Archive for July, 2007

A picture is worth 10,000 words# 33: Central Bank’s study of the population

July 30, 2007

This is a puzzling graph which appeared in El Universal a couple of days ago and I don’t quite know what to make of it, it is the Central Bank’s (BCV) study of Venezuelan homes:

1) It says Venezuela was mostly a middle class country in 1997 and has remained the same since.
2) There has been little change since 1997. Only 1.1% of the poorest families moved from strata V tto IV.the biggest change is in the increases in the seond strata, which is fully middle class
3) Given the change in the price of oil between 1997 and 2005, you would think even spending the money inefficiently would have a larger effect.
4) It disagrees with data from the INE, the national Institute of Statistics and the data from Universidad Catolica.

What gives?

A picture is worth 10,000 words# 32: Estimating Venezuela’s gas consumption

July 30, 2007

PDVSA’s black box does not tell us what is the national consumption of gasoline and diesel of the vehicles in the country. Recently a presentation by PDVSA’s former economist Ramon Espinasa, put the number at 770,000 barrels per day. In this post we estimate the number using the growth in vehicle sales in the last few years and compare it to Espinasa’s

In the figure above (which has a shift in the x-axis (My Mac died, using Windows!), that is, the first point corresponds to 2001, the last one to June 2007), we plot the total number of vehicles in the country, using the sales reported by Cavenez and adding them to the number of vehicles estimated to exist in the country in December 2000, subtracting a small attrition rate per year.

In the graph below, we assume gasoline and diesel consumption increases proportionally to the number of vehicles. Then, we use the total number of barrels of gasoline and diesel sold by PDVSA’s Deltaven in 2000, which represented 51% of the country’s sales, according to PDVSA’s 2000 SEC report and extrapolate year by year to obtain the graph below.

The number I come up with is 750,000 barrels per day, which is quite and similar to Espinasa’s number. In fact, given that the price of gas has not changed since 2000 in local currency and that the currency has depreciated officially by roughly 200% and unofficially by 500%, then it would seem logical to believe that people are using more gas than ever or that more is being smuggled to Colombia due to the price differential.

Thus, if you take Espinasa’s production (or IEA’s or OPEC’s) this type of number, you get that Venezuela’s exports can be no more than 1.63 million barrels of oil a day.

Hugo Chavez’ wisdom

July 29, 2007

Wisdom from autocrat:

“The Transamazonic pipeline project is “cold”, attacks from within Latin America have done it…we want to share the wealth with other countries”

Jezz, my guess is the project was born “cold”. A US$20 (or is it 30?) billion project invented by Hugo himself to carry gas Venezuela does not have across the Amazon and all the way to Argentina. As for the wealth there are an estimated 350,000 shacks in Caracas waiting to “share the wealth”.

Justifying his indefinite reelection: ” I only started raising the socialist flag two years ago…six years can go by like the first six”

Well, it is a pity you had no project and spent the first six years looking for one. But what happens if you change your mind and start a new one? Maybe Venezuelans would be better off with someone who has some idea as to where she or he is going.

—“The people need dignified housing…the housing problem is caused by capitalism”

It can also be caused by bad Governments, since Chavez became President the number of homes built every year has gone down to one third of what it used to be under this “less capitalistic system”

—“Cities like the one we are building in El Camino de Los Indios, will be the model for the socialist society we are building”

Well, it certainly starts badly, building a city in the middle of a National Park, but he never mentioned that. I thought the international left wanted to sell the world that Chavez is a “green” President. Maybe they realized what a stupid idea and hard sell this would be just by looking at the Transamazon pipeline idea above.

—“The continuos reelection is a mechanism like the one in France…”

I was going to explain the fallacy of saying this, but our friend Daniel did such a good job, why bother?

The proposed Constitutional Reform

July 28, 2007

Constitutionalist Hermann Escarra gave a press conference to outline the changes the Commission for Constitutionla Reform will present to President Chavez. Esacrra claims to have a copy of the document (from his brother Carlos?) He has made the following observations:

Macro: The fundamental principles of the Constitution are outlined in the first 9 articles but are contained throughout the document. He mentions, as an example, Art. 19. which prohibits discrimination, to change it would require a Constituent Assembly because it is a fundamental right given to people. The same applies to articles like 152, which gives equality to all states, Art. 299 on social justice and democratization of the economic system or 339 on when the Government can declare a state of emergency. Thus, even if the first nine articles were not being violated, this would not imply that a Constitutent Assembly is not needed.

On the changes that will be proposed, he notes the following, which I have shortened, to note the most significant ones:

On the Political division of the Republic:

The Government creates communal cities and territories, special federal territories and the Head of State may at any time and by decree change the political organization of the States and municipalities without the people voting on it.

On Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties

–It establishes new limits to individual rights such as when they go agaisnt the general interest or against “constitutional rights”
–The hierarchy of international Human Rights Treaties of Art. 23 is removed.
–Retroactivity is eliminated for all but penal cases (Art. 24)
–Injunctions will not be allowed if a state of exception is activated.
–The right to access information is limited. People will now have to prove direct and legitimate interest to the inforamtion. (Art. 28)
–It establishes limits to international justice on Human Rights.
–It allows for revoking the nationality to those not born in Venezuela.
–It establishes a new crime when someone is being “persecuted by public clamor”
–A judicial order will no longer be needed to raid a home.
–The State no longer protects property (Art. 55) it now only refers to “possesions”
–Freedom of Speech is now limited (Srt. 57), introducing the concepts of “hate and promoting crimes”
–It limits parent’s rights over their kids, adolescents will have the right to decide who educates them.
–One will not be able to invoke freedom of conscience when it may affect society,a person or group of persons (Art. 61)
–The “people’s” sovereignty is now limited as a function of the needs to build a socialist state (Violation of Art. 5 of the Constitution)
–All requirements for referenda are increased.
–The health system will no longer be decentralized.
–Young people will have a duty to participate in the social transformation of the country.
–Freedom of work is eliminated (Art. 87)
–University autonomy is eliminated and Graduate Programs will be determined by the State.
–Limitations to the media are introduced in Art. 108.
–Only the State may have a monopoly
–Art. 115 creates the concepts of :Public property controlled by the State, Social Property controlled by the State, Collective property controlled by the State, Mixed property under the custody of the State and private property which may be confiscated when it affects the rights of third parties or society. Confiscation will be decided by the State itself, not a judicial decision.
–Public workers lose the right to strike.
–Communal Councils are created.

Organization of the State

–States will no longer be able to organize their municipal division
–States will no longer be able to exploit roads and highways commercially.
–The National Assembly will be able to remove a Mayor when the Communal Power requests it.
–The President will name “Territorial Vice-Presidents” for matters or sectors. He will decide their function, they will be above the Governors.
–The President can be reelected indefinitely.
–Qualifications to be a Justice of the Supreme Court are made easier
–Decentralization is eliminated.
–The Bolivarian Armed Forces are created.
–The Civil Registry is eliminated.
–Art. 299,302 and 303 define the Socialist State.
–Limits to the debt of the State are eliminated.
–The Central Bank will no longer be autonomous.
–The Armed Forces may assume investigative powers on penal cases.
–The fight against imperial States is introduced as part of the security doctrine of the country.
–Under a state of exception only the right to life communication and torture are left.States of exception will no longer have a time limit.

Changing the Constitution

–Number of votes required to change goes up.
–The article on Civil Disobedience (350) is now limited to approval by the Supreme Court.

The Dictator has no clothes or Chavez rules by whims and desires

July 27, 2007


From
December to January we heard all sorts of reasons why the Government had the
right to end the concession of RCTV, which it did on the end. From the public use of the airwaves, to the
right of the Government to manage the “Hertzian spectrum” in Chavezspeak, we
heard a convoluted and complicated logical sequence in order to justify what
could not be justified. We had seen it before. In fact, this is the way Chavez
has legislated since he became President in 1998, looking for ways to make laws
and arguments that suit him, rather than thinking about the way things should
be and being consistent.

We saw it
with the original referendum for the Constituent Assembly, with the way the
Constitution was stepped on to elect the members to that Assembly. We saw it
when the infamous and illegal Congresillo ran Venezuela for months, selecting a
new Supreme Court, the Prosecutor and other important “independent” political
positions. We saw it with the way the CNE legislated to block the recall vote
against Chavez as much as possible and the way the in which the number of
Justices was increased to 30 members by simple majority of the National
Assembly so that Chavez could regain a majority in the same Court he had appointed
in 2000.

And we saw
with the first RCTV battle and we are seeing it again now with the new argument
that pretends to force cable and satellite channels to carry Chavez’ “cadenas”
live, including now the revival of RCTV in the cable and satellite systems as
RCTV International. As RCTV began broadcasting via satellite and cable, the
Government first suggested that all cable TV and satellite channels should
carry Chavez live and once it was realized that this involves many technical
and legal difficulties, CONATEL ruled by whim that RCTV had to register as a
national broadcast channel, carry the “cadenas” as well as carrying other
institutional messages by the Government, including the National Anthem a few
times a day.

Many of
the earlier arguments given by the Government contradicted the new ruling. We
were no longer talking about the “free” and “public” frequencies of the
Hertzian spectrum that the Government had a right to regulate. Nor were we
talking about a Venezuelan company either. We were talking about the
reincarnation of RCTV as an international company to broadcast to all of Latin America, capturing the upper end of the Venezuelan
market and trying to capture other Latin American markets to compensate the
loss in market share.

As such,
it has to be given the same treatment as the History Channel, or more clearly
as the treatment given to Telesur, the Government’s attempt to create a
competitor to CNN in Latin America. You see,
Telesur is funded by the Venezuelan Government; it is run mostly from Venezuela, mostly produced in Venezuela and
is mostly watched by Venezuelans as its popularity has not been extensive due
to the somewhat boring programming. It would hamper this negligible popularity
is on top of that it had to broadcast Chavez’s long speeches, every time the
autocrat wants to celebrate something as irrelevant to Venezuelans as the birth
of the Cuban revolution. This is not an invention as last night Chavez forced
all TV channels to broadcast a speech for hours in which the origins of the Cuban
revolution received a lot of attention.

Thus, it
would be discriminatory to apply these new rules to RCTV and not Telesur, but
CONATEL has ruled that if in five days RCTV has not registered as a Venezuelan
station, cable systems and satellite systems will no longer be able to carry
its programming.

And it is
illegal because it goes into the realm of a private system in which those that
watch have to pay to watch and up to now, the only existing regulation was that
those TV channels that broadcast under the free and public service had to carry
the same programming and could not remove cadenas and the like.

But
clearly, the Government never expected RCTV to adapt itself to the ban, nor its
replacement to have such a small audience, nor RCTV to generate the excitement
it has. In fact, the banning of RCTV has been a boon to satellite systems and
cable systems that have began making special offers to the lower income segments
of the population who miss watching RCTV programming.

Thus, once
again the Dictator shows how naked he is, something that Venezuelans who
understand what a functional democracy should be. But we have nothing even close
to it as everything is done to satisfy every whim and desire of Hugo Chavez. We
have no rule of law, no rights, no transparency, no checks and balances and no
dialogue. The autocrat says and it is done as he wishes, and only the fanatics
that support him cheer.

While most
Venezuelans had understood this for many years, it was the removal of RCTV’s
concession which finally convinced them that Hugo Chavez was indeed wearing no
clothes.

By now,
politicians and the media abroad understand this quite well. No group
understands it better than Reporters without Borders (RSF), which has seen the
way the Chavez Government has always treated both the media and reporters for
the last eight years. This has led to that organization issuing exquisitely worded
press releases which simply undress the Government’s arguments.

This time
it was no different and as usual RSF’s wording had
little waste: The administrative maneuever happens to be somewhat crass, so as
not to think it is a new attempt at censorship. The Venezuelan Government
always defended the shutting down of the channel because it was excluding it
from the Hertzian network. What else could it be after if it can’t also appear in the
programming of Cable TV?”

By now, he has bared it all for everyone to see…

Sincor President admits existence of discriminatory list and says it is State policy

July 26, 2007

It is still a mystery how well the heavy crude partnership of Sincor will work under the “new” management of PDVSA, but what we do know, is that discrimination will be the rule of the day under the Presidency of Chavista Ysaac Donise, from what Tal Cual relates today about the meeting last Friday of the company’s workers with the old employees.

Said Donis: “I am here. Anyone that wants can ask me.” Those present began questioning the veracity of a new listing based on the infamous Tascon/Chavez database, in which people were rated as “apt” or “not apt” to work at the company.

Donis removed any doubts they may have had when he said: “This is a matter of the State. There is a list being circulated in the press and it is real. It came out of here, we are investigating it and whomever leaked it will go to jail. It will be applied to key personnel which is within or outside the company”

Said one worker: “He told us that at Sincor there are new guidelines: If on Fridays you have to dress in red, you do it and that’s it. It is an order from above. If you have to register in a “mision”, you do it and if someone does not like it, we will see about it”

Four engineers in the “Not Apt” category have already been fired by Sincor.

These are the words of one of the useful idiots of the revolution, known as commissars at other times and in other places.

By the way, shame on French company Total and Norwegian company Statoil, who are partners in the Sincor projects and allow these policies in their company. In fact, they chose to stay as partenrs of Sincor, with a 40% stake between the two.This would be absolutely unthinkable in their own countries. But that is something I have learned in the last few years, most companies and politicians are willing to tolerate orders of magnitude of abuses more in Venezuela that they would allow in their own countries.

I guess, we now have an “upgraded” Tascon/Chavez list ready to discriminate and persecute Venezuelans on the basis of their political ideas and foreign companies are participating openly in making money out of these operations.

More from Santos

July 26, 2007

More pictures from Santos M., lots more coming in the future! Below top lft a very nicely shaped Cattleya Lueddemanianna. On the right an unidentified hybrid. In the next row, onthe bottom left there is a Ionopsis and on the right a beautiful Lueddemanianna concolor, wish it was mine!
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Secret and illegal Constitutional reform continues and will soon be approved

July 25, 2007

When I came back three weeks ago, I got the feeling that not much had changed while I was away but many people I respect told me otherwise. They suggested the student movement and the closure of RCTV had Chavez in check and this would force the Government to forget, reduce or minimize the reform of the Constitution, as well as removing autonomy from the university system.

Three weeks later, it seems as if my appreciation was unfortunately right. The committee that has been preparing in secret the changes to the Constitution continues to meet and change the project, the much rejected “indefinite” reelection has been re-baptized the “continuos reelection and the word autonomy is likely to be left in the magna carta adding to it words like democracy and participatory that ar sure to end autonomy as we know it (Even if I disagree with parts of it).

Thus, we will likely see the all-Chavista committee that is studying the changes to the Constitution, present its proposal to the all-Chavista National Assembly and by September 15th. the project is likely to be approved by that body in much the same form as submitted. Of course, they will claim that it was widely discussed, with teh full participation of all sectors of society. But we we all long for the bad old days of the IVth. Republic, when we had dissent, discussion, objections and even some filibuster of such discussions. But more important, political parties attempted to reach some form of agreement or consensus when differences were large.

In this case, all we will see is someone from the opposition ask for an injunction in the Supreme Court arguing that some of the changes are unconstitutional, which they are, but the Court will obviously reject the arguments, since its President is part of the Committee proposing the changes, thus all of the answers to this request will have been prepared and elaborated on by that time.

But you don’t have to be a lawyer to know that some of the changes being proposed do violate th fundamental principles of what Chavez himself used to call the best Constitution of the world, which it wasn’t. Thus, these changes will be approved without a Constituent Assembly and by December, as announced yesterday, we will have all of the changes approved wholesale by the population.

People will get excited that the reforms will not be approved, the day will come and thank to the magic of a rigged electoral registry and the use of the latest computer voting technology, the new Constitution will be in place before the end of the year. A new rape of the Venezuelan Constitution would have taken place, guaranteeing Chavez’ permanence in power for as long as he wishes, even if the “people” do not want it.

And much like in Heller’s Catch-22: So it goes…

The masks are falling by Teodoro Petkoff

July 24, 2007

A good one by Petkoff, as the robolution parties and persecutes at the same time.

The masks are falling by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Costly, ostentatious and overflowing with prententiousness parties-many a week-, brutal forms of political discrimination in the oil industry-not because they repeat they become less hateful-, the unusual frankness of the high oil executive Luis Vierma undressing the disaster of the “new PDVSA”, the swan song of General Baduel, it all became in one week a true mudslide of information about the course of XXI st. century socialism and the self-destructive advances of the “Chacumbele effect”*

The stuff at Sincor is not a causal or isolated phenomenon; nor is it a personal initiative, which can be attributed to the policeman and inquisitorial zeal of one Jesus Ochoa, “Human” Resources Manager of the company. Of course, if the task was given to him to act as the executioner of his work mates, it must not be because he is a quiet angel. But that is irrelevant. All repressive regimes always encounter their dogs of war. That does not exonerate him, nor does it attenuate his individual responsibility, but that manager obeys and applies a line of action, a repressive conception designed in the high spheres of the Government-not even of PDVSA-, in the same place where the instruments for social and political controls of the population are cooked. The questions to which the workers are subject to, the swiny classification of “apt” or “not apt”, on the basis of a purely political measure, leave behind almost like a fairy tale the ineffable “IDocracy” of AD and COPEI of yesteryear.We are now in the presence of a sinister machination, of a “Current Operating Procedure”-to use military language-, advancing with cold and implacable determination, to break the will of the population, to tyrannize it, from a totalitarian perspective.

This is not the “criollo” sneakiness but the institutionalization of the political ghetto where they want to put their adversaries.

We are facing a state policy. Those that oppose the Government lose their rights, are transformed into non-persons. That is why it is not impossible to think in the Cuban/Fidel “advisers”.

The other side of the coin is the permanent party binge. The noveau rich that have risen out of the corruption of the dirty deals, of the use of the connections of power to steal, they devote themselves to imitate like monkeys the habits and cstoms that at one time they denounced “in the rich people”. While the jesusochoas and other individuals “apt” for the inquisitorial job do it, the josevicentes and pedrocarreńos enjoy themselves. But not in the modest ways that you would assume from in careful listeners of Alo Presidente-from which the thickest streams of revolutionary morality are poured-, but from a cartoon of the most crass yuppism. They are pathetic, and deep inside what they inspire us disdain.

The masks are falling. This is an endless ash Wenesday, but not for repenting but so that everyone can see the repulsive face of power for the sake of power.

*Chacumbele killed himself by trying out his own poison, in this case it refers to Chavez

Some of my own pictures

July 23, 2007

At last I got time to take some pictures of the latest flowering. Above a hybrid of Cat. Lulu x Cat. Maui Plum. Yes, it may look artificial, but those are the true colors. On the right a Schomburgkia Brysiana from the Cayman Islands.

On the left a Brassavola Cordata. On the right my Cattleya Violacea. I love this flower, I am no expert and I am not sure how good the flower is, but I just checked and this plant was posted in June 2006 (three flowers), Nov. 2006 (four flowers), April 2007 (5 flowers) and now (four flowers). This from a plant that is not supposed t flower well in Caracas? Strange, no? Anyone want to make a clone?

I love these little Sophronitis Cernua from Brazil, this time I took the picture in full sun.

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