Archive for February, 2007

El Caracazo: The unseen military cover-up

February 28, 2007

Yesterday, Chavismo brought all the cynical hoopla that characterize it, to declare the 17th. anniversary of the “Caracazo”,  Human Rights Day. This was simply grandstanding, as noted so well by the article below by Katy in Caracas Chronicles, which I reproduce in its entirety below, becuase of its importance. I will just complement it a little.

But this cynical attitude goes beyond what Katy says. Only 23 days ago the Government celebrated another military massacre, Chavez’ original coup attempts which also had a tragic end of too many dead and too any injured. Where are those responsible for those deaths? Nobody was punished for them.

And the same can be said for those that died on April 11th. 2002, when our current President activated the so called “Plan Avila” a military repressive plan to control the civilian population. Fortunately, the Generals in charge refused to do it, saving many lives. But that day there were 24 deaths and over one hundred injured and those that were taped shooting that march from Puente El Llaguno, all pro-Government, were found innocent and not a single person was found guilty of those deaths. The infamous “truth commission” in the National Assembly was killed by the current Government, so that we may never find the truth, or those responsible for those deaths.

Similarly, exactly three years ago yesterday, coincidentally the same day as the “Caracazo”, the repressive action of this Government led to many deaths, while a peaceful march trying to deliver a document to the Heads of State meeting in Caracas was met with extraordinary repression, which was simply uncalled for. Just recall Elinor Montes, who holding a Venezuelan flag approached a soldier asking why they were being so repressive to a peaceful march. Imagine her surprise when the soldier wrestled her to the ground, injuring her.

And I will never forget the feeling of impotency and despair I felt, when I first saw the pictures of how Jose Vilas was shot by the National Guard that same day. He was cowardly shot on the back with a military rifle, which was running after the dispersing crowd of a peaceful demonstration. I did not know Vilas personally, but I knew who he was. He was my wife’s co-worker and I know too many people that knew him well. His murder was never even investigated, which simply proves the cynical attitude behind even declaring the anniversary of El Caracazo as human rights day.

El Caracazo: The unseen military cover-up by Katy in Caracas Chronicles

Katy says: Yesterday was the anniversary of El Caracazo,
a day that no Venezuelan can ever forget. On February 27th, 1989,
thousands of poor people poured into the streets to protest a hike in
the prices of gas and public transportation. As the crowds grew larger,
people began looting, and pretty soon Venezuela’s major cities were
undergoing massive riots.

The rioting continued and grew worse
through the night and onto the next day, when newly-inaugurated,
democratically-elected President Carlos Andrés Pérez suspended
constitutional guarantees and installed a curfew. What happened in the
aftermath left a permanent stain on the country’s soul.

enforce the government’s curfew, the Venezuelan military began killing
people randomly in a desperate attempt to restore order in the country.
Estimates say that more than 1,000 Venezuelans were killed during those
days, most of them poor, many of them in their homes, while many more
are missing. Numerous bodies were found in mass graves, while some were
never recovered.

Yesterday we had a commemoration of sorts, with
the government holding an official ceremony while at the same time
vowing to end impunity. For all the grandstanding, though, the
government’s record in bringing those responsible to justice is dismal.
The inescapable fact is that after eighteen years, not a single one of
the people who murdered innocent civilians is in jail. More than a few
of them have ended up, instead, in cush revolutionary jobs.

has been in power for 8 of the eighteen years since el Caracazo. He has
controlled the courts for plenty long enough to put the people
responsible in jail and to implement measures to ensure abuses like
this never happen again. Voices from inside and outside Venezuela,
including respected human rights campaigner and victims’ defender
Liliana Ortega, have blasted the current administration for not doing enough to bring justice to victims’ families.

criticism has come from an unlikely source: People’s Ombudsman – and
staunch Chávez supporter – Germán Mundaraín. Mr. Mundaraín came out with a report
yesterday blasting the Prosecutor General’s Office for not doing enough
to bring about justice, only to be strongly rebuffed by Prosecutor
General and former chavista Vice-President, Isaías Rodríguez. It was a
rare instance of public disagreement between two men who have always
worked in tandem to defend the government at all costs.

would a government that has made the memory of February 27th so central
a part of its ideological memory fail so badly to bring those
responsible to justice? The reason is that this is a military government, and the main perpetrator of the abuses during those days was the military.

Chávez was a Lieutenant Coronel in the Venezuelan army when he tried to
overthrow Pérez in February of 1992. Yet Chávez did not act alone that
day: some of the officers who took part in or sympathized with the coup
are now in the President’s Cabinet, including the Interior, Defense and
Telecommunications Ministers (Secretaries) and the head of the national
tax-collecting office SENIAT. Even more are in positions of power in
official chavista bureaucracy. They are now ambassadors,
under-secretaries, superintendents, governors, mayors and even judges.

all these people were active in 1992, they were also active in 1989.
The fact that they remained in the military between 89 and 92 makes
them immediate suspects in the 89 massacre, since they obviously did
not disobey orders to shoot indiscriminately. And while certainly not
all of them participated, it’s safe to bet that some of them did, and
they probably either hold positions of power or are connected to
someone who does.

Take, for instance, the case of Crisanto
Maderos. Maderos was murdered during those tragic days, a crime for
which three military officers were charged: Col. Pedro Colmenares, Col.
Jesus Francisco Blanco Berroterán and Maj. Carlos Miguel Yánez
Figueredo. All three were active officers in 1992.

The trial
ended in an acquittal, with the judge arguing that the crime had
prescribed. Last July, the Chávez-appointed Supreme Tribunal upheld the
acquittal. This acquittal was unrelated to a lack of forensic evidence;
these guys got off on a technicality: a new low for chavista justice.

It turns out that Colmenares used to be
Venezuela’s military attaché in its Embassy in Washington. Colmenares
has also represented the Chávez administration in the Interamerican
Defense Board, and for a time was part of Chávez’s personal security.
Furthermore, Blanco Berroterán’s brother has recently been appointed
to a government post within the military justice system, having
previously worked as one of the directors of the Palo Verde military
jail, from which imprisoned union leader Carlos Ortega
famously escaped several months ago. Yánez Figueredo, still in active
service, is known for being part of the graduating class that controversially named Fidel Castro as its godfather. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the real reason these guys got out.

while we all remember the terrible days of 1989 with sadness and thirst
for justice, let’s keep one thing straight: the impunity surrounding el
Caracazo is not due to government foot dragging or to the usual delays
of a sclerotic court system. It’s the outcome of a carefully
orchestrated cover-up.

El Bono del Sur 2: Dinero gratis para las masas ricas

February 28, 2007

(In English here)

Imagnese que usted entra en un banco va a la ventana #1 y entrega un cheque por 24 millones de bolvares (ms de 11.100 dlares al cambio oficial) y sabe que usted puede volver en ocho das e ir a la ventana #2 y usted obtendr por lo menos Bs. 29.4 millones de bolvares (cerca de 13.600 dlares al tipo de cambio oficial) para un excelente retorno de un mnimo del 18% en slo una semana.

Esto es lo que llaman el Ministro de las finanzas y Hugo Chvez “inversin” en el prximo Bono del Sur # 2, donde si usted solicita una unidad de $10.000 usted paga Bs. 24 millones como en el ejemplo de arriba, y si se asume que a esos inversionistas “pequeos” les asignen el 90% de su peticin, Ud. puede entonces proceder a vender la mitad, que se compone de un bono argentino en US$ al valor de meracdo de 95% de su valor y vender esos dolares en el mercado paralelo a Bs. 4.000. Ud. puede entonces vender la otra mitad, la parte en Bolvares del bono, el llamado TICC , y toma una pequea prdida del 7% con respecto a lo que pag y le devuelven los $1.000 que no le fue asignado a la tasa oficial de cambio. Estos nmeros aproximados sern probablemente mucho mejores, puesto que el valor del TICC es probable sea aun ms alto y es muy probable tambien que si usted pide $10.000 usted conseguir todo lo que pidi del bono, pero sos son ya pequeos detalles.

As, los venezolanos que pueden conseguir el dinero, actualmente estn en un frenes total para poder poner sus rdenes antes de maana por la tarde y gozar de la generosidad del gobierno revolucionario que les regala el dinero. De hecho, todo esto puede incluso ser mejor. Si usted puede encontrar el financiamiento, ofrecido por docenas de instituciones financieras, usted puede incluso conseguir el financiamiento del 90% del costo por ocho das con solamente un pago del 10% y su retorno ser realmente de tres dgitos!!! Que chvere no?!!!

En el 2004 el gobierno decidi vender bonos denominados en dlares a cambio de bolvares como una manera de esterilizar el exceso de la liquidez en el sistema monetario. Y funcion. Tpicamente los bonos eran vendidos a precios tales que el valor “implcito” en el cual usted compraba dlares era unos Bs. 100 por debajo del cambio paralelo, que estaba en orden de Bs. 2.600-2.700, una diferencia de 4 al 5% y haba un riesgo, un par de veces, demasiados dlares inundaron el mercado de tal manera que el precio en el paralelo baj mas de Bs. 100 y la gente perdi dinero. Y ellos saban que esto era posible. Era por tanto cierto que haba un riesgo implcito en esas operaciones, y eso si se llama una inversin.

Pero comenzando con el primer Bono del Sur, la diferencia se ha abierto demasiado haciendo de esto un regalo, sin ningun riesgo. Y se ha abierto muchsimo. Hoy, el precio del dlar en el paralelo est en Bs. 4.000 por US$ y en el ejemplo que di arriba, el valor implcito de comprar los dlares va el bono es ms o menos de Bs. 2.700 por US$. As la diferencia se ha abierto al 32-33% o Bs. 1,300, haciendo de esto algo seguro, de cero riesgo. No hace falta ni pensarlo. Pero, dado la ausencia de riesgo, usted no puede llamar esto una inversin, es ms bien un regalito.

Por otra parte mientras ms gente participa, y los venezolanos han aprendido a hacer solicitudes a nombre de sus padres, de los hermanos, primos etc. para multiplicar los beneficios, por lo que el gobierno tiene que dar ms a estos inversionistas pequeos, que no son ms que los mas ricos en Venezuela, le darn menos a las compaas, que se irn al mercado paralelo a comprar los dolares que necesiten. De tal manera que hay poca probabilidad de que caiga el precio en el mercado paralelo. El riesgo ms grande es que haya malas noticias de Argentina, que bajar el precio del 95% para el Boden argentino 2015, que es parte del combo del Bono del Sur. Pero nunca podra ajar lo suficiente para generar una perdida.

As es que cada uno de estos beneficiarios de la generosidad gubernamental, est listo para poner su solicitud, para conseguir sus Bs. 5 millones para comprar esa TV de plasma agradable que siempre ha querido tener, una PC u otro activo tangible para que su dinerito no pierda valor en el tiempo. Muchos simplemente mantendrn los dlares, comprados baratos, en sus cuentas en los E.E.U.U. o dondequiera que sea. Pero si hay una cosa que usted puede estar seguro: Casi nadie guardar el bono denominado en Bolvares, incluso si est indexado al cambio oficial. El cupn es de 5%, que significa que si la gente paga 105 por el, rinde menos del 5%, en Bolvares, cuando la inflacin est a niveles del 20%. Y usted puede estar seguro que nadie, absolutamente nadie, guardar la parte argentina del combo. Se la vendern a los hedgies, los fondos de cobertura que invierten en estos papeles

Podramos llamar entonces a esta operacin “Mision dinero gratis para los ricos”

Slo una revolucin boba, considera que esto es una “inversin”

The Bono del Sur 2: Free money for the rich masses

February 27, 2007

(In Spanish here)

Imagine you could walk into a bank and go to window #1 and hand over a check for 24 million Bolivars (about US$ 11,100 dollar at the official exchange rate) and know that you can come back in eight days and go to window #2 and you will get back at least Bs. 29.4 million Bolivars (about 13,600 dollars at the official rate of exchange) for a hefty 18% minimum return in one week?

This is what the Minister of Finance and Hugo Chavez call “investing” in the upcoming Bono del Sur #2, where if you request a $10,000 unit you pay Bs. 24 million like in the example, and assuming those “small” investors get 90% of their request, they can then proceed to sell the half which is composed of an Argentinian bond in US$ at 95% of its face value and sell that in the parallel market at Bs. 4,000. They can then sell the Bolivar part of the bond, the so called TICC, and take a slight 7% loss on what they paid and they also get the $1,000 they were not assigned back at the official rate.

These approximate numbers are likely to get even better, since the value of the TICC is likely to be higher and most likely if you ask for $10,000 you will get the whole bond, but those are just small details.

Thus, Venezuelans that can come up with the money, are in a frenzy these days so they can place their orders before tomorrow afternoon and enjoy the largess of the revolutionary Government to those that have money.

In fact, it can even be better. If you can find financing, offered by dozens of financial institutions,, you can even get 90% financing for eight days with only a 10% down payment and your return is actually in triple digits!!!

Isn’t that nice!!!

You see, in 2004 the Government decided to sell dollar denominated bonds in exchange for Bolivars as a way of sterilizing the excess liquidity in the monetary system. And it worked. Typically bonds would be sold such that the “implicit” value at which you were purchasing dollars would be Bs. 100 below the parallel exchange rate, which was in the range of Bs. 2,600-2,700, a 4 to 5% difference. and there were risks too, a couple of times so many dollars flooded the market that the parallel rate went down Bs. 100 and people lost money. And they knew this was possible. So there was some risk involved, that is related to calling it investing.

But starting with the first Bono del Sur, the gap has widened. And quite a lot. Today, the parallel rate stands at Bs. 4,000 to the US$ and in the example I gave above, the implicit rate of buying the dollars via the bond is about Bs. 2,700 per US$. Thus the gap has widened to 32-33%, making the play a no brainer. But, given the absence of much risk, you can’t call this an investment, it is more of a giveaway.

Moreover, the more people participate, and they have learned to have their siblings parents, cousins et al fill out the forms to multiply the profits, the more the Government has to give to these small investors, and I should say rich people for Venezuelan standards, and less to companies, which drive the parallel market. Thus, there is little risk of the parallel rate dropping. About the biggest risk is some bad news coming out of Argentina, which will lower the price of 95% for the Argentinian Boden 15, which is part of the revolutionary Bono del Sur 2 Combo.

Thus everyone is looking to put in their request and get their Bs. 5 million to buy that nice plasma TV you always wanted, a PC or another tangible asset that will not lose money in time.

Many will simply keep the dollars, bought at the cheap, in their accounts in the US or wherever. But there is one thing you can be sure of: Almost nobody will keep the Bolivar denominated bond, even if linked to the official exchange rate. It’s coupon is 5%, which means that if people pay 105 for it, it yields in Bolivars less than 5%, when inflation is running at 20%. And you can be sure nobody, absolutely nobody will keep the Argentinean part of the deal. They will sell it to the hedgies.

I guess we could call this “Mision free money for the rich”

You gotta love the silly revolution and their concept of “investment”

Denounce the hoarders by Teodoro Petkoff

February 27, 2007

Denounce the hoarders by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Speaking about inflation, shortages and the measures announced by The Government, we heard Minister of Finance Cabezas refer to the responsibility of previous Governments in all of this. Has Cabezas perceived that the previous Government happens to be that of Chvez? If you can point someone as being responsible of the tribulations that we are living today, is to I, the Supreme, whose acts, were, on top of that, all validated by Cabezas himself from parliament

For eight full years, Chavez and his underlings have devoted themselves to sow the winds of these economic gales.

But in the same way as his colleagues before him, I, the Supreme is looking for dust in somebody elses eyes, instead of looking at the beam him own eye has inside. Not for one moment do these Government officials consider their own faults. Faithful to their conspiratory vision of life and history, repeating the old adage of previous governments-as impotent and wrong as those of today- they have pointed to the scapegoat, that mysterious bad guy, with a mask over his face, who they call speculator

Inflation is then, blamed on small corner store owners. The only thing that this could produce as a result of this massive propaganda campaign-a Goebbelian feature for which this Government does have the copyrights to-is that some of those cheated could think of looting the small corner stores in the barrios or beyond.

The lack of effective anti-inflationary action is not casual. The reason is purely political. On the one hand, the Government is prisoner of its own fiscal excesses. It has been spending in such an exorbitant mode and acquiring and pledging such compromising obligations, that it cannot stop. Even worse, many of those expenditures that will have to be repeated each year are under the risk that medium term, the income to cover them will not be sufficient.

One of the roots of inflation is fiscal irresponsibility. The reason is purely political. The reduction of the VAT, just as an example, may lower prices but not inflation. It is not a paradox. Inflation is not the simple increase in prices, but the rhythm and speed at which it goes up. Inflation will continue to go up because for the Government a fiscally responsible policy is not part of its arsenal.

On the other hand, the exchange controls and the indefinite extension of the foreign exchange anchor, which also have a considerable inflationary potential, will also not be subjected to review because its persistence is also political. They exist because I, the Supreme uses them as a mechanism for political control. As long as Chvez is president we will have permanent exchange controls even if they are not necessary-with its consequential and inevitable parallel market (and the corruption that the whole structure segregates) and with prices of consumption goods strongly determined by the not controlled exchange rateblack or gray, as you may like it.

All of this has a boring air of having seen it before. It is the repeat of the first CAP Government, it is Lusinchi part II.

A video is worth 10,000 pictures

February 25, 2007

Watch the fascist autocrat at Daniel’s blog live!

Can it be any clearer than that?

Only a couple of species

February 25, 2007

Haven’t posted for a while, between Carnival vacation and few flowers, there has not been much of a chance to take pictures. Few flowers still as conditions have been cooler than usual, which will likely translate into more flowers in a couple of months. Cooler than usual means that temperatures have been below 15 C most nights, rather unusual for Caracas. In fact, in the last eight years, I don’t recall a an eight week period of cool nights like we have had. Above left, a very generous flowering of Cattleya Intermedia from Brazil. On the right, a close up of Shomburgkia Undulata from Venezuela, a very common plant along teh Coast near Caracas and in Aragua state, just a couple of hours drive from my home.

And then the whale just jumped…

February 25, 2007

Tal Cual and IVIC cases show that freedom of speech is not alive and well in Venezuela

February 24, 2007

In the short span of a week, the ugly head of censorship and disregard
for the basic right of freedom of expression guaranteed by the
Venezuelan Constitution, surfaced in Venezuela, this time in two cases
covered by this blog before. First, Teodoro Petkoffs newspaper Tal
Cual was found guilty of violating the privacy of the Presidents
daughter and fined (Posts here, here and here
on this case). Then, physicist Claudio Mendoza was punished by the
Board of Directors of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research
(IVIC) for daring to express his opinions (posts here, here and here on that topic) and refusing to back down or apologize for what was considered as a disrespectful article by the authorities.

in both cases, what we are seeing, once again, is simply an attitude
ingrained in Chavez Government, that they are the holders of the truth
and anyone who dares step over the line will be punished sufficiently
to induce fears in others, thus limiting freedom of expression in a
very broad way. Either you are with them, or you are punished, they
know the truth and you have to adapt to it, as easy as that.

case against Petkoff is quite emblematic, because in a sense, he has
been very outspoken against the Chavez Government and the quirks and
faults of the revolution. And Petkoff is unlikely to back down from the
position he has defended, because he probably still thinks that he is
somehow still untouchable, until the day he ceases to be. But the
signal to less powerful media outlets, who will not receive the attention that
Petkoffs Tal Cual received, is very clear: Either you stay within the
bounds of what the autocracy wants or else! That message had already
sent to the broadcast media, some, like Venevision and Televen, decided
to confine and limit themselves and are thus protected, other like
RCTV, continued their fight and outspokenness and they will be punished
in May by having their license revoked. Even worse, while Chvez today claimed private property would be respected,
the Minister of Communications has clearly said that unless an
agreement is reached to buy RCTVs equipment, it will be expropriated.
What a strange concept this Bolivarian private property is, I guess it applies to their property, but not that of their enemies.

So, it is
now time to go directly against the print media, now that the broadcast
media is under control. And the Tal Cual case clearly shows it. The
judge simply responded to a public request by Hugo Chavez. Ironically,
it was Chavez himself who violated his daughters privacy by telling a
nationwide TV audience how she had advised him on changing the
countrys coat of arms. This led to a humorous and very non-intrusive
piece by Laureano Marquez, which, if anything, treated Chvez daughter
with a certain level of endearment. This led to a fine against Tal Cual
and Marquez by a judge’s decision, which is so confusing an
unprofessional, that the Prosecutor is asking for clarification of what
it implies.

Claudio Mendozas case is closer than many think to
that of Tal Cual. Claudios opinion article in El Nacional was a
serious description of what it takes to build a nuclear bomb, but much
like Laureanos it also used wit to point out the total disregard for
experts’ opinion that this Government has. I have covered the case
extensively, but essentially Mendoza was asked to prove what he was
saying and threatened with being fired, even if in the end he was only
removed from his position as Head of the Computational Physics
Laboratory at IVIC.

One could argue that holding such a position
should be a decision of the authorities of that institution and thus
Mendozas removal is a non-event. That is far from being the case.
First of all, being Head of a Laboratory has always been considered an
academic position and thus not subject to political or
administrative changes. But the suggestion that this was a
non-political or normal decision simply unravels, when the Director
of IVIC said in an interview in El Nacional
that the punishment was soft. Thus, it is clear that Mendoza was
punished for his personal opinions about the countrys disregard for
experts in all fields, as well as its possible nuclear intentions. This is simply censorship and there is no way to hide. Remarkably, they don’t even try!

first question is why was the punishment, in the end,  so soft? I believe
the answer lies in the fact that a large group of researchers from
IVIC, led in Claudios own words to Adriana Villanueva in todays El Nacional by
the scientific women who are braver than most, signed a petition
questioning the investigation of Claudios article by IVIC’s Board and his firing would
have led to an even larger confrontation within that Institution. However, the impact of
censorship was felt even in this petition, when many refused to sign it
so as not to get into trouble. Indeed, it is not easy when you are
academically insecure, to sign a petition against the body that decides
your promotions, your tenure, your budget and who you may hire or not to work with

But there was likely a second reason for the restraint in
the punishment. Venezuela has many distinguished scientists who are
well respected beyond its borders and many of them contacted
Associations and Journals abroad and, had Claudio been fired, there would have
been significant international repercussions that at least for now, the
Board of IVIC was not willing to face.

But the attitude is
there. Claudio was supposed to be disrespectful against his own
institution, which was curiously never mentioned in the text of his opinion piece
and much like the case of Chavez daughter, it was Chavez himself who
stated publicly in 2005 that Venezuela had a right to explore the use of nuclear
energy, signing cooperation agreements with Iran, who is not precisely
on the side of only peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

But it is not a
matter of disrespect as the interview with IVICs Director reveals. He
clearly shows his ignorance or disregard for the freedoms granted by
the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution, which unequivocally says in its Art.
57 that all people have the right to express freely their thoughts,
their ideas or opinions in a loud voice, in writing or any other form
of expression and make use for it of any communication or broadcasting
media, without the possibility of establishing censorship
. But, in the
opinion of the Director of IVIC, handpicked by Chavez despite losing
the election to that position:

Nobody can give an opinion
freely without having responsibility for the opinion. Freedom of speech
has limits
, so do researchersWe thought he would back down, but he did
not do it. That was the drop that overflowed the glass and we did not
dissimulate it

There you have it, as clear as water, a fascist
statement in black and white and at its best, going as far as stating
that they did not even try to fake it. Can it be any clearer than that?

whole thing is so ridiculous, that the IVIC Director in his own
opinion, incurs in the same disrespect, but this time against the
Foreign Policy of the Government he serves with such servility. He
clearly says:

He can not say that the country is on its way to
manufacture nuclear weapons. If that is said by a physicist from a
scientific institution it is something serious and one cannot be deaf or
mute. He (Claudio) placed Venezuela together with Iran and North Korea, something that would question the country internationally

what? This statement would seem as disrespectful to Venezuelas leader
and his foreign policy as Mendozas article was to IVIC. Iran and North
Korea, more the former than the latter, are considered to be good
friends of Venezuela and the autocrat and at a time that Iran is not complying with
international nuclear regulations, Venezuela and Hugo Chavez have
signed agreements with Iran on nuclear cooperation. Chavez has hosted
Irans President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at least three times in the last
two years, so that suggesting that Mendozas naming of Venezuela in the
same context as Iran, is as much of a disrespectful opinion on the
part of IVICs Director towards his almighty boss, as Mendozas charge
that Chavez interest in nuclear energy goes beyond peaceful uses is
disrespectful towards his scientific institution..

And this is
in the end the question: Why is it that Chavez revives the nuclear
question? Has he been advised that this is a priority? Or is it simply
a repeat of the Venezuelan militarys fascination with nuclear matters?
It is always the military that have wanted to promote nuclear research
and development in Venezuela. Thats how it started in the 50s and it is
periodically revived. But the scientists have never been big promoters
of it, unless it led to some funding for esoteric use of nuclear technology. But like a boomerang, the topic is revisited periodically
whenever some military officer who thinks he knows what he is talking
about, brings it up again. And much like all members of the nuclear
club or those that aspire to be part of it, at the beginning, only
peaceful uses are mentioned or suggested as the words sovereignty and
self-determination are also thrown into the discussion.

the truth is that there is no valid reason today to make Nuclear
Physics or its uses a priority in Venezuela and it certainly collides
with the broad outlines of that absurd contraption called Mision
Ciencia. But in the back of the minds of ignorant military officers, a
nuclear weapon is the ultimate power trip, a toy to beat and replace all military toys, a sublime ego booster, a possible geopolitical catapult for the all-mighty leader.

And that in itself simply proves that Mendoza was absolutely right in what he said.

It is all part of this crazy militaristic folly called the Bolivarian revolution and that, my friends, is simply my opinion.

The revolution expresses its love for the people

February 24, 2007

Because the revolution loves the people:

Venezuela spending on arms soars to world’s top ranks (NYT)

De Diocletianus, a Nixon, a Chavez: La historia del fracaso de los controles de precio

February 24, 2007
(English Version here)

La mayora de la gente sabe poco sobre el emperador romano Diocles o Diocletianus. Aunque es peligroso hacer paralelos a travs de 1700 aos de historia, algunas de las semejanzas entre Diocles y nuestro Autcrata/Dictador son simplemente sorprendentes.

Igual que Chvez, Diocles busc su suerte en el ejrcito, progresando a travs de sus filas y se convirti en emperador en el 285 D.C. Diocles estableci orden dentro de los militares, conformando su Gobierno un despotismo militar, sin embargo Diocles no tuvo xito en arreglar la economa. Primero que todo Diocles imprimi dinero como loco (les suena familiar?) y no pudo restaurar la fe en la moneda. En ese momento, como tantos antes y despus de l, Diocles estableci controles de precios, as como controles sociales. Si eras el hijo de un granjero, tenias que ser granjero, tan simple como eso. Pero ms importantemente, l estableci algunos de los controles de precios ms estrictos que se conocen, imponiendo la pena de muerte a los que los violaban.

Diocletianus public el decreto de los precios mximos, que contena 32 secciones y estableca lmites de precio a mas de 1.000 productos. stos incluyeron precios mximos en la carne, los granos, la cerveza, el transporte y los salarios. A pesar de las penas aplicadas, el sistema simplemente no funcion. Los comerciantes pararon de producir los artculos bajo control o simplemente los vendan por encima de los precios regulados de forma ilegal. Eventualmente tuvo que retirar el decreto debido al aumento de la escasez as como de la inflacin. Es decir, las medidas de control tuvieron el efecto contrario al deseado.

La historia de Diocletianus no es nica; hay docenas de ejemplos de controles de precios fallidos sin importar lo duro de las penas y castigos aplicados. Del cdigo de Hammurabi en Babilonia a Egipto, a la guerra civil de los E.E.U.U., a la revolucin francesa, a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, a Nixon, a Venezuela, a Venezuela y ahora otra vez, a Venezuela, los controles de precios simplemente no funcionan. De hecho, la historia demuestra que tienen siempre el efecto opuesto a lo previsto. No hay un solo caso de controles de precios que haya funcionado y se han escrito muchos libros y trabajos para demostrarlo.

Lo cual nos trae a la Venezuela de hoy. Despus de establecer controles de precios hace tres aos, e imprimir el dinero sin controlen este tiempo, lo cual no ayudo, y ver como la inflacin suba sin control el presidente Hugo Chvez public un decreto la semana pasada para tratar de inculcar miedo en los productores agrcolas.Aunque discut el decreto la semana pasada,
solamente ahora, al regreso de mis vacaciones es que he tenido tiempo de estudiar el decreto. Y es incluso mucho peor de lo que pensaba.

Para empezar, el decreto es claramente ilegal, dado que el artculo 112 de la Constitucin concede extensos derechos econmicos a los venezolanos que no pueden ser simplemente eliminados todos de un plumazo:

Art. 112. Toda la gente puede dedicarse libremente a la actividad econmica de su preferencia, sin ms limitaciones que sos contemplados en esta constitucin y sos establecidos por leyes por razones de el desarrollo humano, la seguridad, la salud, la proteccin del medio ambiente u otras de inters social. El estado promover las iniciativas privadas, garantizando la creacin y la distribucin justa de la abundancia, as como la produccin de las mercancas y de los servicios que satisfarn las necesidades de la poblacin, la libertad de trabajar, de crear las compaas, industrias, sin prejuicio alguno para medidas de la edicin de planear, de racionalizar y de regular la economa y de promover el desarrollo integral del pas.

El decreto publicado esta semana, viola tanto el espritu como la letra de las libertades y de las derechas garantizados por este artculo de la Constitucin. Mientras que el gobierno puede establecer ciertas limitaciones, no puede limitarlo todo, como el decreto lo hace o ciertamente lo trata de hacer. Peor aun, no puede prohibir a nadie dedicarse libremente a su actividad econmica de su preferencia. De hecho el decreto dice que cualquier persona que sea encontrada culpable de la violacin del decreto no podr participar en el comercio por diez aos. La constitucin no permite ciertamente eso y si se aplica siempre violarn las derechos constitucionales de los castigados.

Pero miremos algunos de los textos del decreto para ver cmo va ms all de cul es legalmente razonable al definir el alcance del decreto:

Art. 24. Sancionarn cualquier persona que individualmente o como grupo, realice actos que impidan, de manera directa o indirecta, la produccin, la fabricacin, la importacin, el almacenaje, el transporte y la comercializacin de comestibles o de productos sujetos a control con prisin de dos a seis aos

Ntese lo difuso de las definiciones. No slo permite que uno sea castigado si participa directamente o indirectamente, cuyo significado no esta nada claro, pero tambin ni siquiera hace falta que el producto este sujeto a controles de precio! Si es un alimento lo que ests manejando, directamente o indirectamente, puedes ser condenado a un largo tiempo en la crcel y si eres condenado, no podrs participar durante diez anos en el comercio.

Me pregunto si deberamos tener un decreto similar para los polticos que permiten que la inflacin aumente por encima de un cierto nivel, directa o indirectamente, debido a su negligencia, ignorancia o incompetencia. Podramos no tener suficiente espacio de celdas para todo el los ministros econmicos de Chvez’ si ste fuera el caso (o aquellos antes de Chvez!). Pero bajo el autcrata, los castigos son una calle en una sola direccin. Todo lo que ellos hacen les parece estar siempre bien y sin problemas, no hay auto critica o el uso del conocimiento en establecer polticas.

En el artculo 4, el gobierno se otorga la capacidad de declarar de uso pblico o de inters social las actividades de la produccin, de la fabricacin, de la importacin, del almacenaje, del transporte, de la distribucin y del comercio de comestibles o de artculos bajo controles de precios. Esto permite simplemente que el gobierno expropie o intervenga cualquier parte de lo que represente probablemente una fraccin enorme de la economa venezolana, dada la definicin vaga, amplia y discrecional que cubre el decreto. Es realmente difcil pensar en un rea no cubierta, que sea de importancia. Es la cerveza alimento? Los precios de la gasolina estn bajo control. Algunos precios de carros son controlados. Se aplica a cualquier cosa que incluya comida en todos los niveles de la cadena de produccin, comercializacin o servicios. No hay limites!

Y en ese punto el decreto se vuelve simplemente dictatorial con una D” en maysculas al decir: El Ejecutivo, sin mediar ninguna formalidad podr decretar la expropiacin por razones de seguridad y soberana de la alimentacin. Que tal?

En el Art. 12. el gobierno se permite la toma de posesin y la ocupacin temporal, incautacin para comenzar a vender los productos otra vez. Mientras que sucede esto, los sueldos continuarn siendo pagados, asegurando que uno realice una especie de hara-kiri o de sepuku financiero a si mismo.

Por supuesto, estos individuos nunca se han detenido a pensar que ellos son el problema. Que tal como le paso Diocles, es la impresin de dinero inorgnico y los controles de precio los que conducen a la escasez e inflacin. Que cuanto ms controles imponen, ms hay escasez y mas subir la inflacin. Ese miedo a la incautacin o a la expropiacin no funcionar, porque el miedo de la muerte no pudo detener el mismo fenmeno en Babilonia o en Roma.

La historia econmica moderna no comenz con Adn Smith, mas de tres mil aos de historia han demostrado que los controles de precios exacerban los problemas y los controles de Hugo Chvez, manejados por una burocracia corrupta e ineficaz, tienen an mayor probabilidad de fracasar que en la mayor parte de los casos anteriores de la historia.

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