Archive for August 7th, 2006

Steve Jobs and Apple against Chavez

August 7, 2006

And Alfredo noticed that Steve Jobs and Apple are imperialistic, oligarchic institutions, probably friendly with Mr. Danger and his cohorts. (He told us little about the new machines though)

CNE regulates what you can say publicly and via the Internet during the campaign. Will it apply to Chavez?

August 7, 2006


Disclaimer:
The following post does not attempt to spread, diffuse or distribute its
contents. While this post was written
while the author may have been legally considered to be in
Venezuela, its
contents are hosted, stored and accessed in a foreign country. Anyone that
believes that reading it violates the CNE regulations towards the Presidential
campaign, should abstain from reading it, enjoying it, understanding it, distributing
it and/or diffusing it. The post itself does not judge or imply a value on any
presidential candidate and/or its supporters; it is simply an intellectual
exercise on the meaning of the new CNE regulations. The author is not
responsible for the contents of the comments generated by this post.

There were
these two great ads this weekend in national newspapers by the branch of Big
Brother at the Electoral Board (CNE), telling us what we can or not do or say
during the upcoming Presidential campaign. Over the weekend the ad dealt with the
do’s and don’t’s
, which I read with some interest, particularly faced with
such difficult questions as the fact that the regulations forbid having
electoral advertising “that promotes the exaltation of political hate”.

Now, given
that the word hate means, according
to the dictionary
“intense animosity or dislike”, this is certainly one
that could be tricky to comply with, but which clearly could lead to many cheap
and easy jokes. I mean, loving your political opponent is not exactly the norm,
so where do you draw the line between strongly opposing and “promoting the
exaltation of political hate”. Do you have to say “Our Dear and beloved
President which we hope to unseat, and then you begin to blast his incompetent Government? (UUps!)

Another
example may be if I give you the pictures below, with the headline “Hugo
Chavez, love him or leave him or get rid of him”, could I be accused of promoting animosity or
dislike? Or abstention?:

I guess it
would be all in the eyes of the beholder, no?

I guess,
only as an example, that maybe I would be violating the regulations if I post
these two pictures:


With a
caption that said: “Hugo Chavez the day he had more than 200 innocent Venezuelans
killed and Hugo Chavez, 14 years later enjoying more happy times” This may
be ruled as going against his “honor”. Or would it? Can you dishonor someone by
telling the truth?

But by
now, you may be wondering what this has to do with my blog? Why am I concerned
or wondering about this at all? Am I planning to campaign for or against
someone?

Well,
today the “companion
ad appeared in major newspapers and down below, it says very clearly:

“There
will be sanctions, in the case of (…long list of cases)…The diffusion of
messages distributed through the Internet….”with a sanction of 200 tax units
(equals to Bs. 548,000 or some US$ 2,500, in 2006). Now, this really grabbed my
attention.

First
of
all, this one is sort of difficult to understand and interpret in
detail. All of the Internet? Does the CNE have such powers? What
if I am not in Venezuela?
If I have a blog, am distributing its contents it? i.e. Am I delivering it?
Spreading it? Or diffusing it? Umm, hard to tell, particularly about the
diffusing. It seems I am indeed diffusing my content, no? But what if my blog is
abroad (which it is) and I do the post abroad (which I do sometimes). Does it
apply? Hard to tell, even if revolutionary justice can be quite creative about
finding its enemies guilty, even when they are not. Will they ask Interpol to send me back to pay the 200 tax units?

The
curious thing about all of this is that between now and Dec. 3d., Chavez will continue to be able
to hold his Sunday program “Alo Presidente” according to the same regulations
and the decision of the “independent” CNE (no hate implied!). If he follows the
pattern of the last five years, during his long broadcast hours he will surely attempt
against the honor, privacy, dignity or reputation of people, promote the
exaltation of ethnical, religious, gender or political hate, promote abstention,
use images of children (or even use real ones!), use the national and regional
symbols or those of the heroes of Venezuela, will name people and will use
public funds in promoting himself and his candidacy.

This
text
is a carbon copy of the regulation (I left out cruelty to animlas or
soemhing like that) and includes 90% of what the regulations say
you can’t do…but…

…the CNE
will say nothing to him…but this blogger may get into trouble because of this
post alone.

History’s Against Him By Francis Fukuyama

August 7, 2006


Francis Fukuyama on Chavez
from
the Washington Post
, you can also find
a discussion with him on the subject here
. Here is a man who understands democracy, social policies
and economics rather well, I thoight it was important to reproduce his full article here. He is a
professor of international political economy at the School
of Advanced International Studies at
Johns Hopkins University
.

History’s Against Him By Francis Fukuyama

Sunday, August 6, 2006;
Page B0

CARACAS, Venezuela

Early on in Hugo Chavez’s
political career, the Venezuelan president attacked my notion that liberal
democracy together with a market economy represents the ultimate evolutionary
direction for modern societies — the “end of history.” When asked
what lay beyond the end of history, he offered a one-word reply:
“Chavismo.”

The idea that contemporary
Venezuela
represents a social model superior to liberal democracy is absurd. In his eight
years as president, Chavez has capitalized on his country’s oil wealth to take
control of congress, the courts, trade unions, electoral commissions and the
state oil company. Proposed legislation that would limit foreign funding could
soon constrain nongovernmental organizations as well. And people who signed a
recall petition against Chavez in the run-up to a 2004 referendum on his rule
later found their names posted on the Web site of a pro-Chavez legislator; if
they worked for the government or wanted to do business with it, they were out
of a job and out of luck.

Chavez’s success in
attracting attention — cozying up to Fidel Castro’s Cuba,
signing an arms deal with Russia,
visiting Iran and
incessantly criticizing the United States
— has popularized the notion that Chavismo embodies a new future for Latin America. By preserving some freedoms, including a
relatively free press and pseudo-democratic elections, Chavez has developed
what some observers call a postmodern dictatorship, neither fully democratic
nor fully totalitarian, a left-wing hybrid that enjoys a legitimacy never
reached in Castro’s Cuba or
in the Soviet Union.

Latin America has indeed
witnessed a turn to this postmodern left in some countries, including in Bolivia, where
Evo Morales, Chavez’s kindred spirit, won the presidency last year.
Nonetheless, the dominant trends in the hemisphere are largely positive:
Democracy is strengthening and the political and economic reforms now being
undertaken augur well for the future. Venezuela
is not a model for the region; rather, its path is unique, the product of a
natural resource curse that makes it more comparable to Iran or Russia than any of its Latin
American neighbors. Chavismo is not Latin America’s
future — if anything, it is its past.

How did Venezuela end
up at such a pass? The answer is oil, oil, oil.

The country’s modern
political order was negotiated in a Miami
hotel room in 1958 by leaders of its two traditional political parties; the
resulting pact created a viable democracy that provided stability for four
decades. But stable politics did not make for sound economics. With the growth
of oil revenue through the 1970s, Venezuela was relieved of the need
to create a modern non-oil economy. Commodities that the country once exported
— such as coffee and sugar — soon withered. And rather than foster social
mobility or strong public institutions, the two political parties bought social
peace by distributing oil rents through subsidies, government jobs and
patronage.

Venezuela did not suffer the Latin American
debt crisis of the 1980s, a trauma that in many ways inoculated countries such
as Brazil, Mexico and Peru from relapsing into the worst
forms of economic populism. Instead, Venezuela experienced a disastrous
decline in living standards as oil prices fell during the 1980s. The country
had never been part of the global economy — aside from the energy sector –
and had no competitive industries to fall back on. Chevez and others on the
left blame Venezuela’s problems on globalization and “neoliberal”
economic policies, but with the brief exception of the opening attempted by
President Carlos Andres Perez in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country
never truly sought to globalize its econom

There is more continuity
between the pre-Chavez and Chavez eras than proponents of either would like to
admit. The recent rise in oil prices has again exempted Venezuela from
the laws of economics. The Chavez government has imposed a blizzard of
regulations controlling the exchange of currency, setting prices, limiting the
ability of employers to hire and fire, and mandating trade and investment deals
based on political considerations — all of which further undermine Venezuela’s
weak private sector. Yet, because of its hefty oil revenue, Venezuela’s
economy has grown sharply over the past two years. The irrationality of
Chavistanomics will not be felt until oil prices fall.

Venezuela‘s peculiar history shows why
Chavez does not represent the region’s future. Countries such as Brazil, Mexico
and Peru, lacking Venezuela’s oil
resources, know that they cannot get away with such dysfunctional policies;
they experimented with them and were burned. It is no accident that postmodern
authoritarianism is most successful in oil-rich countries such as Iran, Russia
and Venezuela.
While Bolivia’s
Morales aspires to be another Chavez, it will soon dawn on him that his
country’s natural gas is not a fungible commodity like Venezuelan crude oil.
Morales’s only real customer is Brazil,
which he has already alienated through his nationalization of the heavily
Brazilian foreign energy investments.

The dominant political
forces in Latin America, while bringing to power a new generation of
politicians on the left, run counter to those in Venezuela. Central banks and
finance ministries throughout the region are much more capable than in the past
of maintaining sound monetary and fiscal policies, and even left-leaning
presidents such as Brazil’s
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Argentina’s
Nestor Kirchner are not inclined to stray far from economic orthodoxy.

In contrast to Chavez’s
politicization of Venezuela’s
institutions, Mexico
has made its Supreme Court and Federal Electoral Institute politically
independent. Brazil and Colombia have increased the autonomy of local
governments, permitting experiments in budgeting and education; and Brazil and Mexico have undertaken programs to
increase the incomes of the poor while giving them incentives to keep children
in school.

There are already signs of
an anti-Chavez backlash. While the Venezuelan president rails at U.S. interference in Latin politics, he has
tried to promote populist allies such as Ollanta Humala of Peru and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico. Venezuela’s neighbors
resent this, and have punished the Chavista candidates at the polls. Indeed,
Chavez may well have cost Lopez Obrador the Mexican presidency, since the
number of votes the latter lost because of dislike of Venezuelan interference
probably exceeded the small margin by which he lost the election.

Chaavez’s popularity among Venezuela’s
poor is based on his social policies. He has begun innovative initiatives, such
as a network of health clinics in low-income neighborhoods, where Cuban doctors
treat the poor. He has created subsidized food outlets that equalize the prices
paid by rich and poor. And he has attempted to distribute land to peasants.
Some of these policies, such as the clinics, meet pressing social needs and
should have been undertaken long ago; others, such as the food subsidies, will
be hard to sustain absent high oil prices.

A response to Chavismo
must recognize that populism is driven by real social inequalities. Proponents
of economic and political liberty in Latin America
are often suspicious of grand social-policy experiments, perceiving them as a
road to bloated welfare states and economic inefficiency. But free trade alone
is unlikely to satisfy the demands of the poor, and democratic politicians must
offer realistic social policies to compete.

Social policy is,
unfortunately, difficult to get right: Unless it creates incentives for the
poor to help themselves, it can become an entitlement that breeds dependence
and out-of-control fiscal deficits. In Brazil, Lula’s government took over
a program of income transfers to the poor but in the process weakened
enforcement procedures obliging parents to keep their children in school. And
market policies are no panacea: Even Chile, which has extensive high-quality
private education, saw huge student protests this spring because of the low
quality of its publicly funded schools.

Democratic governments in
Latin America must also work patiently at enhancing the quality of their public
institutions — improving simple things such as issuing business licenses,
enforcing property claims and controlling crime. There is no cookie-cutter solution;
it often requires local-level experiments, such as the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre’s
“participatory budgeting” initiative from the early 1990s, which
opened the budget process to civil-society groups and forced politicians to
show where the money was going. Bad public administration saps economic growth
and delegitimizes democratic institutions, paving the way for violent swings
and backlash.

Last December, a bridge on
the road connecting the Venezuelan capital to its international airport collapsed,
diverting traffic into the mountains and stretching a 45-minute journey into
one lasting several hours. A two-lane emergency highway now bears this traffic;
renovation of the bridge is still months away. The bridge epitomizes what is
happening to Venezuela
today: As Chavez jets to Minsk, Moscow
and Tehran in
search of influence and prestige, the country’s infrastructure is collapsing.

The postmodern
authoritarianism of Chavez’s Venezuela
is durable only while oil prices remain high. Yet it presents a distinct
challenge from that of totalitarianism because it allows for democratic choice
and caters to real social needs. At a recent conference of business leaders
here, I witnessed many speakers openly criticize Chavez; their remarks were
cited in the mainstream media. There is no police state in Venezuela — at
least not yet.

Chavismo remains a threat.
But it need not embody Latin America’s future,
not if the region’s democrats can reduce economic inequities through innovative
social policy and nimble public institutions. Of course, such developments
would not mark the end of history. Just the end of Chavismo.

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