Archive for May, 2008

To bash or not to bash the opposition: That is not the question

May 29, 2008

In the last two days, I made two posts in which I expressed my concerns about what I perceive are problems going forward for the so called opposition in Venezuela.

The first one is the fact that everywhere I go, it seems like a given that somehow, the opposition will win some 10-14 Governorships independent of what Chavez may or not do, the second is that so far, the opposition has raised only extremely parochial issues which are clearly not grabbing the imagination of the people and despite the hard work of many, the local message is not  playing through and we face very important issues that need to be faced.

At the end of the day in some sense what I am saying is that the opposition did not win nthe referendum, Chavez lost and the poll from Datanalisis shows it.

I believe, for example, that the opposition has handled relatively well the choosing of candidates, in my mind the Chacao race, the only one that some rarified noise, is essentially irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. However, I am not sure the message is getting through that this is not an easy process and people are watching the irrelevant parts and Chavez’ PSUV is only doing something worse than the opposition to those that have followed the details.

Because in the end I am not saying that people are not working hard, what I am saying is that the message is not getting through and the students by focusing yesterday on five demands to the National Assembly were much more effective than all of the opposition candidates in the last two months.

And I stand by what I said.

Because I am not even saying that the candidates to Mayor, for example, have to talk about economic issues or the Enabling Bill, but I do believe parties could have, for example, non-candidates that constantly speak on these same issues.

And if someone tells me  that it is hard to get on the papers or TV, then I must live in a different country, because I find the media hungry for interviews or articles with people that have something interesting to say.

I am not demanding that the opposition make a political project overnight, all I am saying is that they should make a list of the three or four more damaging or dangerous things that the Chavez Government is doing and appoint spokesmen for each and start hitting the media on them.

To me, this is not so difficult to do. This would be my list of the four topics that I would dwell on, day after day with all we have:

–Crime, it is the number one problem for people, it is a disgrace what this Government has done. This has actually been addressed fairly well, but as Rodriguez Chacin says things are improving, they are not. Blast him!

–Attack the nationalization of Sidor, Cemex, Larafge, Holderbank, CANTV and Electricidad de Caracas. The last two are already showing the signs of Government managing, but you can also attack why the money is spent on non-issues rather than in solving people’s problems.

–I believe the Enabling Bill represents the biggest threat to our freedom and economic system since the Constitutional reform was proposed, attack it. Ask what is the Government hiding.

–The recent resolution to force banks to sell their structured notes denominated in local currency is simply attacking the consequence of bad policies. But in itself it may be bad policy again as it may create a financial crisis. the Government does not appear to even get it. Blast them!

–Continue to attack the Comptrollers ban on candidates, the Constitution is the Constitution, defend it.

If I can come up with my five, you would think two or three parties together could find the top five and organize themselves around it.

Because in the end, if the opposition can’t reach the people, Chavez with all his money will and we will not be able to blame anyone but ourselves.

The Enabling Bill: Students raise awareness of its dangers

May 29, 2008

While everyone seems to think that it will be clear sailing
from here until the November elections, I have been worried by the fact that
the Enabling Bill, giving Chavez extraordinary powers in all matters, expires
around mid-July. (I am not sure precisely on what day it was enacted)

While opposition candidates have been going around talking
about local issues and jockeying for position so that they can show up
prominently in the polls that will select the candidates, I have worried about
this issue a lot. Worried, because last time Chavez had an Enabling Bill in
2000, he came up with 42 controversial Bills, including the Land Bill, at the
last minute, which became the rallying point for the opposition to his
Government. Unfortunately, those Bills were presented with ten days left in the
Enabling Bill, without any discussion, and most of them became the rule of law
to this day.

Much like in the year 2000, the Government has said little a
about the couple of dozen Bills that will be magically presented to us before
mid-July. There will be little discussion, we have seen the movie before, but
what we will see will help Chavez do what he was unable to do in the referendum
he lost in December.

Unfortunately, this time the Bill will go beyond the
economic arena, as once again Chavez violated the laws by including
non-economic matters in the Bill. But we do know that he intends to change the
Commercial Code, which regulates private companies in Venezuela, because in
Chavez’ words: “it is too old”. We are likely to see changes in the Banking
Bill and who knows how many other laws.

I worry about it, because only the paranoid survive, but I
must say that I was very happy to hear the university students go
to the National Assembly today
and ask that the Assembly do not extend
Chavez’ rights under the Enabling Bill. It may not happen, but at least someone
is worrying about this issue lost in the frenzy of the campaign for local
positions.

You see, apparently Chavez wants to extend the period of the
Enabling Bill for six months, so that he can issue his secret “package” of
Bills after the November regional elections and not create a controversy now.
Which only goes to show that , once again, Chavez has something to hide from
the “people” that he claims to rule for and so dearly love.

Time is running out for the Assembly to give Chavez an
extension, but the students have proven to be much more foresighted than the
opposition, putting the Enabling Bill on the headlines and attempting to send
the message that there is at least one important opinion group that will not
put up with arbitrary new Bills that violate both the spirit and the letter of
the results of the December referendum.

New Datanalisis poll: Despite opposition optimism, people are still looking for leadership

May 28, 2008

I am still trying to make sense of the most recent poll by
Datanalisis. All I have seen is
what El Universal published yesterday
, but the message as far as the data
available there seems to be that the Venezuelan electorate is looking for
someone and has yet to find it.

It certainly does not give much comfort to see that when
people are asked whether they are pro-Government, opposition or neither, 27.6%
still say they are pro-Chavez, only 18.7% say they are pro-opposition and a
huge 46% of the people polled say they are neither. And if I am reading the
poll correctly, the people in this 46% later prove they are neither in their
answers to other questions.

Some may be happy about the fact that Chavez’ popularity has
never been as low as the current level since 2003, when it reached 23.6%, but
lately I have been unnerved by the oppositions cavalier assumption that they
will be the recipients of Chavez’ loss of popularity and the numbers seem to
bear me out.

Because the opposition has barely gone up either at a scant
18.7% of the popular support (7.7% did not answer) and when one examines the
other questions presented by El Universal, it is clear that those in the middle
support neither and while they disagree with Chavez’ positions, they also
disagree with what some may consider to be anti-Chavez positions, to wit:

—When asked whether they agreed with a socialist
educational system, 66.4% of those that support neither side said they were
against it, a clearly anti-Government position. But when the same group was
asked whether they thought the Venezuelan Government collaborated with the
FARC, 61% of those that support neither side disagreed with this, clearly
showing a position much different than what many in the opposition believe,
showing that the Government’s explanations have satisfied many. In fact, 24% of
those that consider themselves opposition believe that Chavez’ Government has
not collaborated with the FARC.

—Similarly, a full 28.6% of those that support neither
side would agree with shutting down Globovision, something people in the
opposition would abhor. At the same time Chavez can’t feel great about the fact
that 76.4% of those that support neither side do not believe the FARC should be
recognized as a political movement and not as a terrorist group.

Thus, people seem to be looking for leadership and while
rejection to Chavez’ is stronger, it is no sure bet that they ill automatically
turn over their preference to the opposition candidates as many seem to think.

Perhaps the only comforting number in the whole poll is that
a full 30% of the people blame Chavez for our current problems and barely 5%
blame the opposition.

In looking at all these numbers one has to remember that not
only did Chavez lose the December referendum, but during the first four months
of the year he has brought about a new and more conservative economic policy
where growth has been sacrificed in order to contain inflation. Clearly, this
policy can not be very popular and it seems it would be a given that Government
spending will increase sharply in the second half of the year. With oil (WTI)
flirting with US$ 130 a barrel, Chavez certainly has the ability to generate a
lot of positive goodwill among the voters.

It happened in 2003 and it may certainly happen again
particularly if the opposition minimizes the ability of Chavez and his
Government to turn his popularity around.

An article about those adorable Venezuelans

May 26, 2008


Businessweek has an article
about us adorable Venezuelans and our cheap gas.

The article contradicts itself by first saying it is not easy to increase the price of gas, but then tells us how a very unpopular President, Rafael Caldera, did it in 1996. The article relates it to ending the monopoly on gas distribution, but the price increases actually came later.

The article also says that it was public criticism that stopped Chavez from increasing the price of gas. As far as I know, Chavez mentioned it once and never brought up again, maybe because of a poll said it was not popular.

At US$ 11 billion of subsidy every year, offer every Venezuelan Bs. one million per year to compensate the price increase and if Chavez can’t sell that to the “people” he is not the snake charmer we all think he is.

The gasoline subsidy is a very regressive one, its impact being stronger the better to do you are. On top of that, it has wrecked havoc with traffic and the number one subsidy of official dollars last year did not go for food, but you guessed it, it went to give foreign currency to the auto industry.

Of course, no politician will ever make this a campaign issue, they are as adorable as all of us, gas-subsidy-loving Venezuelans.

(Don’t miss the slide show at the end of the article, Iran follows us at 40 cents a gallon and most Gulf States at twice that, but remember, the 12 cents is calculated at the official rate of exchange!)

On its first year anniversay of the RCTV shutdown, we will not forget those that deny us our rights

May 25, 2008

Today is the one year Anniversary of the illegal and arbitrary shutdown
of TV station RCTV by the Chavez Government. The act was very costly
for Chavez as it not only showed his true colors to the world, but it
also upset his own supporters when he removed one of the few sources of
entertainment they had.

While foolish and imbecile pro-Chavez supporters still attempt to
defend the decision, the truth is that Chavez trampled all over the
country’s laws with that despicable act. Not only did he appoint
himself as telecom regulator, but he had the Courts take over and
confiscate RCTV’s equipment, which has received no compensation.

The equipment was given to the Government (surprise, surprise!) and so
was the broadcast frequency owned by RCTV. Chavez and his cheerleaders
claimed that the new Government channel, named TVES would easily
replace RCTV, but to this day, TVES has less than 2% of the viewer
rating, dismally below what RCTV used to have.

At the same time, the decision has been a windfall for cable and
satellite TV companies as the less affluent have gone to theses systems
and at least in the case of Direct TV, RCTV has become the number one
program, even if the company still loses money.

Because what the Government has really done is not only to restrict
free speech by illegally shutting down RCTV, but to increase its
control over all media. Venevision has become bland and neutral for
fear of being shut down. And VTV has become the voice of Chavez’ PSUV
party. Not only does it broadcast Chavez speeches and programs, but it
simply DOES NOT broadcast any opposing view to the Government. VTV used
to be the Government’s TV station, but it never was the party’s TV
station.

Last week, a woman that claims to be a reporter, Vanessa Davies, but is
now a member of the Board of Chavez’ party PSUV , announced on her TV
program on TV, that viewers would have the chance to be presented and
“debate” on VTV their positions. Funny how Ms. Davies, a one time human
rights defender and denouncer, can now “forget” that to have a debate
you need two sides. Because no opposition figure can dare ask for time
on VTV, it is just not done, while Globovision does show what VTV is
saying and interviews pro-Government politicians and Government
spokesmen.

But Ms. Davies will one day find out what “reporters” found in the
former Soviet Union, that it is not as easy to switch positions when
the house comes crumbling down and that those whose rights have been
abused and denied, tend to have very long memories.

And there are just too many of us…

Active General goes to Court to strike “Patria, Socialismo o Muerte” from military facilities

May 25, 2008

Last week, General Angel Vivas Perdomo, went to the Venezuelan Supreme
Court and introduced an injunction against the use of the slogan
“Patria, Socialismo o Muerte” (Fatherland, Socialism or Death) within
the military. Venezuelan forts and facilities now have this slogan on
their fronts and soldiers are being forced to say this out loud daily.

The General’s arguments go from the fact that this is a violation of
the Venezuelan Constitution, which says the military is a professional
institution and is not political to the fact that the voters in
December rejected Chavez’ proposal to turn Venezuela into a “socialist”
country.

Vivas should certainly be commended for doing this, he is a braver than
most of his colleagues that mumble “Patria, Socialismo o Muerte” even
if they don’t like him. Vivas Perdomo is actually an active General,
beven if he has not official job function.

Vivas Perdomo has been in the doghouse since 2007, when he became
Director General of Engineering of the Venezuelan Army and decided to
open an investigation of the man that preceded him in the position.
Someone did not like Vivas’ independence and he was soon removed from
his position and never assigned a job since then.

Vivas Perdomo will retire on July 5th. 2008 and while Chavez has never
refused to give any General a pension, that is precisely what Vivas
Perdomo was risking by his daring to go to the Supreme Court.

Chavez and Marulanda’s death: Damn if he knew it, damn if he didn’t

May 25, 2008

Even in death, the Head of the FARC, Marulanda, seems to be
playing games with Hugo Chavez. You see, much like in his negotiations with the
FARC, that organization, not know for its clarity or sincerity, has not precisely
played along with Chavez’ interests. When Chavez’ buddy Piedad Cordoba says that neither she,
nor Chavez, knew that Marulanda had died, it shows once again that the FARC has
not dealt Chavez with a clean hand. This is much like when the kid Enmanuel was
said not to be in the hands of the FARC by Uribe, which was laughed at by
Venezuelan authorities, only to find out later that the FARC knew all long,
despite announcing they were about to release the kid, his mother and another
woman.

So, for Chavez it is a case of damn if you knew it, damn if
you didn’t, because clearly the FARC either told him and he kept it quiet, or
kept him from him, so what credibility does he have as negotiator with the
FARC? Does he really know Ingrid Betancourt’s stats or is he being led by the
FARC all the time?

Because one thing that comes through from the Reyes
documents is that the FARC feel that Chavez is competing with him and in the
end he has no business in Colombia as far as they are concerned.

Fortunately for Chavez, the Venezuelan Government had no
time to say much before the FARC confirmed the information given by Colombia’s
Minister of Defense Santos.

But one thing you can say, in this war of announcements and
accusations, the Colombian Government has proven to be absolutely reliable in
its announcements, while Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro is still arguing
whether Colombia neither did or not violate the country’s borders, which
Colombia denies.

Curiously, the US admitted that a US aircraft did violate
Venezuela’s airspace by mistake as it flew near the island of La Orchila. As a
reader points out in the comments and had been suggested to me before, could it
be that FARC Commander Ivan Marquez is being protected there by Chavez? In the same interview
in which Minister Santos said Marulanda was dead, he drew a parallel between
Reyes being in Ecuador and Marquez being in Venezuela, saying that they have told
the Venezuelan Government many times where Marquez is.

Would the Colombians dare to go to La Orchila and capture
Marquez?

Maybe they will wait until Mr. O gives them a hand on it.

It’s Purpurata time, time for great pictures!!!

May 25, 2008

Took some pictures right after watering today, which always gives a nice appearance to the plants. The Laelia Purpuratas from Brazil have started flowering, they are not only spectacular, but they are incredibly photogenic as seen below.
  

An overall view of Laelia Purpurata Carnea on the loeft and a single flower on the right. Love them!

   

I love these Laelia Purpurata Werkhauseri, they are so elegant and the sun gave them an almost spectral quality.

A very nice Catlleya Jenmanii, this one is Color x Kathy, looks a lot like the other one I have, but this is a first flowering

Eduardo M. sends a bunch!

May 25, 2008

Eduardo sent a whole bunch of pictures, from his rochid room to his plants:

On the lfet his orchid, room, no wonder he sends so many flowers, on the right a specimen of Cattleya Gaskelliana concolor, magnificent!

On the left Cattleya Dowiana, I seem to kill it, on the right Den. Globuliferum

On the left, Akermania. On the right, Meryacylum Tenuifolium

On the left Cattleya Violacea, on the right Cattleya Violacea Icabaru.

On the left Cattleya Lobata from Brazil, on the right a very nice Cattleya Warnerii coerulea from Brazil

On the left, a flower of Masdevalia Tenuifolia, on the right a Vanda.

Mr. O The presidential candidate out-hawks Mr. B the President on Chavez

May 24, 2008

Mr. O, the man that is running for President against Mrs. C., managed to actually be more hawkish on Hugo Chavez than Mr. B. , which the media has barely reported so far.

In his first significant speech
on Latin America at the Cuban American National Foundation, Mr. O. said, without any ambiguity or hesitation:

“No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into
this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American
rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the
same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But
the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that
this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from
Bolivia to Nicaragua. And Chavez and his allies are not the only ones
filling the vacuum.”

And just in case someone had any doubt of whether he meant it or not, Mr. O. described Chavez very well:

“In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we
also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the
people, but his actions just serve his own power.”

Jeez, has he been reading our blogs?

But the phrase that has not made it much to the headlines, but I managed to catch as I luckily watched the speech live, was when he said:

“We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders.”

Which so far has elicited no response from the quick trigger Venezuelan diplomats or even from the man himself.

Maybe Ivan Marquez, the FARC leader purportedly hiding somewhere in Venezuela, should be very nervous of this. After all, he is now supposedly the number one man at that terrorist organization, after Colombia’s Ministry of Defense formally announced Marulanda has been confirmed as dead. .

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