Archive for October, 2006

El Caminante: Thank you President Chavez for these dignified homes

October 22, 2006

Bruni sends the link to this excellemt post in “El Caminante’s blog” which I had to translate because it represents so well in very graphic form the lies and self delusions of the revolution.

On
the left, you have a picture of a barrio that has been above the La
Planicie tunnels in the West of Caracas for decades (The tunnels were built by Luis Herrera
who was President from 1978 to 1993 and the barrio was already there even
before they were built). All that has changed in those barrios is that the houses
“improve” in the sense that a cardboard wall gets improved to brick or the
houses get painted or an additional floor is added, but teh barrios have no services other than electricity (privately provided)) In fact, I remember that one Government, maybe
Lusinchi’s, painted them all white, like his party’s color, to make it
look better. Well, that seems to be the only change, execpt that now
they have been painted in various colors. On the right, there is a
close up of the barrio and you can see that the greenish house is made
of cardboard and that these homes are nothing to be proud of. Well, the
sign says “Thank you President Chavez for these dignified homes”.

I
guess I don’t have to say much more. This is simply another delusion
and rip off by the revolution. Below the pictures the translation of
Fernando’s post in “El Caminante”

“Thank you President
Chavez for these dignified homes”….yes, that is what the banner
placed in front of those shacks retouched with paint says, seeing those
images a few questions come to my mind. How far does the shamelessness
of the Government reach? Does the Government consider that painting
some shacks makes them dignified homes? Does the Government think that
the majority of us Venezuelans are idiots?

And I say the
majority because without any doubt there are some Chavistas that think
that this is an example of a dignified home, there surely exist people
who are waiting for the Government to half paint their shack to go
running and give Chavez thanks for this incalculable show of love,
there exists in this country people who have spent 8 years living in
misery and seeing how the Governments screws them even more into that misery,
they care very little, they are the ones that completely swallow the
speech that to be rich is bad and Bush is the devil. They are the
people who deny themsleves progress, whose social resentment makes them
wish that the son of the doctor becomes a sweeper.

Although it is
true that the fault of capitalism is the unequal distribution of
wealth, the virtue of regimes like that of Fidel or Chavez is the
egalitarian distribution of misery.

Numeric Sunday: Looking at some revolutionary numbers

October 22, 2006


Let’s have a look at some of the corruption and deceit in the revolution, but tonight in a quantitative manner:

—-The Venezuelan Government buys Argentinean bonds from
that Government and sells them to local banks and financial institutions at an “implied”
exchange rate of Bs. 2350. The Bonds are sold and those dollars are sold in the
parallel swap market. Who gets the bonds? Those institutions friendly to the
Government who are willing to pay the intermediary for the Government part of
the gain. In order to please larger and more serious banks, about 20% is given
without any commission as long as those more “serious” banks sell the bonds to
a final client.

Thus, of the US$ 3.5 billion about 700 million were sold
without a commission, leaving US$ 2.8 billion. Since the average price of the
parallel market has been around Bs. 2675 since the Argentinean bonds have been
sold, the total “gain” by intermediaries and those that pay the commissions has
been Bs. 910 billion or US$ 423 million.

Hard to find a bigger rip off in Venezuela’s
history.

—Official Deposits, or deposits from official Government
institutions represent approximately 26% of all deposits in the Venezuelan
banking system. Total deposits in the banking system are of the order of US$ 18
billion. Thus, official deposits are approximately US$ 4.86 billion. Most of
these official deposits move around the banking system based on who pays a
commission to the “intermediary” Spread have come down, so it is no longer the
nice business it used to be as they get “only” a 3% commission. This comes out
to US$ 145 million if all deposits move based on corruption which is not the
case, but the bulk does, so we are talking about a US$ 100 million racket.

This used to be bigger than the first one, but as spreads came
down, they were not getting rich as fast, so they invented the first one. Reportedly,
the same people run both.

—-This one is “small” comparatively speaking, but is proof
of how pervasive corruption is in the revolution. At the National Housing
Council, they have been helping those that lose their homes by lending them the
money to buy another one. People are given between Bs. 40 million (US$ 18,604)
and Bs. 120 million (US$ 55,183) at preferential interest rates. Well,
unfortunately someone set up a
racket
within the institute and as many as 1,000 families who had their
credit approved were ripped off, the check was issued and someone else cashed
it. If we assume the average check is for Bs. 80 million (39,208), then we are
talking about a clean US$ 39 million rip off in an institution that on top of
that has failed to do its job for eight years.

The people involved are truly screwed: They owe the money;
they have to pay the financing until the issue is resolved and they still have
no home.

—Last Wednesday our esteemed Minister of Finance
presented the 2007 national budget. His talk was an exercise in either deceit
or ignorance, depending on whether he believes what he said or was purposely
trying to lie. My bet is it was 80% ignorance.

Among other jewels, Merentes said that the era of
devaluations is over. He also stated that there is a “small” problem with
inflation but every state policy is aimed at attacking it. Well, the problem is
not small; in fact, they had to force interest rates to come down 18 percentage
points to drop inflation from 18% to 10% and now are back to 16% by the end of
the year. Unfortunately, they can’t drop rates 18% again because they are so
low now. Additionally, except for the Central Bank, that has been absorbing
liquidity, but has no more capacity to do so, not one policy has been
implemented to fight inflation.

In any case, the numeric part of his speech has to do with
the fact that Merentes proudly announced that the budget had a lot of latitude
in it because the budget was made assuming an average price for the Venezuelan
oil basket of US$ 29 per barrel.

Unfortunately, Venezuela has been producing
only 2.53 million barrels a day, while the budget assumes 3.5 million barrels a
day, 400 thousand barrels above what the Government says is total production.

So, let’s compare numbers. 29 dollars a barrel in the
budget with 3.5 million barrels a day is equivalent to US$ 101 million a day in
oil income.

In order to have US$ 101 million in oil income, with the production that
IEA says we have, the average price of the Venezuelan oil basket would have to
be above US$ 40.11 dollars per barrel.

However, Venezuela
just this week announced that it will take a production cut of 138 thousand
barrels a day, as part of the one million barrel a day cut by OPEC. This would lower
production to 2.392 barrels of oil per day, which requires producing US$ 101
million a day, an average price of US$ 42.43 per barrel.

Problem is that in the last three years, the final budget
has been, on the average 25% higher than the proposed budget. This would
require 25% more per barrel in order to maintain the budget or US$ 50.9 per
barrel.

Unfortunately, on Friday the barrel of oil for the Venezuelan oil basket closed at US$ 49.95, so that Merente’s words use of “ample room”, “comfortable cushion” and all those nice
words he used, only exist in his own imagination.

So, prepare yourself…

Anti-Chavez banner in Unare, Anzoategui, Venezuela

October 21, 2006

Anti-Chavez banner at Rosales rally in Unare, Anzoategui State, Venezuela

What a cretin!
After you made us fight brother against brother, father against children and Venezuelans against Venezuelans, you ask for my vote for love. What balls! Because I am pissed I will not give it to you. Vote Popular Force

The eeerily absentee revolutionaries

October 21, 2006


Things
have turned certainly strange in Venezuela in the last few days. First, where is Chavez?
For a man running for President he has been almost invisible all week, as rain and mudslides have caused havoc in most of the country. Add to that
rumors that the Governor of Merida state, a Chavista, is not allowing Chavez to
campaign there, as well as reports that Chavez is traveling to destinations unknown, as he
has been essentially invisible for three days, while Rosales marches on.

But even
stranger is the behavior of the Armed Forces, particularly the Minister of
Defense, who in the face of scandal after scandal, involving the Armed Forces,
whenever he shows up to make a statement, it is a more about the imaginary
pseudo asymmetrical war Chavez is staging now against the world. Because now
they seem to be mad at former allies such as Spain,
since the announcement that not only is that country not voting for Venezuela, but it will not provide Venezuela with
the military planes it wanted. You
would think that would be it, but instead Baduell says he wants a letter from
the Spanish Government confirming the announcement.

And Baduell
shows up again to make a statement. Everyone wonders: Is it about the 26 kilos
of gold missing (stolen?) from La Paragua? Is it about the
displacement and deaths
of Venezuelans in Alto Apure by the Colombian
guerrillas? Or is it about the artisan fisherman injured in the port of Guiria.

Surprisingly,
it is none of the above, Baduell is
replying
to the Head of the South Command of the US, saying the General’s comments
were out of place. Very important indeed!

So, whatever happened to these people that cared so much for Venezuelans and “el
pueblo”? Are they so isolated that they do not even notice these things?The 26
kilos of gold were stolen by military from common miners, not precisely
oligarchs or Chavez’ enemies. But nobody seems to care. Yeah, some lowly
soldiers have been jailed for the killings, but as of yet, the gold has been missing
for three weeks, is still missing and nobody seems to care and it is not being investigated by anyone, least of all the military.

Same thing
with the Alto Apure murders and displacements. As far as I am concerned the
only possible role of the military in a poor country like Venezuela
should be protecting its borders and maintaining internal order. Well, we hear the
FARC and the ELN are coming into Venezuela, killing people,
displacing people, abusing people, and nothing is said or done. The missionary
groups that denounced the latest case have not even been contacted by the
military! What is going on here?

Curiously,
whenever the military Generals are asked about Venezuela spending so much money
for military equipment always reply that it is all for internal use, but
whenever there is an internal “problem” it seems that it is largely ignored or
the weapons are used to repress Venezuelans.

The
Venezuelan military toy soldiers seem to care more about the Bolivian border,
where Venezuela is financing
and building 2, 10 or 20 border posts, depending on who you talk, than the
daily kidnappings along the border or the regular incursions by guerrilla
groups into Venezuela.
So much for the revolution even defending our sovereignty

And in
Guiria
, truly ordinary citizens, most of them former Chavistas, are
repressed by the National Guard on orders from the Chavista Governor, who
accuses the oligarchs from wanting to generate unrest in order to muddy up the
upcoming Presidential election. Some oligarchs! I guess the revolution has been
so successful that poor artisan fisherman who live in the poorest region of the
country are now considered oligarchs!

The truth
is that what is happening in Guiria is simply a fight between the ideologues of
the Vth. Republic, who want the ports concession
revoked and the boli
bourgeois who want it revoked so they can take it over and
get richer. The result? Seven poor fishermen hurt by the National Guard, the
port is shutdown by the fishermen who now block its entrance and after 17
fishermen are hurt, all the Minister of Defense does is to tell the military assigned there “not to be provoked by the protests”. I guess it would be really scary, given the
repression that has taken place and they have yet to be provoked.

And then
of course there are the very important events of the United Nations in New
York, which have become a sort of sports event for the Government, which daily
reports about the improved performance of our team, high fives at the UN by our
representatives and calls for “whipping the empire soon” as we are told we are
winning, it is just a matter of time until the “evil empire” is pressured into
not intervening, while Chavez throws around a billion dollars and a few pretty
girls that are much better looking than Ambassador Bolton to “induce” other
countries to vote for Venezuela. Yes, we are winning, much like Bush is winning the war in Iraq. (Last time I mention the US President in this blog)

It would
indeed be poetic justice if the UN vote distracts the Venezuelan Government
past the December election, Rosales wins and the deadlock is resolved then. A
man can dream, no?

Meanwhile,
I can’t help but wonder what is it that makes people in power believe they are
doing so well, that they even forget the main reason they are where they are.
The same people they used to claim they “loved” and strived for, appear now
secondary to almost every single public servant and how all Government initiatives
have little to do with the daily life and difficulties of the average
Venezuelan.

And
curiously, as the wrath of nature is once again being discharged over Venezuela and its citizens,
Government officials appear to simply have disappeared and only unknown
Antonio Rivero, the Head of Civil Defense, has shown himself around since the
crisis caused by flooding began two days ago. People dead, houses destroyed by water and mudslides
and the question, who is in charge here?- simply lingers in my mind

But nobody
seems to be in charge of the real Venezuela. While the Minister of
Defense defends the
purchase of weapons
by the Venezuelan Government, the People’s Defender talks about his initiative
to stop the sale of fireworks at Xmas time, while the Committee that
investigates the La Paragua events meets with some Ministers,
but has yet to meet with the affected miners, a recently inaugurated bridge is carried away by the flood waters in Barquisimeto and the former star
Prosecutor of Isaias Rodriguez accuses
a Justice of the Supreme Court of forging the file on the Anderson case. Way to go, Hugo!

And we go
back to where we began: where is the President. With a National tragedy six weeks
before the election, he is missing a very impacting photo opportunity. He could
go to the affected areas, kiss some baby’s, and offer some houses, food, aid comfort and the like.
Instead, he cancels his
presence and rally
in Petare in Caracas today,
where the rains have had little effect, and barely rained today, while pro-Chavez transportation workers
still
carry out
their plans for a rally all over Caracas in support of Chavez.

But not to
worry, as
a pro-Chavez weekly
says the race is 45% for Chavez, 38% Rosales, which I
would be really scared of if I was in the Government. This implies Rosales has moved up 23% in a scant two
months, with six weeks to go and Er Conde ready
to withdraw
. Do the math.

What is
clearly is that the Chavista leadership is eerily out of touch with the country for reasons
unknown. Long gone are the days of being with the people, talking about the
people and working for the people. They are all now involved in higher tasks, either promoting the autocrat,
getting rich or spending their money.

So much
for a revolution.

Nice flowering, four species, one hybrid

October 21, 2006

Flowering seems to be picking up, as my plants seem to have recovered from the wholeslae repotting I did in August. I more flowers than this, but most of the others I ahve shown before.

Top left, very nice Cattleya Percivaliana, a Venezuelan species. This is a firts flowering of a cross bettween the Amarillo Huevo and Sonia species,very nice lip, shape and stinky as usual. On the right another Cattleya Jenmanii Gran Saban x Rosea, also a first flowering, similar to the one I won second prize with three weeks ago.

Top left, a nice Cattelya Walkeriana in terms of color, but small, this is a piece of another plant with bigger flowers, so it must still be getting used to my home. I took a pictrure with drops of water and another one dry, I liked this on more. On the right, a nice Brazilian species, Cattleya Labiata, very intense purple color.

Nice alba hybrid from a plant that is at least 40 years old, no idea what it is.

Eight years of Chavez’ love in eight minutes of pictures

October 20, 2006

Eight years of Chavez’ love in eight minutes of pictures with the song “Por Amor” in the background.

Chavez making friends around the world

October 20, 2006

It’s in Spanish, but it shows Chavez insulting people (Fox, Calderon, Bush, Alan Garcia, a reporter) at will from all over, including Venezuelans.

Losing friends, one country at a time

October 19, 2006


Chavez’
foreign policy is simply a reflection of what Venezuelans have felt and suffered from their Government in the last
few years: Either you are with him, or you are a lackey of Bush or some stupid
thing like that. That is how Chavez has divided Venezuela
in two and now is proceeding at least to distance Venezuela
from a number of Latin American countries that have always had excellent
relationships with Venezuela
and its citizens.

In fact,
the previous times (four) that Venezuela
was a member of the Security Council of the United Nations, it received over
90% of the votes and was always elected in the first round. This time, it
appears that of the 19 “friendly” countries of Latin America, only seven are
currently supporting Venezuela and twelve have decided to distance themselves
from Chavez and his Government, more than from Venezuela.

And Guatemala, a
small country that had been planning to run for the Security Council a year and
a half before the autocrat had his whim, has now also been moved to the side of
the enemies, accused of being a lackey of the Empire, as if Guatemalans and their
leaders had no dignity or no pride. As if Guatemala had not decided two years
ago that it deserved to hold the position, because it has always been the type
of country Venezuela used to be, a serious and democratic country who is wiling
to talk to everyone and defend and represent anyone in the Security Council
that needs a voice in that world body.

This is
simply typical Chavez. This is why he will never be able to construct anything
positive because he is incapable of holding even a conversation with someone that
disagrees with him and why he makes an enemy of anyone that dissents from his view. It is why so many Venezuelans
want him out, not only because he has been a terrible President, but because he
has introduced a negative level of divisiveness that Venezuelans do not want or
deserve.

And just
think of all the effort, both material and emotional that Venezuela and its diplomats have
spent to obtain a position that carries not vote, only voice. In fact, the big
bad enemy of the US
not only has a vote, but also a veto in that body. So, what’s the big deal? Calling Bush the devil every week should not cost so much.

So, Chavez
has by now not only lost the friendship of those countries that he had bickered and distanced himself from, but now seems to be finding new ones to fight with. Spain
and Chile,
two countries that had shown an unusual and sometimes inexplicable support for
the autocrat, have now also distanced themselves from our Government in the UN case. And even
Lula, Chavez’ old buddy has stated via Itamarati, that he will do nothing to
get Venezuela
elected.

Thus, Venezuela
isolates itself more and more as it allies itself with the least democratic countries
of the world. The Mugabes, Kim Il Sungs, Lukashenkos, Castros and Ahmadinejads
of this world are all clearly aligned with Chavez’ cause, as are all of those
Arab states for which freedom and democracy and rights are simply obscene four
letter words, even if none of them are that short.

And still
some people want to contend that the militaristic coup leader, the
autocrat that holds control of all powers in Venezuela, the man who decides not
to recognize any elected leader of another country that does not have his
sympathies is a true democrat. Being a democrat is not having an election any
however many years. Being a democrat is having the respect for others and their rights,
it’s listening to them to understand their problems and their worries, not sacrificing
everything for a political plan that does not benefit anyone but the leader. But
as Venezuela
loses all of its friends, one country at a time, it is siding with those
countries where democracy and rights are simply secondary. Countries with which
Venezuela
has little, if any, affinity, other than the autocratic nature of its current
leaders.

That is what the democratic world is slowly realizing, Venezuela is no longer a functional
democracy and they all want to distance themselves from its Government. And indirectly, from all of us. How terribly sad.

Democracy at work

October 19, 2006

Democracy at work: On the right, typical Chavez campaign poster “The brave people are with you”. On the left, the opposite voice, that of the people who are “bravos” (mad in Spanish): “Chavez, thief, out”

Love for illnesses and deaths by Marino Gonzalez

October 18, 2006


Marino Gonzalez is a specialist on public policies. He is a medical doctor who
later got a Ph.D. in public policies. Talking to him is incredible because he probability
knows health numbers in Venezuela
better than the Minister of Health himself. Talking to him can be quite
depressing. When you learn that the Government has no clue how many HIV cases
exist in Venezuela, or that most Barrio Adentro patients are simply given
dipirona, a drug discontinued everywhere in the world for regular analgesic
prescription except in Cuba and North Korea.Or how the loving Government of
Hugo Chavez will spend four times more money on military equipment than health
care. So much for love…Here is Marino’s article I  today’s Tal Cual

Love for
illnesses and deaths
by Marino Gonzalez in Tal Cual

After
eight years of authoritarian and incompetent Government, President Chavez
speaks of love. This sudden manifestation contrasts with the results of his administration
that has only brought more illnesses and deaths to Venezuelans. There can not
be any love when one has allowed the deterioration of health in the country.
The Government of President Chavez has represented the most roaring failure in health
care in Venezuela
since 1937. Two reasons back this assertion. The first one is his disappointing
accomplishments. The second reason is its great incapacity to undertake the
fundamental changes that our healthcare system requires.

From the first year of Chavez’ administration, the health of
Venezuelans has gotten worse. This deterioration is expressed in a convincing
manner in three aspects of current health conditions in Venezuela:
maternal and child care, control of endemic illnesses and the prevention and
control of chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health has yet to
publish the mortality figures for 2005 (It already has a four month delay).
That is why the analysis can only be done up to the year 2004.

9,272 kids younger than one died in the year 2004. 80% of these deaths
were due to reasons that were completely avoidable. This means those 7,417
deaths in kids less than one year, are approximately 20 deaths per day. The
child mortality rate in Venezuela
is twice that of Chile.

The larger number of avoidable deaths are related with illnesses of
infectious origin or related to the condition of poverty in the kid’s lives.

In 2004 there were 685 deaths due to diarrhea in kids less than one. In
that year, 274 kids (between one and eleven months) also died of malnutrition

In the case of maternal mortality there has been an increase of 20% between
1998 and 2004. That is, in 1998, 51 women out of every 100,000 live births died
and are recorded for causes related to the pregnancy, birth and the post-partum
period. In the year 2004 60 women for every 100,000 live births were recorded.

This means
that in 2004 one woman died each day due to causes related to maternal
mortality.

In the
case of endemic illnesses, the failure is expressed in the current malaria and
dengue epidemic the country is involved in. In the year 1998 we had 21,863
cases of malaria. In the year 2002 the total number of cases increased to
29,337. In 2004 we closed the year with 46,244 cases the second highest number
since 1937. In 2005 we had 45,328 cases.  of malaria. In the case of dengue, the number
of cases in 2005 was 12% higher than that of 1998. In the last weeks reported
this year we have more cases of these illnesses than last year

The Government of President Chavez has also failed to pay attention to
people who have illnesses that require care for decades.

These
illnesses are quite common but can be controlled. In the case of the care of
patients with diabetes or hypertension there is evidence of the worsening. According
to official figures, in the years of this Government the probability ahs
increased for people with hypertension or diabetes, especially in the elderly. If
we compare the values between 1998 and 2003 the results are disheartening. In the
specific case of diabetes, in the period noted mortality has increased in all
of the groups comprised between 50 and 74 years old. In the group between 50
and 79, mortality has increased by 25%. In the group between 50 and 59 years
old mortality ahs increased by 29%. A similar situation is observed in deaths by
hypertension. In all of the groups mortality has increased due to these causes.

It is clear that this purported love what has brought us is
more deaths and illnesses to all Venezuelans.

It is also clear that reelecting the Government of Hugo Chavez is the
biggest risk to the well being of Venezuelans.

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