Archive for September, 2006

An amazing tale of Chavez simply mocking the Rules of law

September 30, 2006


Last year,
the General Prosecutor accused five people
of being behind the assassination of prosecutor Danilo Anderson: Banker Nelson
Mezerhane, journalist Patricia Poleo, a retired General from Plaza Altamira, a
reporter of Cuban origin named Romani and surprisingly, an active General Jaime
Escalante in charge of the military regional command called CORE I and
reportedly very close to Chavez.

All of
these people were jailed on the basis of the testimony of a single man, the so
called �super
witness� Giovanny Vazquez
, who claimed that he had been at a meeting with
all of them where the assassination was planned. Vazquez was soon discredited
as a witness when it was learned he was not a psychiatrist like he claimed, he
was an expert forger, had been a paramilitary and was actually in jail when the
Panama
meeting had supposedly taken place. For months, the Prosecutor General would not
admit any of this until a couple of months ago he admitted
Vazquez had �deceived him�.

Immediately,
the lawyers of Poleo, who is in the US and Mezerhane who was freed on his own
recognizance in December asked that the case against them be dropped, but the
prosecutor General has refused to so far, saying he has other evidence that
confirms Vazquez� testimony. This week, Mezerhane�s lawyers denounced that some
of the files in the case had been forged, prompting an investigation. But the charges
against all five accused remain in effect.

Now, as we
say in Spanish, you can be either with God or the Devil, but not with both. Of
Vazquez� testimony has been confirmed then the five people charged were
involved, if it is not then all five should be exonerated. But what I find
amazing is that this week, on Hugo
Chavez� personal orders
, General Escalante was reinstated in his position,
even as the Prosecutor General continues to accuse him of being involved with
the assassination of Anderson.

President
Chavez is not only making a mockery of Justice and the Rules of Law in Venezuela, but
openly laughing and mocking those that he has put in charge of that same judicial
system.

They all had a single party by Teodoro Petkoff

September 29, 2006

A picture named aasingleparty.jpg

They all had a single party by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

The only two political offers of the candidate of continuity which are
truly new are those of his unique party of the revolution and his indefinite reelection.
The rest is a broken record of eight years of failure. More of the same. In the
case of the unique party one has to beware. It would seem to be an idea aimed
to regroup the archipelago that surrounds the continuity candidate in a single
block and, supposedly, unite it. In the revolutionary nest of cockroaches the
proposal has awakened mistrust, fears and suspicions. Not only in the little
ones, but even-or specially in- Chavez MVR, because it is thought, not without
a reason, that the whole purpose is to liquidate diversity, not to accept small
differences, internally among the supporters of the candidate of continuity,
who from now on, he thinks, he could subject his co militants to an iron
discipline, making them obey the only voice of command: his. Commander in
Chief, tell us what to do! this is what they expect to hear from now on. But
if among his supporters the idea is seeing with reserve, the rest of
Venezuelans have even more reasons to be concerned. The dynamics of unique
parties have led, in very well known historical cases, from the suppression of
debate internally within the party to the suppression of political debate at a
national scale. Once the unique organization is created, the next step was to
declare him interpreter and custodian of the interests of the Nation and deny
the right of existence to other political forces with the argument that, by
definition, they would be representatives of the enemy, which for our case
will be Yankee imperialism. From the unique party of the revolution we would
go to the unique party of the country, that is, to a single party in the
country. Much like it was in the former Soviet Union.
In Nazi Germany, in fascist Italy,
in Francos Spain andin
Fidels Cuba.
Speculation? History is there and those that say, that those who do not learn
from history are condemned to repeat it, are absolutely correct.

Street Vendor Arbitrage in Venezuela

September 29, 2006

Market forces can be very powerful indeed. As acknowledged by
president Chvez a few nights ago in an interview, his Government has
been using trial and error, looking for solutions to problems in the
last eight years and while errors and mistakes have been made, he
thinks that his Government now has the bull by the horns. Or so he
thinks.

The problem is that the Government seems to ignore market forces and
creates distortions on top of distortions, which ignore the basic
principles of economics and how human beings react to opportunities.
When the Government created its supermarket network Mercal, it was
supposed to be a way of delivering cheaper goods to the poor. Mercal
could obviously sell goods cheaper than anyone. It paid no custom duty,
it received all of the currency it wanted at the official rate of
exchange, it was handled by military at all levels so it only had to
pay labor for a reduced non-military workforce. Finally, it was not for
profit and thus would pay no taxes.

Later, the Government established price controls for certain
foodstuffs and they applied to a large fraction of the products sold by
Mercal. As inflation drove prices up, the Government allowed controlled
prices to increase only slowly or not at all, creating a huge
discrepancy between controlled prices and free market prices. Thus, the
Government had to start subsidizing many of these products in order to
keep prices down. For many products, it was or is impossible for local
producers to even compete with Mercal subsidized prices. This has
basically become a trap; foodstuff prices are up 19.9% since May so
that in the face of the election, the Government does not want to
approve any increase of controlled prices and has to spend more money
on subsidizing these products.

But market forces have now intervened in the form of the huge work
force of street vendors, estimated to be 300,000 in Caracas alone. They
simply go to Mercal, buy as much as they are allowed to and go and sell
the products in the streets at market prices, thus creating what we can
call Street Vendor Arbitrage. The differences are huge and so are the
profits of the street vendors. A kilo of powdered milk, for example,
that sells at Mercal for Bs. 4,700 (US$2.18 at the official rate of
exchange) goes for Bs. 15,000 (US$ 6.97) from the street vendors, wheat
flower, Bs. 1000 at Mercal goes for Bs. 2,500 in the streets, sugar Bs.
740 at Mercal, Bs. 3,000 in the streets and so on. Of course, you cant
always find all the products at either Mercal or informal markets, with
sugar, milk and some vegetables being in short supply regularly.

The Governments solution to this problem is typical: Next week a
decree will be issued prohibiting the sale of Mercal products by anyone
but Mercal vendors and the National Guard will receive instructions to
begin inspecting street vendors and allowing the guards to confiscate
the goods from anyone trying to sell Mercal products. Of course, all
this will just give more work to the National Guard, which in turn is
likely to charge a fee not to bother street vendors directly from the
vendors or the street vendors will create an early warning
communications system that will allow them to run or hide their
products anytime the National Guards comes nearby.

Whats next? Undercover cops to supervise the corruption of the National Guard? Who will supervise them?

A new, gentler and surprising Chavez?

September 27, 2006

All of a sudden we have a new and gentler Chavez, improved and ready to admit errors, because now he has the bull by the “horns” and wants to continue “trying solutions” rather than relying on experts. He gets a rabbit out of the hat saying 70% of the people think things have improved.Of course, in the end, he can’t help it and says those that oppose him are the candidates of imperialism. Maybe they are the candidate of knowledge, expertise and not simple trial and error, even if he think he is like Edison trying to innovate on social and economic matters. That analogy alone shows he has no clue.

Why the milder Chavez?.Can he be worried? He seems to admit the polls are something like Chavez 45%, Rosales/Rausseo 35%, even if he says his vote intention is above 60%. I guess he did not pay complete attention to the explanation they gave him, but there sure was one.

News about Venezuela that you dont know whether to cry or laugh about

September 27, 2006


–Minister
of Interior and Justice Chacon hold
a press conference
in Barquisimeto where he tells the people not believe
any new mermaid songs from anyone (Rosales obviously) offering to solve the
crime problem, that this needs long term plans, they did not do it on 50 years
and we will show the country


Well, is
this blah, blah, blah or what? To begin with 8 of the 50 years he talks about are Chavez own, during
which crime has tripled, so I dont think Chacon or Chavez and his
administration has much to show or deserves another chance to show anything. Rosales
at least could say that he has only been Governor for five years and his state
occupies one of the last five places in the country in terms of the crime rate.

–And speaking
of crime, an Italian woman on her honey moon is
killed
at the archipelago of los Roques one of the most spectacular tourist
locations in the country. Her husband is severely injured as they were violently
assaulted inside of the bed and breakfast where they were staying. The National
Guard decides not to allow any flights or boats in and out of the islands until
they find the culprits.

If this crime
is like most crimes in the country, which never get solved, some of these
tourists may be eligible to vote in the 2012 Presidential election. What happens
to tourists scheduled to leave? Those scheduled to arrive? How could the criminals
feel so safe to attack in such a small and isolated place? All of this and the tourism
fair starts this weekend at the grounds of the  La Carlota airport of Caracas.

–And how
about those funny guys
at 7-11
dropping 2,100 gas stations from the CITGO network because they did
not like what Chavez said at the UN? The spokeswoman for the company said “Regardless
of politics, we sympathize with many Americans’ concern over derogatory
comments about our country and its leadership recently made by Venezuela’s
president Hugo Chavez,”

Jeez, does
Chavez understand these are market forces at work? The problem is that PDVSA
dropped 1,800 stations in July already and it appears as if these are 2,100 new ones, since they
are defined as their independent network. Imagine that, having a  7-11 in your
tank! I thought the hot dogs were quite good actually. Let see, we are no
longer friends with the US, Peru, Mexico,
Chile
and now 7-11. Whose next, India?
Get in line, please!

What Baduell did not say today, even if we could not understand it all

September 27, 2006


Although I
may have found it too coincidental that the Prosecutors office brought charges
against a former officer of the investigative police on
Monday
for a massacre that took place twenty years ago, maybe I should consider
it a coincidence with important symbolic consequences and Minister of Defense Baduell
should consider the implications of that case to his personal future. Maybe not
today, or next week, or in the next ten years, but his irresponsible actions
may come back to haunt him one day and may even lead to his imprisonment.

Todays
press conference by Baduell was as confusing as it was long. You the news are
as confusing as the bits and pieces I caught of the press conference. I thought
I had heard that there were 18 military officers involved of which 8 were in
prison, while Globovision seems
to indicate
that there are 34 involved in the two massacres. However, Unionradio
says
that the eight in jail have nothing to do with La Paragua, while Globovision
says they are all related to that case.

Its sort
of strange why lately all high ranking military, the best of the best that get
three stars and have been promoted to Minister are so hard to understand. Remember
Lucas Rincon, the man that said We asked for his resignation, which he accepted
saying the clearest words he ever said that fateful night of April 11th.
2002 or former General and Minister of Defense Garcia Carneiro, who should have
always had an interpreter for us to understand what he said. Baduell is
similar, convoluted, barely opens his mouth as he speaks. Why is this? Is it
that Chavez picks them so that he will have no competition or reflects a new
style in Venezuelas
now more incompetent military?

In any
case, Baduell seemed to say, in my opinion, that there are 34 members of the
military being investigated for the two cases, of which eight are in detention
and this part of a military operation that began on Thursday. This seems to be
consistent with what I heard and some
of the versions in the media.

What
Baduell has not answered iany of this:

–Why was
the National Guard kicked out of Bolivar state and replaced with the Army, isnt
that a contradiction in terms of their functionality and roles? Was it the gold
or some more strategic reason?

–If
Baduell was not the liar at his press conference in Bolivar state, when he said
The miners had an armed confrontation with the Army, who was?

–Who told
Baduell that the helicopters never touched the ground?

–Who told
Baduell that the military personnel never shot from the air?

–Who told
Baduell there were only four dead?

–Who did
not tell Baduell that some of the dead had been shot on the back of their neck?

–Who gave
the Governor of Bolivar State, retired General Francisco Rangel his version? Was
it Baduell?

This all sounds
like a cover up, the more they speak on it, the more confusing, contradictory
and convoluted it gets.  

I think that Baduells’ political ambitions may have died this week, it may have indeed been symbolic that the old massacre was rveived this week.  Fortunately,
under the new Constitution, human rights cases never prescribe.  

Did you
know that Gral. Raul Baduell?

I will not
forget it!

The fallacies of the Revolution or The revolution in fallacies by Marino Gonzalez

September 27, 2006

Don’t forget to read in vcrisis the translation of the article The revolution in fallacies by Marino Gonzalez. Gonzalez who is a medical doctor with a Ph.D. in Public Health, blasts the Government’s health policies and uses statistics to do it, but none shocked me more than:

“According to the Government itself, the Barrio Adentro mission should
take care of 60% of the population. This implies taking care of at
least 300,000 pregnant women a year to insure adequate prenatal control
and birth without complications. In the three years of Barrio Adentro
only 2,500 births have been taken care of.”

Imagine that, while our hospitals are falling apart. What a ripoff these guys are!

Damage Control on the massacre, but no punishment on cover up?

September 26, 2006


Some
damage control on the part of the Government, which in the end only complicates
matters:

–Chavez recognizes
there was excessive use of weapons and cynically begins talking about the
human rights record of the Government as if Fort Mara,
Puente El Llaguno, Plaza Altamira (twice) and many others had occurred in some
other era. Maybe someone should show him the video of the song by Panaminian Ruben Blades Prohibido Olvidar.

We are still waiting for those guilty of Fort Mara
to be charged. (In fact Chavez said one day it was a media scandal and the surviving
soldier had light injuries, he died that night). Chavez admits that there was
no confrontation.

–Chacon says
there were only six people dead, in a slip of a tongue, which may have meant,
thanks God there were only six.

–Andres
Velasquez takes the Government to task, saying
that the Government first denied the event ha taken place, then it said there
was a confrontations between miners, then the Minister said it was a confrontation
between the military and the miners and now the President admits there was excessive
use of weapons and expresses doubts about the version of a confrontation. Velasquez
ratifies that there are ten people dead, in contrast with Chacons only six
version. Who is right?

–The Brazilian Foreign Ministry office announces that it has asked the Venezuelan Government for “detailed information” on the event, as some of the “seven” dead are Brazilian, introducing a new number for the deaths as well as a new monkey wrench into the affair.

The problem is that the law in the whole Bolivar mining region has become the Law of the Jungle as the military tries to enrich itslef (What else is new?) at the expense of the miners. There continued to be reports that a lot of gold owned by the miners is missing and that there are some miners that have yet to be found.

From a punlic relations point of view, the
problem at this time is that the President and the Minister of the Interior and
Justice are giving versions which are exactly the opposite of what both the
Minister of Defense, General Ivan Baduell and the Governor of Bolivar State,
retired General Francisco Rangel Gomez have said, not once but three times, falling into a trap of too many contradictions.

Will they
then punish only some lowly soldiers for the massacre and not the high ranking
Government officials for trying to cover the massacre three times, as well as covering up what the source of the conflict is?

What happened at La Paragua and Maripa: Massacres or confrontations?

September 25, 2006


Last
Friday when I heard former Causa R Presidential candidate Andres Velasquez, vehemently denounce a
massacre
by the Venezuelan military in a mining area in Bolivar state, I
decided that I had to mention it somehow, mostly because I have always respected
Velasquez and if he was making such a string statement, there had to be some
truth to the whole thing. Little did I know that the whole thing would escalate
so fast and that so far, the witnesses interviewed on TV have ratified
Velasquez statements.

The story
is confusing. The miners claim that military in helicopters rappelled down from
them and when they touched down, they started shooting. Two of the miners were
reportedly forced to kneel down and executed, while the survivors were told to
run and were shot dead. Reports are confusing. Velasquez first said there were five
dead, the Government then said there were four dead and now there are reports
that the bodies of two Indians have now been found in the town of Maripa, victims of a
separate military action about a day earlier. (The two towns are about 100
miles from each other). The inhabitants of Maripa burned down the house of the
Mayor and say about 100 miners escaped into the mountains, after the Army took
their gold food and instruments away.

Yesterday,
Minister of Defense Baduel said that the deaths
occurred
in a confrontation between the military and the miners, when the military
tried to protect the environment. This version was denied
by the miners today, who noted that initially the Operational Theater #5 of the
Army even denied that they had been near the area and it was only when they
realized there was a witness that the story changed. There were
protests today
and Velasquez is now charging that the military tried to
cover up what they did. The inhabitants of the town of La Paragua have blocked all access to it and
are demanding the presence of Hugo Chavez himself because it seems he has distances
himself from the realities of the country. One of the leaders of the miners said
it was the Army that massacred the workers and said the new Russian helicopters
were used, saying that the statements by the Minister of Defense are simply
lies.

Meanwhile, the Governor of Bolivar state made
statements
that agreed with those of the Minister of Defense saying that
the deaths occurred during a confrontation. Curiously, the timeline he gives
for the events disagrees with that of Andres Velasquez who on Saturday morning
was already warning of what happened and that the miners were ready to block
the town. Governor Rangel Gomez, a retired General, said that at noon on
Saturday they knew about the problem, while Velasquez had denounced it much
earlier, but apparently the military did not know there was a survivor. (Globovision
posted it at noon, but it was shown on TV much earlier)

After the silence on Sunday (except for Baduells quick
explanation that it was a confrontation after a denial that the Army had
anything to do with it), today, the Prosecutor, Chavez
MVR
and yes, belatedly
the Peoples Ombudsman, who was too concerned about the problem the Minister of
Foreign Relations had at New Yorks Kennedy airport and only said something
this afternoon after the miners
asked
for his intervention.

According
to one of the miners
there is a confrontation between the National Guard
and the Army for the control of the mines, which are a scholarship for them
with the extortions and the smuggling of gasoline, it would seems they are
fighting for the area

Reportedly, the Army wants the miners to leave the area,
despite the fact that it is not the area covered under an older agreement to
protect the sources of rivers and brooks in the area. The miners decided to
march back to their town and were then attacked by the Army. Coincidentally, the same had happened in Maripa just hours earlier.

Curiously, in the middle of the day, the Prosecutors
office gave a press conference to
announce
they would be charging an officer of the investigative police
for a massacre which took place 22 years ago in 1986, while this case, an apparent attempt at cover up,
involving murder and corruption, seems to be gathering a life of its own, as
Government officials contradict each other, even as they are trying to confirm
each others stories, which are changing as fast as the size of the story itself .

Pop quiz on Venezuelan politics

September 25, 2006

After four years of blogging about Venezuelan politics, I think it is about time I give my readers a pop quiz to check whether you are paying attention or not:

Only question (ten points):

After a long weekend of protests, murders and abuses, who did the People’s Ombudsman (Called the People’s Defender in Spanish) came out and express his concern for first:

a) The voters whose rights are being violated by the fingerprint machines
b) The miners massacred in La Paragua, apparently by the military
c) Minister of Foreign Relations Nicolas Maduro
d) The more than one hundred killed in homicides in Caracas this weekend
e) The housing protesters

Well, all of your who said c) got it right. Greman Mundarain was quick to defend Maduro and even went as far as talk about Maduro’s human rights as if he would recognize one. Fortunately, he did not mention Maduros’ “wife”

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