Archive for September, 2008

Another Chavez achievement: Caracas gets the top spot in murder capitales of the world

September 29, 2008

And another brilliant accomplishment of the robolution: Top spot in the list of murder capitals of the world. I am sure some PSF can find some silver lining or positive spin in this…Maybe they will say this is good, after all the opposition is now a majority in Caracas, in time they may kill enough of us to recover their former leadership….

Thanks AM

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part X: A Venezuelan court orders the assets of Maionica and Kauffmann seized

September 27, 2008

In another bizarre twist to the Maletagate trial in Miami, local newspaper Ultimas Noticias says today (by subscription) that the 18th. Circuit Court of Caracas has ordered the assets of Moises Maionica and Carlos Kauffmann frozen. In the case of Kauffmann, this includes his majority ownership in petrochemical company Venoco.

The order is quite weird as no reason has been given for it and no similar order has been given for the assets of either Guido Antonini or Franklin Duran, the two other main characters in the Miami trial.

Recall in particular, that the trio Duran, Kauffmann, Antonini worked together, but Maionica was part of the Government’s emissaries to get Antonini off the hook. They had no prior close relationship. Moreover, the Duran/Kaufmann duo was at the center of all dealings and Antonini was more their partner in deals involving the US, due to his US citizenship.  Thus, pairing only Maionica and Kauffmann is quite strange, to say the least.

Recall that at some point Duran tells Antonini, in one taped conversation, that the Venezuelan Government may take everything away from them, including Venoco. Maybe Duran’s prize for not singing, is that he will be able to keep his assets.

Stay tuned, the show goes on!

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part IX: Antonini talks to the Head of DISIP and writes to Hugo Chavez.

September 26, 2008


Well,
corruption does not go any higher than this:


First, the Prosecutor in the Maletagate trial in Miami presented the letter
which Guido Antonini wrote to none other than President Hugo Chavez, the supposed savior of
the people and sweeper of corruption, which
said
more or less:

“Dear Commander Chavez, the money stayed at the airport and I stayed there with
the promises of those that were in the flight. I saw the Head of Security of
PDVSA carry the suitcases on the plane, where there was another suitcase with
money already. I am now a man being hunted for something I did not do. Only you
can give me the guarantees and a document saying that I left Caracas
with that money. I need it to save my good name (sic), I also need two million
dollars to pay the lawers.

I joined the trip to talk to Uberti about a deal related with the building of
the gas pipeline, but Uberti had no intention to talk to me. He had dinner and
saw the movie..I would like you to know that I am very grateful for your help
in solving this case”

No wonder Chavez calls him a traitor!


Later, in an audio tape supposedly between the Head of the Venezuelan
Intelligence Police General Rangel, accused last week by the US
for cooperating in the FARC’s drug trafficking, Rangel
tells Antonini
to stay calm, that he understood his anguish and told him he
did not have a copy of the letter to Chavez…but, says Rangel, there is no
problem…and we are working to solve the problems down south. Later, Rangel
says that he received instructions from the man he wrote the letter to, at
which point the Prosecutor asked Antonini who that referred to and  he
answered: Hugo Chavez.

Rangel also says “The kid I sent there gave me the
information you had, I need you to name someone to take care of the financial
part”

Later, in an audio tape between Duran and Antonini, where
Antonini mentions the letter to Chavez, Duran tells him: ” If you get too
close to the sun, you might burn yourself”

The defense began then questioning Antonini and said
he had evidence that Antonini and Duran had a disagreement for a US$ 23 million
deal for building home in Uruguay.
(Which is another story, as this case was raised in Uruguay’s
press, suggesting they set up a company to build homes in that country with
Venezuelan money. The houses we4re never built, but somehow US$ 23 million left
the company’s account and landed in that of Antonini’s wife. This was reported
in Uruguay,
but it is the first time it is mentioned in the trial or anywhere else)

In another tape, Duran tells him that this is being handled at the very top and
that nobody at the middle levels knows about it.

Can it be any juicier, dirtier and clearer than that?

All I am waiting for is Hugo Chavez to come on TV and say parodying a famous US
politician many years ago: ” I am not a crook”

Corruption does indeed run all the way to the top in Venezuela and the fact that General
Rangel is still at his position and nothing is being investigated here simply proves it!

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part VIII: Antonini begins testimony, confirming US$ 4.2 million in second suitcase

September 24, 2008

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A thinned
out Guido Antonini showed up in Court today and basically confirmed a lot that had been said before or
that had been dug up by Argentinean newspaper la Nacion.

Among the highlights:

—Antonini confirmed that
PDVSA VP Diego Uzcategui asked him two days after the suitcase was caught where
the other suitcase with US$ 4.2 million was.Antonini claims he had no idea
about it.

—Antonini also confirmed
that his suitcase was checked after most of the others were already in the
cars.  While his suitcase was being inspected Daniel Uzcategui stayed with
him and took some US$ 30,000 from the suitcase at some point.

—He also reiterated what
the secretary of Claudio Uberti had said, that Antonini did indeed attend a
reception at the Argentinean Presidential palace, the Casa Rosada. At that
reception, the Minister of Planning of Argentina greeted him, contradicting the
Minister’s statement that he does not even know Antonini and Claudio Uberti at
that same reception offered him “whatever he wanted from Argentina”
because he had done a great favor for that country. At that reception he says
Ramirez sees him, but does not say hello to him.

—Antonini testified that
both Duran and Kauffmann offered him their jet planes to go to Spain or Israel until the storm over the
Maletagate scandal had passed.

—In the tapes played,
Duran says that PDVSA will give the money (for Antonini) to the DISIP and these
in turn will give it to his lawyers. Duran states that he does not trust
Minister of Energy Ramirez, saying “Ramirez and Uzcategui got you into
this problem”.

No new dramatic
revelations, but consistent with what the tapes said and what Duran, who is
being accused discussed earlier in the tapes. The Minister of Planning of
Argentina has tried to deny knowing Antonini and or his presence at the
Presidential Palace, but both Antonini and Uberti’s secretary have confirmed
it.So far the main facts of the story are consistent with the tapes.

As people have said in the
comments: “Pass the popcorn” the robolution will continue to
entertain and surprise”

Venezuelan Government orders banks to reserve half their positions at Merril Lynch and Lehman

September 23, 2008

In a nonsensical decision the Venezuelan Government has just ordered all Venezuelan banks to reserve 50% of all and any investments held in Lehman Brothers and-or Merril Lynch.

Recall that many banks had structured notes in US banks and investment banks which were guaranteed with either dollars or securities and which were purchased with depositors money. Because the parallel swap rate had gone down these were worth much less than what appeared in the banks’ books, creating huge losses.  However some of these notes were at Lehman Brothers which went bankrupt ten days ago. What makes absolutely no sense is to force these banks to take the loss in Merril Lynch, which has agreed to merge with Bank of America. If the merger goes through, all of the investments in Merril Lynch will be honored, which is obviously not the case in Lehman Brothers.

I can think of at least four banks, and it could be more, that can not survive this unless the owners replace the capital. Basically, if they reserve both Lehman and Merril, they are technically bankrupt, not because of Lehman Brotehrs, but because of this resolution.

I am not sure the Government understands what it just did, but it coudl be the start of a financial crisis…

So much for being immune to the US credit crisis as Chavez claims…

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part VII: The mysterious ways of Venezuelan Justice as Maionica and Kauffman are charged in Caracas

September 22, 2008

On Friday, the Venezuelan Prosecutor ordered the capture
of Carlos Kauffmann and Moises Maionica for unknown reasons. Thus they have
become the three people who have similar orders of capture in Venezuela when you add  the guy with suticase Guido Antonini.

Funny, the only three people in the case with such orders
happen to be exactly those testifying against the Venezuelan Government. But, for example, Daniel
Uzcategui, the son of the PDVSA Vice-President who got Antonini on the plane
has not been charged, neither has Franklin Duran, despite the large number of
corruption acts that Duran himself admits being involved with. BTW, tonight
Globovision reports that the defense in the Miami case has asked that a conversation between
Uzcategui and Antonini taped after Duran was in jail, not be admitted as
evidence since it is hearsay because Uzcategui will not be a witness in the
trial. (while Chavez complains that Antonini has not been sent to Argentina, neither has Uzcategui been sent to that country)

To say nothing of Antonio Jose Cachinca, the former military
who is a member of the Venezuelan intelligence police and went to the US and met
with Antonini and was taped telling him that he would be protected. (We still
have to hear that tape)

Then of course, there are the non-existent investigations on
all of the people mentioned in either corruption or cover-up charges such as
former Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez, who has visible new-found wealth he could not account for,
former Minister of Finance Tobias Nobrega, General Rangel of the intelligence
police, former tax Superintendent Vielma Mora, Minister of the Interior and
Justice Al Aissami, the Governor of Cojedes State, the Governor of Vargas
State, former Minister of Education Aristobulo Isturiz, Minister of Energy and
Oil Rafael  Ramirez, his assistant.

All of those are involved in the case to the hilt, but the only
three charged in Venezuela are precisely the only three testifying against the
Venezuelan Government

Such are the mysterious ways of robolutionary Venezuelan Justice…

In another sign of increasing intolerance, Hugo Chavez orders the expulsion of HRW’s representatives

September 21, 2008


In another step defining the increasing intolerance of the
Chavez administration, the
Venezuelan Government expelled
the Director for the Americas for Human
Rights Watch (HRW), Jose Maria Vivancos, and one other HRW worker on direct
orders of President Hugo Chavez.

Vivancos was in Caracas participating in a seminar in
which he presented HRW’s latest report on the state of Human rights in
Venezuela entitled “A Decade Under Chávez. Political Intolerance and Lost
Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela”. The report may have
gone largely unnoticed, except for the local press, if it were not by the
decision by the Government to expel Vivancos. The Government once again hid behind its empty
rhetoric of calling HRW a puppet of the Empire and an institution financed by
the US Government, ignoring similarly critical reports by HRW of not only the US, but human rights
abuses in countries such as Colombia.

The expulsion came after that of the US Ambassador over a
week ago, the refusal to grant passage to student leader Nixon Moreno, who
requested political asylum at the Vatican’s Embassy in Caracas and the refusal
by the Government to investigate the many corruption accusations of the last
few weeks. Any charge against the Government is repelled by calling it a
conspiracy, support for the US Government, anti-Chavez, treason and the like, while
there are almost daily new scandals everywhere and economic life gets harsher for the average Venezuelan.

Vivancos and his coworker at HRW were simply picked up at
their hotel and placed on the first flight out of Venezuela, which happened to
be going to Brazil. There was no legal procedure followed, as established by
law a fact noted by Amnesty International. It was like so many other events, “a
direct order from the President”, and adding signs of the increasing autocratic
levels of the Venezuelan Government. Remarkable that a Government that controls
all judicial instances does not even bother to fulfill even the simplest requirements of the
laws.

Vivancos’ expulsion ruffled feathers in many countries.
Chile’s Foreign Minister criticized the decision and Venezuelan snapped
back quickly
, creating more tensions between the two countries. Brazil’s
Lula was said to be worried about the expulsion, as Vivancos showed at his
doorstep and even OAS’ President Insulza, ever the consummate diplomat who stays away from controversy, said
he did not like the expulsion.

But they better get used to it, as the Chavez
administration seems to be getting ready to bypass democracy altogether, not
that there was much left of it. 
Because while the PSF’s defense of Hugo Chavez has always been based on
the fact that he was elected democratically, their arguments has become meaningless
now that Chavez decided to ignore the results of the December referendum,
passing 26 Bills which turn into law much of what was rejected by the
Venezuelan electorate in an election where the Chavez controlled Electoral
Board has refused to tell us what the margin of victory of the rejection was.

And while Chavez relished
himself today
in saying 70% of the people support what he is doing, a
number he has never reached in any election, the truth is that numbers for Chavez’
candidates in the upcoming regional elections are looking increasingly and
surprisingly worse to this blogger.

But rather than deal with his problems, Chavez once again
leaves today in one of his useless trips, most likely to buy new weapons, hug
world leaders and sign agreements that will never do anything for Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the HRW report is there for the world to read.
It has little that has not been said or denounced in this blog and thanks to
Chavez and his stupid impulse to expel Vivancos, has been read by ten times
more people that would have done so without the scandal.

In fact, I myself feel compelled to make the report part
of the record of this blog in order to extend its reach, as these ten long years have not only been wasted
for the development of Venezuela, but also for the cause of human rights in my
country. Thus, if you are curious, here is the HRW report with all its details:

A Decade Under Chávez. Political Intolerance and Lost
Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela

I. Executive Summary

Political Discrimination

The Courts

The Media

Organized Labor

Civil Society

The Future of Venezuelan Democracy

II. Political Discrimination

Political Discrimination under International Law

Political Discrimination under Venezuelan Law

Political Patronage and Discrimination Before Chávez

Blacklisting: The “Tascón List” and “Maisanta Program”

Discrimination in PDVSA

Discrimination in Other Areas

Recommendations

III. The Courts

International Norms on Judicial Independence

Background

The 2004 Court-Packing Law

A Compliant Court

Recommendations

IV. The Media

Venezuela’s Polarized Media

Toughening Speech Offenses

Regulating Media Content

Restricting Information

International Norms

Access to Information under Venezuelan Law

Failure to Respect the Right of Access to Information

Controlling the Airwaves

Community Radio and Television

Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Expression

Recommendations

V. Organized Labor

Freedom of Association under International Law

Freedom of Association under Venezuelan Law

Organized Labor Before Chávez

Electoral Interference and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights

Government Favoritism and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights

Government Reprisals: The Oil Sector

New Workers’ Associations: Risks to Freedom of Association

Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Association

Recommendations

VI. Civil Society

International Norms on Civil Society

Deteriorated Relations with Civil Society

Two Divergent Approaches to Rights Advocates

Prosecutorial Harassment

Public Condemnation

Attempts to Exclude NGOS from International Forums

Proposed Legal Restrictions

Judicial Rulings Affecting Civil Society

Recommendations

Acknowledgments

After wasting billions of the Venezuelan people for the last ten years, Hugo Chavez asks people not be wasteful and save

September 19, 2008

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Hugo
Chavez yesterday
:

“{We have to take all
measures so that the (financial crisis) does not affect us and one of them is
to save both at the individual level, as well as state Governments, Ministries,
the National Government “(He also used the word wasteful, but I cant find
that link)

Wow! Where should I start
on this one? Or even can I even attempt to say anything about this statement?

Let’s start at a very
basic level: This from a man who maintains two homes, Miraflores and La Casona,
but has not been to La Casona in years.

Or, this from a man that
subsidizes gasoline to the tune of US$ 14 billion per year.

Someone that gives away,
each and every single day of the year US$ 129,000 barrels of oil, with two
years grace period and twenty years to pay at 2% interest.

Someone who keeps a
Caracas Teheran weekly flight that goes empty for ideological reasons.

Someone who gives away
power plants to Nicaragua, whyile Venezuela has blackouts.

Someone who has been
buying jet fighters, submarines, tanks, rifles, to the tune of US$ 10 billion
in the last three years, while people go hungry in Venezuela.

Someone who sends jet
planes filled with suitcases with cash to help his buddies.

Someone who buys
Argentina’s debt and sells it at a loss just to support his ideological
buddies.

Someone who sends
helicopters to help his buddy Evo.

Someone who travels one
third of the year visiting Heads of State, signing agreements that never come
to very much. (He is leaving tomorrow again)

Someone who spends money
that could be used elsewhere to buy perfectly functioning private companies,
rather than spend the money on new companies that would complement what the
private ones are doing.

Someone who allows
corruption to reach billion dollar levels in order to control those around him.

Someone who on his first
day on the job reduced the number of ministries from 18 to 14, only to expand
it to 28 ten years later.

Someone who stole the
countrys international reserves to create a development fund that spend 40% of
its budget on financial operations.

Someone who allows his
Ministers, Justices and other high Government officials to earn more than 25-30
times the minimum salary, up from ten times when he got to power.

Someone that subsidizes
travel, cars, luxury items for well to do Venezuelans just to stay in power.

Someone who bought a US$
85 million plane so he could travel in comfort.

Someone who lends the
country’s jets so that his political buddies can travel around.

Someone who buys the
country’s debt and PDVSA’s debt at outrageously high prices so that he can
remove disclosure rules in front of international authorities.

Someone who spends as much
on advertising and media than on actual projects.

Someone who prefers to
give projects and money to foreign private and state companies than to
Venezuelans ones.

Add to the list, I will
move it into the post!!!

A very heavy load

September 18, 2008

Things have been hectic for me this week, will try to post, but meanwhile Toby Bottome at Veneconomia says a lot of what I wanted to say:

A very heavy load from Veneconomy

In the decade with Hugo Chavez at the helm, the growth of a
non-productive State has been fostered at the expense of the
restriction of the private sector, which does generate income and
create jobs. This policy has generated a hypertrophy in the state
apparatus of such proportions that it has made the country totally
dependant on oil and placed it in a dangerously vulnerable position in
these times of low oil prices.

Last week, Hugo Chavez himself admitted this weakness and gave the
first official sign that he neither can nor does he want to cope with
this heavy load, when he stated, “We cannot continue incorporating an
additional 50,000 workers a year, that is not sustainable” the
squandering has to stop, “it is necessary to be efficient with
spending.” “We are given to squandering resources,  we ourselves
have increased the practice of political patronage.” Even though Chavez
is right and he had been warned of the danger, he spoke out too late.

One sign that the State is top heavy is the increase in the number of
ministries, 28 in all with the creation of the Ministry for Women’s
Affairs in June this year. That’s twelve more than in 1998 when Chavez
promised to put an end to Venezuela’s inflated bureaucracy.

Added to this is that, after the innumerable nationalizations, state
takeovers and/or confiscations that the government has been heading up,
more than a dozen private companies have become oil-dependant,
inefficient organizations. And that is quite apart from the creation of
hundreds of cooperatives and nearly a dozen missions, which are also
subsidized with oil dollars.

But the most revealing sign of this dangerous hypertrophy of the
government apparatus is the attendant excessive growth in the number of
workers employed by the State. According to data from the National
Statistics Institute, the government services’ payroll has grown by
72.1% in eight years, from 1,283,963 people in 2000 to 2,209,862 as at
July 30, 2008. Some analysts are even of the opinion that the
government payroll is underestimated, as, if the employees of a certain
type of State contractors that have a dependant relationship with
government agencies are added, the number could easily reach 4 million.
It is worth mentioning that one of the agencies that have most
increased their payroll is the Ministry of Defense, with the hiring of
more than 300,000 people for the National Command of the National
Reserve, followed by PDVSA, where the payroll went from 45,000 workers
in 2002 to more than 100,000 in 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of employees in the private sector has grown by only 15.5% since 2000, from 4,026,064 to 4,650,722.

Now, with the drop in oil prices, the VenezuelanState will find it even
less viable to continue financing this huge payroll; not even if the
barrel stays at $100.

What is worse, the collapse of the oil price bubble finds the private
sector diminished and without either the capacity or the flexibility to
absorb this number of workers. Unfortunately, the outlook for
Venezuelans includes higher unemployment, increased poverty, and more
hunger.

El juicio en Miami sobre el “Maletagate” venezolano parte VI: ¿ Se va a convertir Maletagate en ONUgate?

September 17, 2008

En la ultima sorpresita del juicio de Miami, el Fiscal ha presentado como evidencia una grabacion en la cual el acusado Duran habla tambien de comprar votos para Hugo Chavez en la Naciones Unidas, cuando Venezuela trato de obtener un puesto en el Consejo de Sguridad de la ONU en el 2006,. Recordemos que Chavez trato por todas las formas de obtener ese puesto y que todo termino con un compromiso que dejo a Venezuela fuera de esa ellecion. 

En la grabacion, Duran esta hablando de la maleta con Guido Antonini y Carlos Kauffmann y les dice “El Presidente perdió, pa que sepas”, y agrega. “El Presidente no ganó esa vaina”, insiste entonces su
socio.
Pero perdió por él. No perdió porque no se hizo el trabajo de que se intentara recoger los votos.

Antonini contesta: ¿Como que en la ONU?

Kauffmann: -Esos vuelos eran para eso.

Antonini: -¿Para qué eran?

Kauffmann: -Pa que los negritos fueran a votar a la ONU.

Ante la aparente sorpresa que muestra Antonini,
Durán lo provoca -”¿Qué tienes en tu cabeza?”-, y “el Gordo” reacciona
indignado: “CQué tengo en mi cabeza, Frank? ¿Te parece poco lo que
tengo en mi cabeza?”

-No, vale, marico, media Kauffmann. El te quiso decir: ¿qué estabas pensando tú que eran esos vuelos?


-Ah, ok.

-El te está diciendo, ¿de qué piensas tú que son esos vuelos?
¿Tú crees que al gobierno le interesa, huevón, que por ahí salga una
tarjeta de Franklin, pagándoles los vuelos a los chinitos y a los
otros? ¿Tú te imaginas el lío que se para ahí? ¡No jodas! ¡Ja!

Antonini es quien cierra el tema, con lo que demuestra que estaba al tanto de lo ocurrido: “Y a musulmanes también”.

Ahi lo tienen. Ahora los tentaculos de la corrupcion de Chavez llegan a las Naciones Unidas donde el trato de usar sus petrodolares para comprar votos para ejercer influencia politica.

No es que esto nos sorprenda ya, pero aqui hay otra bomba que puede convertir a Maletgate en ONUgate muy rapidamente, y demuestra que Venezuela se ve cada vez mas como un Estado totalmente forajido.

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