. Below on the left you can see
the La Carlota
airport on the same scale as the golf courses above. Clearly the area
is
larger, wider and completely open, easier to develop and a change in
zoning
would be justified and definitely approved by the Mayors of those
areas. And nothing woudl have to be paid as the land is owned by the
Government itself! A
similar case could be made for the Tiuna Fort that can be seen on the
same
scale, basically occupying the whole image, on the right below:

 

While the
news has clearly has people concerned (The parallel market shot up, the stock
market went down) I think for the time being the issue should be taken with a
grain of salt and efforts should concentrate on showing the Government’s incompetence
and promoting Rosales’ candidacy without allowing Barreto and Chavez to set the
agenda for discussion. If they really mean it and the law and the Constitution would
be bypassed, then it would be the announcement that this is a dictatorship and
the autocracy has moved one step forward. I simply don’t think that Chavez is
yet ready for that. Nor do I think he would show such a hand before the election.

While Chavez’ campaign says Rosales abuses position, Government continues massive abuse.

August 29, 2006

I was away due to family matters and there is quite a bit of interest to write about later. The most obnoxious thing I saw was how he headlines were filled with Chavistas denouncing that Rosales was taking adavantge of his position as Governor to advertise and advertise “subliminally”. I don’t quite get the silnece by both Rosales, the opposition and the media on how much Chavez is taking advantage of his position, including the dozens of ads that are published daily by Government offices and isntitutions, without anyone noticing it or reporting it. I certainly hope that some reading this that has contacts with the media or the Rosales campaign  will let them know about Bruni’s “Hall of Shame” compilation of all illegal ads published day after day since the camapign began. That is enough to give the term unfair advantage a new meaning.

How the people’s money is spent by Caracas’ Mayor Barreto

August 25, 2006

This is what the revolution spends money on, they hate private property, but love to travel and fund activities with Venezuelan’s money abroad, as Venezuelans struggle to survive at home. Whose mind is really in a putrid state in Venezuela? (Thanks Alek!):
Caracas Londres

1 SEPTEMBER · 6-10PM · TRAFALGAR SQUARE

Free music festival

London Caracas: Caracas Londres is a free music
festival featuring bands from Latin American countries. It is being
organised by the Mayor of London and the Mayor of Caracas, to highlight
the growing links between the two cities and with Latin America more
widely.

London Caracas: Caracas Londres takes place on 1
September in Trafalgar
Square
from 6pm to 10pm. The event will be opened by Ken
Livingstone
, Mayor of London and Juan Barreto,
Mayor of Caracas. Acts appearing include:

  • Bersuit Vergarabat
    (Argentina)
  • El Gran Silencio (Mexico)
  • Desorden Publico (Venezuela)
  • Os Paralamas do Sucesso
    (Brazil)

Further
information about this event
.

Plan your journey using Transport for London’s
journeyplanner
.

Media partner

Caracas Mayor of London

Truth is stranger than fiction in Venezuela these days

August 25, 2006

Truth is stranger than fiction these days around Venezuela and its travelling salesman:

–Chavez gives the Chinese one dollar discount per barrel more than it wants to give its own refinery.
–Chavez thinks it is the President of a country that sits in the Security Council.
–Venezuela has been a member of the Security Council of the UN four times in history. The previous times it did not cost so much.
–Chavez says the communist revolution in China is feeding the population, that revolution was thus more imporant than landing on the moon, according to Huguito who ahs never been to Guandong.
–All high ranking telecom Executives from the Government are in China, despite the fact that they have failed to meet any of the first year goals for CVG-Telecom.
–The Government will help subsidize trips for Chinese tourists to Venezuela.
–All but one of the opposition candidates now backs Manuel Rosales, after Roberto Smith joined the unified candidacy today. That is about half a dozen fewer candiadtes than we thought possible only a month ago.
–El Conde del Guacharo, donkey and pretty lady in hand, said he will join Manuel Rosales if Rosales leads him near election time.
–Mari Pili says Chavez is too overconfident
–Rosales is excited about his Government having a seat in the Security Council
–The Mayors, the union leaders and the youth of AD now back Rosales, who would have thought AD had so many members left.
–Barreto did not insult anyone today.
–Bernal was not at the infamous meeting with Barreto, because he was helping Nicaraguan Mayors run their towns.
–The US diplomatic pouch was full of twinkies for the Veneuzuelan Armed Forces, or was it jelly beans?.
–And yes, the opposition has a unity candidacy!

Guns, iPods and military intervention in the voting process

August 24, 2006

It has always been the role of the military in Venezuelan elections to protect the integrity of the “electoral material”, that is the military operation surrounding the elections always called “Plan Republica” has been limited to proetcting the material that goes from the CNE to the voting center, protecting the centers and then at the end, protecting the boxes with the votes (who knows what for given the use that has been given them). This has always created conflicts as different military officers have interpreted their mandate differently. Because people are easily intimidated by a soldier with a rifle, over the last four decades, this role has been better defined, in order to protect the voters. The line has always been drawn at the military will not get involved in any stage of the voting process or organization.

In the RR, however, the military took too active a role, in my opinion violating both the spirit and the letter of the law. Despite the fact that the tally at the end was public, it was precisely armed military with guns that stopped people from entering voting centers. The same happened in the regional elections when Governors and Mayors were elected in 2004.

This November, there will be a special election for Mayor of the Miranda municipality in Trujillo state and the regulations for the procedures at that election were published. And Art. 7 says “Plan Republica will aid in guaranteeing that all voters stop at the fingerprint machines to capture their fingerprint and that no voter enters the voting booth without passing by the fingerprint capture system”

Thus, add intimidation to an already intimidating factor, in what should be a voluntary process to which people should go freely, openly and happily. That is the concept of choice and democracy this Government has. If they apply this same concept in the December Presidential election, this will simply promote more abstention and go against promoting democracy.

Meanwhile, the President of the CNE announced the new harebrained scheme to promote young people to register: The CNE will raffle PC’s and iPods among those new voters that register to vote. Somehow I think that a PC and an iPod must be the last ambition of 80% of Venezuela’s young, given the precarious economic condition they face in their everyday life. This seems to be a very inconsistent plan with the goals of the “pretty” revolution, it seems to come from a “putrified” middle class mind. However, keep in mind that for most people in Venezuela’s middle class an iPod is too expensive an item to even consider it.

Death and health in the revolution

August 23, 2006

—-El Nacional has
a terrifying article
today about how paid assassins have killed over 100 union
workers in the construction sector in the Guayana region in the last couple of
years.

What are these deaths about? Easy, who gets jobs. As simple
as that. In a region with 65% unemployment, mafia-like gangs want to control
who gets and who does not get jobs by scaring people away from the gates of
construction sites. If they do not get scared away easily, or unions send them
to those gates in order to show the force of the unions, they simply get gunned
down by paid killers in their “carriages of death”. Reportedly people get paid
as little as Bs. 100,000 to shoot down these union workers, well below the “national
average” of Bs. 500,000 to kill someone.

And the Government? I
have no clue and apparently neither do they as the article says that the
Vice-President of the police for the state of Bolivar said the killings will
continue as long as the people are not disarmed.

—Seven years ago Hugo Chavez promised to restructure the Health
sector and asked for an enabling law that included that reform. Nothing was done then, little is being done today. We all hear
about the wonders of Barrio Adentro, which curiously was not started until five
years after Chavez got to power, clear proof of the improvised nature of the so called revolution.

But how do you justify that with the huge
windfall the country has been having in the last few years, with Barrio
Adentro, infant mortality has barely budged in these years? Shouldn’t there be
an improvement. Marino Gonzalez
in today’s Tal Cual
shows statistics that are and are proof that this
country has become simply organized chaos. Infant mortality has barely improved
since 2000, malaria cases have increased from 16,686 in 1999 to a staggering 45,300
in 2005 and dengue cases have gone from 26,716 in 1999 to 42,199 in 2005.

Given that malaria had a full department in the Ministry of
Health since its creation in the 1930’s, this is something that can directly be
blamed on the Government. Venezuela
was never able to eradicate malaria completely, but its many projects to
control and contain it made it a model country until Chavez took over.

What changed? For one, Chavez began replacing everyone in
the Ministry of Health with people loyal to him, discarding decades of experience.
Venezuela
used to have experts on everything from attacking the problem, to preventing the
problem of malaria. They were mostly gone by 2001 and it was only when statistics began
looking bad that there was the suggestion that there might be a problem. Because
in the end, politics is the priority and malaria is not a problem for all, but for
the 40,000 plus people infected every year and neither Barrio Adentro nor the Government’s
emphasis in health, does deal with the problem, it has become simply another
fragmented part of the fragmented Venezuelan health system.

Meanwhile Chavez gloats in China that Venezuela is consolidating itself as an “intermeditae power”. Whic simply shows that power and politics is all that matters in the revolution, not the well being of the citizens. But the wealth of a society is not measured by its weapons or power, but by the health, education, rights and well being of its citizens.

Dr. Barreto by Teodoro Petkoff

August 23, 2006


Dr. Barreto
by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Yesterday the metropolitan
Mayor, doctor Juan Barreto, victim of one of his proverbial hydrophobic attacks,
starred in a deplorable spectacle, insulting and assaulting his colleagues from
Chacao and Baruta, the middle class in general, which it considers “putrid” and
“brutalized by money” (We don’t know if he was referring to those whose soirées
he goes to with pleasure, to have his pictures taken for the society pages) and
finally he launched, for the nth. time, his threat to expropriate the golf
courses of La Lagunita, to build “popular housing”, with the incredible added
commentary that if he feels like it, he could expropriate a whole municipality.
Never had doctor Barreto barked so loud, after all, under his management he has
not bitten anyone and has starred in a colossal failure as metropolitan burgomaster.

Perhaps therein lies the
explanation for his cheap bully attitude. The failure; the horror in which he
has turned that part of the city in which he mostly exercises his mandate, with
the aid of his rival Freddy Bernal- who, by the way, complains that doctor
Barreto perturbs his management with constant useless and inefficient
intromissions- and which contrasts with the clamor in those parts of the
metropolitan areas where those assaulted by him carry themselves out much more
efficiently. The insults and violence were a compensation mechanism for his
ego, damaged by his own incompetence and incapacity for doing anything
constructive.

But that is not all. Doctor
Barreto is also an expression of the worry and concern that has begun to go
around some of the corners of power, given the perspective of electoral results
that no longer ratify the triumph of the ten million votes and of the two
extended hands to symbolize those numbers. Chavez already gave us a little
“discount” and reduced it to six million. They are going to have to saw four
fingers off the two little hands, which leaves five on one and one on the
other, in that classic position in which hitting both hands, with the index of
one between the index finger and the big finger of the other, Venezuelans are
saying “Six million? No way!” the perception that the space is narrowing, that
the opposition appears united and with a visible face, while the internal
fights within MVR and between that and its partners are corroding the campaign,
is beginning to create desperation. Those that can not control their nerves,
like Juan Barreto, incur in those brutal and regrettable blunders, with which
they believe they can manipulate the
popular sectors that trusted them before and that no longer even believe even
in the Creed. Caracas,
especially in its two extremes of the East and the West, is a social powder keg
that has completely overflowed the mayors of officialdom and doctor Barreto.
They can’t handle that load and the people perceive it each day more clearly.

That has doctor Barreto
uncomfortable; he can no longer control himself. What makes us curious is to
see how he is going to expropriate a whole municipality. It would a historical
landmark of a the universal scale.

Sorry spectacle as Caracas Metropolitan Mayor insults and threatens to expropriate whole municipalities

August 22, 2006

Tonight in the best spirit of democracy, justice and
coexistence, the
Mayor of the Metropolitan area of Caracas Juan Barreto threatened
to
“expropriate the municipalities” of Baruta and Chacao as he insulted them and called them fascists. Using language
more appropriate for hoodlums or low lives, Barreto used swear words and
insults, even saying that he had taped all their private conversations and
that he planned to expropriate the golf courses of La Lagunita (a fancy
residential area in the outskirts of Caracas) to build housing. He tried to
suggest that the Mayors were promoting invasions (??), mixing up expropriations
and invasions and expelling invaders in the middle of the night to avoid the
limelight. He also accused them of using their “media power” to
disqualify the “public policies he has been carrying out” (??). He threatened them with jail, accused Lopez of burning the MVR house (??), Capriles of kicking (??) the Cuban Ambassador, implied they were gay (??), called them fascists (wow!), said they needed a psychiatrist, called them liars, traitors, said they were going to govern them, said they were doing fraudulent businesses, had money abroad, said a dog drove one of them crazy, said he had videos of the other guy “doing the things he does”, and so on and so forth…

This was all in the installation of the “Metropolitan Council for
Planning” which met today for the first time ever, even if Barreto said this was not the case, despite the fact that
it is supposed to meet regularly and it is Barreto himself who calls for its
meetings. Curiously, I may not have seen him, but I did not see the other
Chavista Mayor of the Caracas Metropolitan area, Freddy Bernal, at the meeting. Did Bernal know what was going to happen?

The representative to the Council for all Human Rights organizations, got up and left the meeting.

In the first reaction to Barreto’s words, Primero Justicia former Presidential candidate and
Rosales’ VP candidate Julio Borges, called for the resignation of Barreto,
saying that it was a shameful act, representing the Venezuela of hate,
violence, repression and intolerance that they want to change. Borges said it
was unacceptable for Barreto to insult and use this type of event to demean
these two Mayors who are doing an extraordinary job.

Borges said Barreto “is covering his incapacity and dishonesty, his won
inefficiency, looking to insult two Mayors who have done good work, people go
through Chacao and Baruta and they see the difference in terms of personal
safety, construction, ornaments, even having a national Government against
it”. In contrast, he said “when one crosses into Sucre
or towards Caracas
(downtown) it is another planet, filled with garbage, insecurity, chaos, and
who is the Head of all the Metropolitan area? Barreto.

More here. Video here (with most swear words removed).

Sorry spectacle and let the fireworks begin, this seemed to be premeditated by Barreto, not an accident!!

Did the miltary aid Ortega escape?

August 20, 2006

Many people have suggested that union leader Carlos Ortega and the Farias’ brothers had military aid to escape from the Ramo Verde jail. They certainly did, I used to live close to Ramo Verde in Los Teques and my wife even used to jog there many, many years ago. I tried looking for an image in Google Earth, but unfortunately resolution goes down right outside Los Teques and I can not use any image to aid you, but picture this:

The main access gate to Ramo Verde is about 3-4 Kms. from the main bulding, but the road does not even reach the main buidling, it ends about 600 meters from it. To get into the second floor where Ortega supposedly was “visiting” the Farias’, playing dominoes (all night by the way), you have to go through five gates with metal bars and then there is the gate to the cell. Each of the five gates is supposed to have a National Guardsman next to it.

Add to this, the fact that these guys apparently escaped at midnight, but it was not until around 10:30 AM that the escape was discovered. I mean, these are the guys that are supposed to be ready for an assymetrical war with the US and they can’t even count and keep track of prisoners?

Of course, the Government keeps playing the bribe card, which somehow seems wrong as it reminds everyone that it is corruption that has blossomed in this Government. I get the feeling that the Government is now trying to weasle out of this, by talking about “politicians” having paid the bribe.This was suggested by Isaias Rodriguez on Friday and is repeated tonight by Minister of the Interior and Justice Jesse Chacon. But it is a vague accusation, no names as usual, but we do know that 14 of their precious and “well prepared and trained” military officers and personnel are in jail for letting Ortega go, in what can only be described as a widespread conspiracy.

No matter what they may say, it is always the military that has proven to be the most corrupt institution in Venezuela’s history. But somehow, I think there is a more ulterior message involved, whether the Government wants to get it or not. Either Ortega or the Farias’ brothers created a lot of sympathy within the military. Ortega was found guilty of “rebellion” , a term that can only be applied whene there are weapons involved, but revolutionary justice does not care for those little details.But clearly, the military is not as unified behind Chavze as the Government wants us to believe.

Or did they escape like this!

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