Archive for July, 2008

March to protest disqualifiations surprisingly succesful

July 13, 2008

There was a march today to protest the disqualification of politicians to run un the upcoming regional elections by Comptroller Russian, a.k.a. Ruffian.

I was surprised by the crowd, it was modest, but since the permit was not granted until Friday, I thought there will be fewer people than there were. It was hot, very hot and it was uphill most of the time as the route was through Caracas, down Libertador, then up to Avenida Sucre, up San Bernardino to Avenida El Panteon towards the National Library and finally, almost the Supreme Court. Almost, because they placed tanks about 500 meters from the Supreme Corut building.

The fact that we were able to go right through barrios previously considered as Chavistas, tells you a lot how much things have changed. The only other march to go to the Court, was sent through the Cota Mil highway in the north of Caracas and even then, cops had to line up on both sides of the last kilometer to stop Chavistas from attacking the marchers.

Not this time around. Except a couple of very minor incidents, a construction worker insulting marcher and a group from Chavez PSUV party with red shirts hollering at the marchers, there was little heckling, a signal of how much Chavez’ popularity has dropped. In fact, by the end of the march, in what used to be the hardest core Chavista areas, it would seem as if the people were cheering the marchers the most.

While many candidates were present, clearly Leopoldo Lopez, who is disqualified to run for the Metropolitan Mayor office, seemed to be the dominant figure at the march, both in posters and in his presence everywhere.The march was cheerful and fun, even if extremely tiring because of the heat.

More pictures here in the pics section

The Super Racket (Guiso) by Teodoro Petkoff or revisiting the Robbery of the XXIst. Century

July 12, 2008

Given the words of former Minister of Finance Rodrigo Cabezas, Teodoro Petkoff revisits his three articles on the racket with the structured notes which wrote in October 2007 in his newspaper, entitled The Robbery of the XXIst. Century, which were all translated here in this blog. As noted by Petkoff, the man in charge of the Minsitry or the Comptroller never said anything about the issue and now they call this inadequate, unreasonable and they talk about banks being in problems. Long live the robolution! where nobody is ever responsible for anything

The Super Racket (Guiso) by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Former Minister of Finance Rodrigo Cabezas admitted that both the sale
of structured notes from foreign banks by Fonden, as well as the
issuance later of structured notes in Bolivars and their placement in
the Venezuelan financial markets had been “inadequate” and as a result
(and of the resolution by the Ministry of Finance that banks get rid of
the notes they have before August 19), “three or four banks could be in
problems”. The problem is not as easy to get rid of and we are facing a
grave problem. So grave that Ali Rodriguez set aside any qualms and
requested the presence of mission from the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund to evaluate, with the Superintendence of
Banks, as well as the Ministry itself, and the Central Bank, the
situation and explore solutions.

One has to remember that it is not only a matter of an “inadequate”
operation, but of a gigantic case of corruption, a “racket (guis0)”
from the Ministry of Finance, that began with the issuance of
structured notes on the part of the international banks, acquired by
Fonden and place, by simple handpicking, in three or four banks (which
are, obviously, those that Cabezas says are in trouble). Eleazar Diaz
Rangel denounced this in his Sunday column in Ultimas Noticias.
Economists like Orlando Ochoa and Jose Guerra also alerted us to this
shenanigans and Tal Cual dedicated a number of Editorials to explain
and denounce this sordid operation. In the Government nobody suggested
they had noticed all these. Thus, it is not a matter of admitting it is
an error and let’s see how we can “save” some banks, but to establish
responsibilities both for some financial operations-now Cabezas
discovers they entail some “risk”-as well as the racket (guiso) that
they served on the table. Who benefitted from this robbery?
Incidentally, the incorruptible Russian never found “disqualifications”
among the schemers of this operation? The comptroller’s office never
put its eye to these scandalous transactions? But there is more, Fonden
used part of its dollars in the acquisition of Ecuadorian and
Argentinean debt and of structured notes issued by international banks:
it also issued notes denominated in Bolivars (note by author: It did
not! All Fonden notes were in US dollars), that were used by the banks
to acquire cheap dollars which Fonden provided.

It placed dollars in the markets at a price slightly above the one of
CADIVI, but much less than the price of the parallel market. The bounty
divided by the participants was substantial. Who authorized Fonden to
do these operations for which it is not enabled by its by laws? Who and
how established the operation of structured notes with the foreign
banks? There are more questions.

Which way was Trino Alicides Diaz, Superintendent of Banks, looking
towards when these crooked operations were taking place? What is the
responsibility of Nelson Merentes at the Ministry of Finance? What is
that of Rodrigo Cabezas under whom they continued the operations that
he considers now to be risky? What is that of the bankers that
participated in this pińata, that is nothing more than a replay of the
thousand and one treacheries that led the country into the 1994-banking
crisis? Don’t we the clients of the banking system deserve to know
which are the banks that “have problems”; in order to prevent a run
that will make some pay for something they can’t be blamed for? And the
great question to the President of the Republic, who according to the
Constitution, Article 236, number 11, has the attribution of
“administering public finances”, He never knew any of this? Everything
was done behind his back?

Ignorance, incompetence and irresponsibility by the Government create a dangerous situation for the Venezuelan financial system

July 10, 2008

The Government seems to have realized the dangers of forcing the
banking system to sell the Bolivar denominated notes in the hands of
the Venezuelan Financial system all at once and is reconsidering what to do..

Recall that the Government issued a resolution ordering financial
institutions to sell all of the Bolivar denominated notes they held,
issued by foreign companies and banks. These institutions had set them
up in order to bypass the limitation that no bank may have more than
30% of its capital or equity in foreign currency.

The Government had clearly known about the existence of these notes, as
most of the banks holding them are considered to be those “close” to
the Government, but when the Government realized after the bond issued
in May that international markets had little appetite for the country’s
debt, someone came up with the idea that if they forced to have banks
sell their notes, they would have to sell the US$ bonds in the swap parallel
market and forcing the sale, would do the job the Government wanted at no cost.

Except that, the banks had incurred in large losses because most of the dollars
for the notes were bought at much higher prices and in many cases, the
banks had borrowed against the notes, thus in some instances, the notes
were worth essentially nothing.

At this point, Ali Rodriguez was named Minister of Finance. Rodriguez
who is practically ignorant on financial matters heard two points of
views. One, that from his predecessor and his team that told him this
had to be done and even had Rodriguez sign a resolution telling banks
they could not sell the notes without approval and; Two, that of the
“bankers” who are identified with the regime who were telling him that
this could create a financial crisis if banks were forced to sell the
notes by August 14th., suggesting some banks could go under.

Rodriguez’ decision was quite amazing for a Government that only a
year ago was ready to withdraw from the much hated multilateral
organizations: He actually asked the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank to give the country technical advice on the matter during a
scheduled visit this week.

What these technical people will find is that six or seven banks are in
real trouble, if not bankrupt, and that either the owners capitalize
them or the Government will  have to take them over.

What is important here is that the Government should not drag its feet
like it does with everything, it should act, ask each bank if their
owners are willing to capitalize and if they are not, intervene the
banks with open doors. If the Government delays or postpones decisions
this could be very bad, because the Government ordered that the balance
sheet of banks should reflect the losses in these notes as of June
30th. However, for auditors and accountants there is only one exchange
rate: the official one, thus these balance sheets will have losses
which are much larger than reality, as these dollars could be sold in
the parallel swap market which is 75% higher than the official rate of
exchange.

If you think that I am exaggerating, I am not. As of Dec 31st. 2007,
there were twelve banks, which had structured notes and for six of them;
the value of the notes was at least twice that of the equity or capital
of the banks. Thus, if the losses are 50% between the dollars purchase
and the underlying bonds purchased, they could have zero capital. In
that case, the owners would have to be willing to recapitalize and that
is the big if in this equation.

Additional evidence for this, comes from statements made by none other than one
of the persons most responsible for the situation former Minister of
Finance Rodrigo Cabezas. Cabezas resurfaced the day before yesterday at a
TV program in Chavez “official” station VTV. In the interview, Cabezas
actually said that maybe three or four institutions might be in
trouble, which to me suggests the matter has been discussed. (Cabezas
talked about a meeting between the new Minister of Finance and Chavez’
party PSUV on the subject, showing once again that information is only
available to Chavez and his party and that half of Venezuela is being
discriminated against in that information is being withheld from them)

Now, you have to take anything Cabezas with a grain of salt, because if
anything, Cabezas showed during the interview that he has yet to grasp
and understand the issue of the structured notes. Said Cabezas:


“It is probable that some banks, maybe three or four, have a large
share of its assets in structured notes, which would force the State to
do the corresponding evaluation, because it was the State that sold it
t them”

Wow! Where should I start? There is very little that is correct in that
statement. First of all, former Minister Cabezas makes a an error which
proves he does not even understand the issues involved: He mixes up the
structured notes sold by the Government which were dollar denominated,
with those denominated in Bolivars which have very little to do with
the first ones. In fact, it was the banks themselves who set them up
independently.Thus he is talking about pears, but the problems are the oranges.

Thus, the State bears no responsibility for selling them to the banks.
It only bears responsibility (with Cabezas at the top) for allowing
this to happen and grow to unmanageable levels. Second, what matters is
not the size of the notes, but the amount of losses these banks may
have incurred, Thus, Cabezas’ numbers must be something he heard, more
than anything he came up with. My numbers come form detailed examination of the balance sheets of the banks.

But even more remarkably is the fact that in the same interview,
Cabezas called the issuing of these notes as “dangerous and inadequate”,
blaming his predecessors for them, but forgetting that 1) He was Head
of the Finance Committee of the National Assembly when most of these notes were set up by the Government and 2) He was Minister of Finance
when most of the banks set up the bolivar-denomainted structure Notes
that are currently the problem.

Thus, besides the lies and the ignorance that the Government has
accustomed us to, there is the irresponsibility of passing the buck and
blaming someone else, while it was Cabezas that allowed the Bolivar
denominated notes to balloon out of all proportion and create the
problem facing the Venezuelan financial system today. The fact that he
has yet to understand the problem does not exempt him from being guilty
of not fulfilling his obligations as Minister.

And this ignorance and irresponsibility is reflected in the way that
Government officials work. They continue to issue resolutions
forbidding things that are already not allowed by the Banking Law, the
real problem is that regulators have done nothing about it. Banks should
sell structured notes, not because there was a resolution saying it,
but because banks may only have by law up to 30% of their equity in
foreign currency. Thus, banks should not have had them in the first
place and the Superintendent of Banks should have told them so.
Similarly, issuing a resolution forbidding the purchase of shares of
one bank by another or the merger of them, seems superfluous and that
seems to be one of the jobs of the regulator, to approve or not the
purchase of one bank by another one or their merger.

But Cabezas speaks as if he had been in the opposition for ten years
and it was “others’ that were involved in these decisions, which have
created a situation which has dangerous undertones unless the
Government acts, acts soon and acts efficiently and without a political
biased.

All of which seems too much to hope for, given ten years of exactly the opposite.

A picture is worth 10,000 words : CPI shows failed policies

July 9, 2008

Despite changing the definition, reporting it differently, keeping monetary liquidity constant, intervening massively in the parallel market and otherwise attempting to show that inflation is down, the results are not great as shown in the chart above, where I plot the 12-month accumulated inflation for each of the last twelve months. Inflation for the last twelve months has been running at over 30%, about the worst possible thing that can happen to the less well to do. Note the perverse effect last November of the financial transaction tax, as predicted here in an article called “The new magical transaction tax“. The only good news is that the CPI should slow its growth since that tax was finally eliminated. It only took the Government eight months to realize what a stupid idea it was!!!

The passionate lies of the revolution and its cheerleaders

July 9, 2008

Politicians by nature like to spin the truth, a small lie
here or there, or simply a twist of the truth. All in the name of the success
of their project, whether personal or partisan. But nobody can beat the
Chavista revolution at the passion with which they can lie and deceive,
essentially assuming that their supporters will not notice the inconsistencies,
laughing at the intelligence of the people they claim to love and believing in their
ability to trust them unconditionally.

The supporters and cheerleaders of the Chavez revolution are
no different, they make up facts, dismiss others and try to portray a reality
they know little about except that they sympathize with it. Today Quico
wrote an excellent article
debunking one such article in
The Independent
, which you can ascribe to either an incredible ignorance by
the author, which speaks badly of his professional abilities, or to an
incredible lack of ethics by him.

While Quico dealt well with the factual errors of the
article, some of them outrageous, what still amazes me is this ability to
attempt to suggest that Hugo Chavez has never even come close to supporting the
FARC terrorists. This is not only the case in Hari’s article which explicitly says:
“You have been told that the Venezuelan President supports the Farc thugs who
have been holding her hostage”, but seems to have permeated the PSFhere, ever
since Ingrid Betancourt and the other fourteen hostages were rescued by
Colombian military authorities.

The passion and intensity with which so many people have
attempted to portray Hugo Chavez, as an innocent bystander is simply sickening.
Many of these cheerleaders seem to have joined the story only recently, as if
Reyes computers were the only source of evidence for Hugo Chavez’ support of
the FARC, which at times was blatantly open and for which there is ample
evidence factual and very very real:

-Venezuelans will never forget General Gonzalez Gonzalez, an
active military General telling the Venezuelan National Assembly that in 1999
and 2000, he brought to the attention of Chavez pictures proving that there
were active FARC camps within Venezuelan territory and they should be
destroyed. Nothing was ever done about it.

-Or how about the Foreign Minister of the FARC Rodrigo
Granda, who was found in Venezuela living in the lap of luxury, with Venezuelan
identity papers, provided by none other than the man who is today back into the
Ministry of the Interior and Justice. Rodriguez Chacin was later proven to have
met Granda at the VIP Government gate at Maiquetia International Airport upon
his entrance to the country.

-And since we are speaking of Minister Rodriguez Chacin, can
we forget his words on the occasion of the release of two hostages to the
soldiers turning over the two former Deputies of the Colombian Congress, saying
“we are watching what you are doing, keep it up!” This is a man described by
the FARC as a true “badass”, on the occasion of his visit to the FARC to ask
for “training” support.

-And by the way, how did that wanted FARC terrorist and criminal
Ivan Marquez get all the way to Caracas to meet with…you guessed it, Hugo
Chavez at the Venezuelan Presidential Palace? Once again, it was Chavez current
Minister Rodriguez Chacin who gave him a lift, all the way to meet the top
honcho.

-It was Hugo Chavez who attempted to get a movement going to
have the FARC declared a belligerent force by the world. The move never even
got off the ground, but is that sympathy or what?.

-Then there is all of the information in Reyes’ computers,
which many don’t seem to believe in, but it’s there, certified and consistent.
It was actually used by Interpol to jail some people.

Of course, Chavez failed in his efforts and suddenly turned
around and has gone back to talking to Alvaro Uribe a man he hailed last
November “never to meet again”, when he broke relations with Colombia when
Uribe told him that he was no longer welcomed in his negotiation efforts because
he had overstep the bounds of the rules agreed to.

But local politicians are equally passionate in their lies
and exception. Only ten days ago, Chavista Deputy Carlos Escarra made an
impassionate defense of the disqualifications of candidates by the Comptroller.
Escarra spoke of the fight against corruption, stopping the robbers of the
people and the like. Curiously, we learned yesterday that the same Escarra,
then a Deputy but always the lawyer, took on the case of Chavista candidates
that were disqualified from running for office, using precisely the opposite
legal arguments that he used two weeks ago.

And then there is the august leader of the Venezuelan
National Assembly Cilia Flores blasting reporters who wrote about nepotism in
the National Assembly. Flores seemed to forget she is the wife of Foreign
Minister Maduro, who she succeeded in that Presidency. Of course, she made it
sound like the accusations were all false, that there is no nepotism. But
besides accusations of a hiring process that did not seem kosher, in the recent
hiring process, Flores was
lucky enough
to place relatives in nine of the sixty permanent positions up
for grabs. These included three brothers or sisters, two nephews, a cousin, the
mother of that same cousin and her “consuegra” (co-mother in law?) and her
aunt.

Flores arguments are simply circular, she complains that
nowhere in the article is it mentioned that the workers of the Assembly have
better benefits and denies there is nepotism…I guess the Flores’ must be the
new Kennedy’s of Venezuela.

But of course, the revolution is full of nepotism anyway.
Chavez’ brother was a Minister and Ambassador. His Father Governor (elected,
yes, on Chavez’ coattails). His other brother is Secretary General of his
father and a cousin is on the Board of PDVSA. Which only proves that nepotism
is a way of life in the revolution, but you have to lie passionately and deny
it so that the “people” will never find out about it.

It’s a way of life for them…

Weil strikes again, too close to my world not to post it

July 7, 2008

The brainless cheerleaders of revolution try a silly and baseless spin on the Betancourt rescue

July 6, 2008

It has been an amazing few days as the brainless
cheerleaders of revolution attempt a ridiculously silly spin on the liberation
of the hostages by Colombian authorities. Silly and brainless because in attempting
to construct an alternative story to the rescue, they only who how heartless
and insensitive they are, despite claims to the contrary.But even worse, the spin is just baseless, another fantasy of their febrile revolutionary fervor.

Even the chief faker Hugo Chavez did not even attempt to
create a spin. He did not even hide his true thoughts when
he stated that news of the rescue “left him cold
” (better than saying he
almost had a heart attack), clearly expressing the sentiment of loss he must
have had when he heard it, as he wasted a year of this life on his failed
project, allowing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to destroy the FARC in the
process. (Just think, the Colombian military painted the helicopter with the
same colors used by Chavez in earlier attempts and releases of hostages!)

And while he later expressed his happiness at Betancourt
being liberated, it came too late for a President and a Government always ready
to issue a quick press release and an opinion about subjects that are not directly of
their concern in an immediate fashion and without having all the facts in.

But his cheerleaders did not follow the party line off the
bat, daring to give opinions without any relevant information or basis. First
of all, there was the theory of the US$ 20 million first raised by a Venezuelan
“analyst” Luis Brito Garcia who is more of a commentator full of himself who
loves to see his image on television speaking on issues he knows little or
nothing about. According
to this wizard with no information
, the Colombian Government “interfered”
with the release of the hostages by the FARC to two people on a humanitarian
mission.

Never mind that 15 people were supposedly release to only
two negotiators. Never mind that except for this analyst, nobody seemed to know about this
release. Never mind that the FARC has not released many hostages even to his
buddy Hugo Chavez, and we are supposed to believe that a couple of guys just
arrived in the country a couple of days earlier would get the grand gesture of
the largest hostage release in history, including the precious hostage, Ingrid
Betancourt, that the FARC said in its internal messages they did not want to
release because of her strategic value.

But suppose for a minute that the US$ 20 million story is
true. We would first have to ask why the FARC would “sell” the hostages for
such a small amount, when Master Hugo would have certainly paid more. But more
importantlyŃ is that what “revolutionary” forces do these days? Kidnap for
ransom and forget the revolution_ Is this what we are supposed to follow and
admire? What’s the money for? Retirement in Iran?

And who paid the money? Who negotiated? Why has the FARC
said nothing about this part? In the past, the FARC has reacted swiftly and
quickly to admit or deny news via websites and their own sources. So far, there
has simply been total silence from them.

But more importantly, there is the testimony of Betancourt
herself, no Uribe fan, saying
that there is no way
this was a release that the Colombian authorities
interfered with, the tension was there in the transfer, her long term guard,
thrown on the floor of the helicopter, punched without mercy after being fooled
by the set up.

These
guys spoke
even before the Colombian authorities showed the video with the
hostages tied up, tense, strain on their faces as they were moved once again
from place to place. By now, it is the length of the video they question, as if
the Colombian authorities would show the faces of the military involved, so
that a cruel and bloodless guerrilla group could go after them in revenge.

And then here is the touch of the camera crew, looking like
a Telesur team, something the FARC has gotten used to in many cases, including the
now infamous long live Marulanda speech upon his death, staged and taped by Chavez’ Telesur
apparently somewhere in Venezuela.

Then came that despicable character Mario Silva in his
offensive TV program La Hojilla, a lowlife if there has ever been one, expressing
no joy whatsoever at the liberation of Betancourt
, instead calling her
selfish for not thanking Chavez for his efforts.

Which she did anyway, but maybe Mr. Silva has not noticed
that it was Uribe that rescued Betancourt and that Chavez’ efforts yielded
little in the almost ten months he has been involved in the case. Moreover, it
is also clear hat the FARC toyed with Chavez, leading him to believe he would
achieve something but all the time hiding information from him.  And if there is someone that deserved a
selfish moment was Betancourt, held against her will for years, three of which
she spent chained with the same irons carried by his guard Cesar in his
backpack as he was overtaken in the helicopter.

How could he not travel with that most useful tool of
perversity and human misery? But none of this seemed to have been noticed by
Silva, who would likely not survive with dignity the same fate as Ingrid
Betancourt, if he were kidnapped and mistreated in similar fashion.

Whether you believe them or not, the Reyes computers did say that
the FARC did not want to release Betancourt, their most valuable trading chip
in their gutless game of terror, murder and drug trafficking.And all the acts of the FARC confirm this idea.

But perhaps the most despicable
statement
was that of Ecuadorian President Correa when he said the FARC
kept making Uribe look good with their failures. To Correa apparently, the
release of the hostages, innocent people kidnapped, chained and tortured
against their will for years, is something to be proud of and admire. To him
the wholesale violation of human rights by the FARC is something to praise and
defend and romanticize, saying Che Guevara would be ashamed of them.

But maybe Correa and the other sycophants have forgotten
that only 15 of the hostages were released, with thousands still in the hands
of the FARC. And with the release of the hostages, came bad news of some of
them who were thought to be alive in the hands of the FARC but were callously
murdered by Correa’s sentimental friends.

No case is more dramatic in terms of sheer perversity by the
FARC captors that
a sergeant of the Colombian military named
 Luis Hernando Peńa Bonilla .  Thought to be alive, it turns out that he started having
mental problems during his captivity, which led to his captors to chain him, which
only made his mental state worse. 
And then these emblematic figures of the idiotic Latin American left
decided that there was a simple solution, so they shot him dead.

Just because…

Nice people, no?

Of course, the idiotic theories and statements by these
useful and brainless idiots are chorused by the international mindless left
alliance, who in their ignorance and from the comfort of their cushiony lives,
hail the FARC, criticize Uribe and parrot the illogical, unsupported and silly
theories, which in the end would simply show what a revolutionary farce the
FARC have become.

Because they are trying to turn a moment of joy, a victory
for what makes us human, a time for reflection and hope, into a political defeat,
which does not exist for Colombian President Uribe. Uribe set the course long
ago for his strategy and he is getting results, which 90% of Colombians, who
elected him, support. It was indeed a victory for him; he took a huge gamble on
his political future and won. But it was not an improvised one. It was one more
step in a professionally executed strategy, which has been bearing fruit for
years and has been even magnified by Chavez’ naiveté and improvisation in
meddling in the case.

Because in the end, the FARC could have released the
hostages too many times if they really meant it. They still can, but so far
they haven’t done it. This proves once again that the whole thing has to be
resolved the way it is being solved and that the embarrassing vote of the
Venezuelan National Assembly criticizing the release of
the hostages via a military operation
, simply demonstrates not only how
much time they have in their hands that they can consider this, but how
primitive their understanding of the whole situation still is.

But in the end, winners and losers are simply irrelevant
when there are human beings and lives at stake. What is important is that
fortunately, the fifteen hostages were released. That these people can attempt
now to go back to their regular lives, accompanied by their ghosts and their
nightmares. They can be human beings again or at least try, a right that nobody can take away
from them. But perhaps they will not feel that sense of relief, tranquility and
humanity again, until they know that not a single person is still in the hands
of the FARC.

Sadly and shamelessly for those that still praise the FARC,
that moment still seems too far away.

As Ingrid Betancourt is freed, a victory for some, a defeat for others, but in the end a victory for civilized behavior

July 6, 2008

This post was generously placed by Daniel in his blog when I was unable to post remotely during my travels. I thought the release of Ingrid Betancourt was too significant to skip without a post.

As Ingrid Betancourt is
freed today, Alvaro Uribe scores a huge victory and Hugo Chavez loses big,
as his bid to gain worldwide fame, helps Colombia defeat the FARC and the
most symbolic hostage is out. This puts the FARC in a corner, where it
makes no sense anymore to hold the remainder hostages and their decades old
terrorists war, which turned into drug trafficking and kidnapping to
support the effort, is over.

While the news is great, as long held
Betancourt is finally freed in good health, it throws some uncertainty over
the remainder hostages, as the former Presidential candidate represented
the most visible hostage the world was ready to fight for. Thus, there will
be a period of uncertainty for the remainder people suffering the horror of
years in captivity, treated badly and without good medical care.

Its already been hours since the surprising rescue by the Colombian
Government and there has been no reaction by the Venezuelan Government.
Perhaps Chavez is calling Cuba to map out a strategy for his response,
perhaps he is depressed, but is certainly a bad day for him. The Venezuelan
President tried to play a high stakes game, the way he has tied with us in
the last ten years, but he had a more formidable opponent, used to playing
tough and they actually used him to raise the communications levels among
the FARC commanders and in the end Uribe got the upper hand on both the
FARC and the Venezuelan President.

French President Sarkozy is
another winner as he made the liberation a point of honor and made the
media and his country focus on it.

But most of all, it is a great
day for Ingrid Betancourt, the three American hostages and the eleven
Colombian hostages who may now attempt to escape the horror they have lived
through and regain some semblance of their lives.

The world also
has to learn from recent events, not to sympathize with terrorists, not to
defend them. Uribe was painted as the bad guy too many times in his fight
to return peace to his country, while the FARC kidnapped and traded drugs
to survive. The terrorist criminals of the FARC should be given one last
chance by the world to give up the remainder hostages and return to
civilian life. If they dont, the world should back the Colombian
President.

It is not a matter of ideology, it is simply a
defense of humanity and peoples rights.

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