Archive for October, 2008

Economic Ramblings

October 13, 2008

I haven’t blogged for too many reasons, from travel, to baseball, to simply no compelling reasons to blog on whether Chavez is right or wrong about people trying to kill him, or whether the opposition can, may or not win in November. Hearing the oppo you may think they have won already, but they still have work to do.

But I have read, heard and swallowed a lot of stuff about the economy, most of which is remarkably naive, ignorant and even besides the point.

I did read some remarkable statements from the Minister of Planning El Troudi, who seems to be in charge of the economy in the absence of Minister of Finance. According to this wizard, Venezuelans should bring their money back from the US to preserve its value. I am not sure what logic this man is following, but he certainly is not using math. Because a scant two months ago, the parallel swap rate, the only measure of a “free” market rate stood at Bs. 3.3 per US$ and it is now hoveri9ng around Bs. 5 per US dollar, which certainly does not sound very good. Even the euro has done better than that recently.

Moreover, in the US the deposit guarantee has been extended to US$ 250,000, something like 30 times the local guarantee. But the Minister does not seem to understand many facts:

First of all, if accounting of banks in Venezuela followed US rules, most banks in Venezuela will have gone under (not that they are not, somehow their accounting gets incredibly creative). Because you may have read that in the US you have to “mark to market”, i.e. register your investments at market prices. Well, not in Venezuela. Here, banks can classify investments at will as “held until maturity”. If you do that, you register it at 100%. Thus, if you bought Government bonds yielding 7% two years ago, today with the same bonds yielding 17%, you move them in “held until maturity” and voila, you don’t have to register a 20% loss in their value, which saves the day for all but the six or seven healthy banks in the country, who have no problem.

Then, there are the articles that claim Venezuela will weather the storm easily because it has saved so much in the last few years. I am not sure what type of spring roll, egg roll or lumpia these writers have been smoking, but somehow they add a lot of stuff but subtract very little.

On the addition part, somehow they always include international reserves as “savings: which as Quico has explained in his comments its sort of strange. After all, it is not the same to have US$ 35 billion in reserves, with US$ 35 billion in monetary liquidity, than to have the same amount with US$ 75 billion idity, like it is today.

Reserves guarantee the money in circulation. If you hold reserves constant and add to the money in circulation, you are in trouble. Thus, if you “add” everything, you should also subtract. Things like debt, for example, at some US$ 30 billion, nobody seems to take it into account. Or the money owed Cemex, Sidor, Banco de Venezuela, Petrozuata, Cerro Negro and whatever, a sum that adds up to US$ 15 billion very quickly, killing off almost all the money in Fonden and leaving just some US$ 4 billion in Bandes and FIEM. Of course, the US$ 18 billion in Fonden includes US$ 1.5 billion in Argentina’s Boden 15’s, purchased at 65 but which are worth 45 today. Or US$ 400 million in  Lehman Brothers which are worth about US$ 80 million and/or Venezuela’s bonds which can not be sold, because Fonden holds them at full value, rather than at market value.

But the truth is that foreign investors have little to worry about even if the recent panic suggests that Venezuela is about to default with the country’s 2010 bond yielding 20% in US dollars. Remarkable for a bond with only 22 months left before maturity. Such is the nature of panics.

But Venezuela will not default, because Venezuela only has US$ 1.5 billion coming due in 2010, another US$ 1.5 billi8on in 2011 and a similar amount in 2013. Peanuts for an oil producing country with oil even at US$ 60 per barrel.

The real problem is that Venezuela has been importing US$ 50-plus billions per year as the Government destroys local production. Thus, revenues in US$ are below imports already and it looks like oil has further to go. The problem is that the country can not issue debt to cover the deficit, like it did on 2007 when the average price of the country’s basket was US$ 67, the country ran a huge deficit, which  it covered issuing debt, both by PDVSA and the country.

And the other real problem is that this is hitting you as inflation is at 50% per food, 70% of which is imported by now and 35% in inflation for the overall CPI.

Thus, foreign investors will get paid, because the country needs them and the amounts due are miniscule in the scale of problems. But local survivors, including the mass of “people” that Chavez claims to love, will be obliterated by the upcoming devaluation, which will allow the Government to live another day, but throwing some steroids into the structural inflation to insure food goes up 75% in 2009 (optimsistically) and the general, improved CPI hits 50%.

Of course, the Government will not have the US$ 9 billion it used in lowering the parallel swap rate in the first half of 2008, much of it wasted in keeping it artificially low (Bs. 6 was too high, Bs. 3.3 was too low). So by now, we are at Bs. 5 per dollar, add ten dollars down on oil and a devaluation and can Bs. 7-9 be out of whack?

I don’t think so. In fact, I am sure we will see a devaluation to Bs. 3 in early 2009 which will fuel the swap market even beyond my pessimistic predictions.

And I don’t even think that US$ 60 per barrel is sustainable. I just think that an incompetent Government like the one we have will screw up again and will need another huge boost in oil prices to have them and the “people” survive. And I do mean survive. When money runs out, there will be shortages and all that money spent in buying out existing concerns for ideological purposes will be needed elsewhere. Excpet it will not be available.

And Chavez will blame the Empire, the IMF or whatever. But it is he and his team that should resign after ten years of incredible destructive power.

And as in previous crises, it is the poor that will suffer, as the well to do with savings in US$ will be able to change at the higher rate, proving once againt the perverse effect of inflation on the poor.

But we knew that ten years ago and after US$ 800 billion in revenues, nothing has really changed under revolutionary management.

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part XIII: The defense calls a friendly and unethical witness to help Duran

October 9, 2008

It sort of gets tiring writing about Venezuela. Everything
has become so bizarre, a parody of a country and life. Yesterday it was our
parody of Maxwell Smart and the Government’s accusations of Guido Antonini
being a CIA/FBI agent. Today, it is the defense
calling on Duran’s buddy,
which seems like calling Al Capone’s second in command to vouch for him in
Court. The whole thing is sort of like watching the debate or the parody of the
debate of a certain vice-presidential candidate, after a while you can’t
distinguish between the real thing and the parody.

You see, Duran’s defense called on his buddy to testify that
In Venezuela having an intelligence identity card is normal. That to get ahead
you have to use influences. At least that was his view of the world. According
to the view of the world of this friend of Duran, who owns the duty free stores
at the country’s airports (a bad signal in itself, Maiquetia airport has been remodelled almost every year of the last 30):

“To do deals with the Government you need contacts.. a good part
of businessman and the Venezuelan population have civilian intelligence and National
Guard identifications as a way of protecting yourself, among other reasons”

He claims to have had them since 1994, which somehow in his
ethical mind makes it ok. You know, once a thief always a thief or something
like that in this guy’s very peculiar view of the world.

And to prove his bona fide credentials, he testified that
Duran asked him to contact the Tax Superintendent to see if he could provide
the appropriate documents to justify the cash in the suitcase.

Wait! I am confused! I thought this was all CIA? Or was it
FBI? You mean the cash was real?

I guess the only thing missing was for this witness, whose
best credential was his friendship with Duran and his funny dealings with the
Venezuelan Government, to say that he also carried suitcases full of cash
around.

He may have, but he could not admit it, he is a US citizen
after all.

Which proves that the robolution is fairly open and an equal
opportunity corrupter. Everyone no matter what your nationality or political
beliefs can saner and participate.

Jeez , I wish I had the time to put in a poll like Daniel
and Quico and ask my readers a few questions:

—How many Venezuelan Intelligence Police credentials have
you had in your life?

—How many National Guard credentials do you currently own?

—In your experience is it worth having them?

—How many of you know Duran, Kauffmann or Antonini?

—How many of you know a Minister, Vice-Minister, Tax
Superintendent or major Government official?

—How many of you need a credential and/or contact to make
a living in Venezuela.

—Do you consider yourself corrupt, a little corrupt or
honest?

—Have you ever had lunch with Chavez?

Who knows, you may still have time for an all expenses paid
trip to Miami courtesy of Duran’s defense and you don’t know it! And you get
your travel dollars at the official rate of exchange!

More bizarre things are already taking place, no?

The world according to the robolution: Kudos to Guido

October 7, 2008


According
to Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior and Justice
, Tarek Al Aissami, the
guy carrying the suitcase, Guido Antonini, is both an FBI and a CIA agent, in his
own precise words: “He is an agent of the FBI and a member of the CIA”.

Kudos to Mr. Antonini, who by now must be considered to be like Maxwell
Smart, Super Agent 86 by either of those agencies. Kudos, because this car
mechanic who only ten years ago was toiling in the car repair shops of the town
of La Victoria, Aragua State, managed thanks to his demonstrated abilities to
be hired by the FBI and have his membership to the CIA accepted, which I
imagine requires some form of dispensation from the US Attorney General or even
the top boss himself. Because after all, the FBI can only work in the US and
the CIA only outside that country, so that Antonini must have some sort of very special
treatment.

And he clearly deserves it due to his accomplishments in his short life
as an agent/super spy. In particular, I imagine that given the repeated
failures of the CIA all over the world, Super Agent Antonini is truly special.
He has not only succeeded in his missions, but he also managed to become a
millionaire in the process, trap the Venezuelan and Argentinean Government and
their respective oil companies and screw his former friends.

And all of that single-handedly and covertly.

In the early stage of his career, Antonini had to get close to his
old friend Franklin Duran as a way of reaching Carlos Kauffmann and partner with
them to get rich enough to be independently wealthy. He was quite successful at
this, partnering with them in a number of deals selling weapons and security
systems to Venezuelan companies as well as advising them with their
petrochemical company Venoco, even if he knew nothing about that business. But
much like Super Agent 86 and Jack Bauer of “24”, Antonini can get into Google
and learn the ropes quite fast for any business he so desires. In fact, in his last and fateful trip, Antonini supposedly was invited not only to carry the suitcase, but also to discuss Chavez’ brainchild the “Gasoducto del Sur”, a pipeline to carry non-existent Venezuelan natural gas to Argentina.

Antonini worked on this in parallel with developing Government connections. He
befriended the Governor of Cojedes State, members of the Board of PDVSA, Uruguayan
Government officials and Argentinean Government officials. To his surprise,
this actually led to more money. Thanks to the Governor of Cojedes, who he
wanted to use only politically, he got in the middle of a project by which
Venezuela would build houses in Uruguay. No houses were ever built, after all what does the Chavez Government kinow about the subject, but now
Duran accuses him of taking his half of a US$ 23 million take on their commission
on this project.

At this point, came Antonini’s most daring gamble, suggesting, I imagine, in casual
conversation that they begin carrying suitcases full of cash to help their
political buddies all over South America. Given that he was US citizen, if
caught, that would give him the opening to turn himself in and then tape his
buddies, politicians and partners spewing out their corrupt schemes. Heck, he
could even tangle up Chavez himself, who he had lunch with a couple of times,
even if he wasn’t on the same table. A daring suggestion, but Agent 86 managed to pull it through.

Antonini began carrying suitcases around full of cash, but given the lax
custom procedures in Latin America, he would never get caught. Moreover, they would always take
him in chartered jets hired by PDVSA, the Venezuelan Government and foreign Governments,
so that they would always go in through the VIP gate, where nobody would check
the suitcases. A few times, he even handed over the suitcase to be checked, but
he was waved through with that gesture so common in Latin America which clearly
says “Please don’t bother me and make me work, just move forward”. In each trip, Antonini would
slip his hand in the suitcase and grab a few thousand bucks for incidental
expenses.

A new plan had to be implemented. They talked to Hugh Hefner and he
offered an Argentinean
customs agent that was not so bad looking
a contract to appear in that
country’s Playboy magazine, in exchange for checking Antonini’s suitcase.

Then came that fateful day and the rest is history. The suitcase of
Super agent Antonini was opened by Ms. Telpuk and the US$ 800,000 in cash was found.
Just to make it look even worse, he left the half of the money that was his by
law at customs. He even hung around for a couple of days to make it look good
and even went to a cocktail party at the Presidential palace in Buenos Aires, at
which Chavez was present. The food was good and the Malbec was excellent, even
if he always drank Scotch as part of his cover with the robolutionaries.

He then flew to the US where the tape recorders were ready. He asked for help and millions,
and the robolution was willing to deliver. What was one more suitcase? One more
dirty operation? Afew more million in cash? He was after all, one of them, one more corrupt operator and robolutionary that
needed to be financed and protected.

What they did not realize is that he was Guido Antonini. Super Agent 86,
an FBI agent and rank and file member of the CIA. He entrapped them all, friends and foe, Vice-Presidents, Heads of of not so Intelligence Offices and the like. He wrote to Chavez and got a response! Even Minsiter Al Aissami called his buddies!

He was in the end, the best CIA operator of the last few decades. He did all of this alone. Not bad for a car mechanic from La Victoria.

Kudos
to him, kudos to “Maxwell” Antonini, Super Agent 86!

Next stop for Super Agent 86? It’s unclear, too many problems in the world and he
could fix them all: Iran, Russia, Iraq or even Pakistan.

Flowering suddenly picks up

October 5, 2008

Flowering really picked up after the Miranda exhibit, here are some samples:

   

Left: A nice Cattleya Aclandiae from Brazil. Right: Oncidium Millaki x Oncidium Ornitrryncum

   

Left: My very nice Cattleya Warnerii concolor from Brazil. Right: A nice Cattleya Lueddemanianna

   

Left: Chocleata Amazonica from Central Americana. Right: Cattleya Intermedia from Brazil

  

Left” First floweing of a very nice Cattleya Walkeriana. Right: Cattleya Lueddemanianna

Miranda Orchid Exhibit 2008

October 5, 2008

The Miranda Orchid Society show was held two weeks ago. I don´t like using flash when I take orchid pictures and I only took my monopod and it was very dark. Most pictures did not come out very well, I salvaged these three:

   

Top left a Vanda Sanderiana, a species. On the right another Vanda.

A very nice Cattleya Lueddemanianna coerulea from Venezuela

Eduardo and Santos send some nice pictures

October 5, 2008

Eduardo and Santos send their regular contributions. If my memory is right the top two, the two Waleriana´s belong to Eduardo and the remaidner to Santos.
  

Two spectacular Walkerianas, the one on the left lloks like a coerulea and an alba on the right.

   

Cattleya Bicolor from Brazil on the left, on the right Encyclia Atrorubens from Mexico

   

On the left the famous Cattleya Walkeriana White Heritage. On the right Cirropetalum Medusae and a nice specimen at that.

   

On the left, Cattleya Trianae alba from Colombia. On the right, Dendrobium Infudibilum from Asia.

   

On the left a primary hybrid of the statrange combination of Cattleya Schilelraiana x Pescatorea Lemmanii, likely to ahve been made by Carlos Garcia Esquivel, sounds like the type of combinations he likes.On the right Lc. China Queen.

A hybrid after my own heart, Cattleya Schilleriana x Cattleya Aclandiae

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part XII: Socialist Impunity

October 5, 2008

Teodoro Petkoff nails it on the head on the inaction by Venezuela’s Prosecutor on the accusations against high Government officials in the Miami trial

“Socialist Impunity” by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

For the gringos the trial in Miami has one purpose: to demonstrate that those on trial violated US laws by acting as agents of a foreign Government, without registering to that effect in front of the authorities of that country. If they can demonstrate that and they condemn them it will not be for being corrupt (in Venezuela) or for money laundering (in Argentina) but for violating US laws. That they are corrupt is not their problem, but to demonstrate that they are agents of a Foreign Government-in this case, that of Chacumbele-the Prosecutor has to demonstrate the existence of strong links between those on trial and the high officials of Chacumbele’s Government. And those links, as we all know and we are seeing very clearly, are not very saintly. Thus, if to the gringos this aspect is not of their interest it is of overwhelming interest to us Venezuelans what the trial is evidencing on matters of highflying corruption. Here the Prosecutor’s office has ordered the capture of Antonini and also of Kauffmann and Maionica and they have ordered the freeze of the assets of Kauffmann and Maionica. All a bluff. The Prosecutor knows that these gentlemen will not come back to Venezuela for a while. On the other hand, this small reporter has to inquire, the Prosecutor’s office has nothing to ask General Rangel Silva, or to Rafael Ramirez, or to Jorge Rodriguez, or to Tarek Al Aissami and the other personalities that have floated in the interrogations of the singing boys of Miami? Isn’t there enough evidence that they were no only “mailmen” of people very high up in the Government, who they provided services like that of bringing some change to the friends in Argentina, in exchange for influence and access to the dirty deals in PDVSA? Isn’t it clear by now that the high capos of the officialist Cosa Nostra, surely on orders from the Godfather, tried to have Antonini’s partners convince him not to talk in exchange for protection? We don’t care if the singing boys violated US laws, but we are supremely worried that they have violated ours and that to their accomplices, who are here and not in Miami, Venezuelan Justice guarantees them total “socialist” impunity.

The Miami Venezuelan Maletagate trial part XI: Kauffmann testifies as trial winds down

October 4, 2008

It was the time for Carlos Kauffman to testify day before yesterday
and yesterday and Kauffman, the former partner of Duran in all his business
dealings, did not disappoint with his disclosers.

First he said that the whole thing was quite simple, he
and Duran we sought to “fix” the problem of Antonini and the suitcase because
of their ties.

According
to Kauffmann
he talked directly to then Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez who
told him that he knew everything and that PDVSA was involved in the case. He
ratified the money was for the campaign of Cristina Kirchner.

Kauffmann said that he and Duran offered
to help
on the cover-up and their reward would be “new contacts, more money
and more power..It was going to be beneficial to us”. Jeez, the robolution
can be so generous, no?

Kauffmann revealed that the whole cover up began on August
30 2007, when he met with the Head of Venezuela’s Intelligence Police, General
Henry Rangel. Rangel has been accused by the US Government of cooperating with
the FARC’s drug trafficking

According to Kauffman, they met in Rangel’s office in the presence
of Moises Maionica   and they
told Rangel they would help solve the scandal and he could count on them. He
said they were concerned because the name of Antonini was associated with them
and they were afraid their business dealings would be affected by the maletagate
case.

The Prosecution also introduced the Venezuelan Naval
Intelligence credential that was found on Duran when he was detained. According
to local paper El Nacional the credential is not honorific and it is quite real
and in the end it may be the strongest evidence of the prosecution, after all,
the main accusation against Duran and buddies is that they were Government
agents.

While much
was made
of the “differences” between Antonini’s version and that of the
customs agent that found the suitcase, the discrepancy is as to why Antonini
was carrying the suitcase. Antonini has claimed that he was helping someone in
carrying the suitcase, while the customs agent said that she asked whose
suitcase it was and Antonini said it was his.

But what was key, was that the custom agent did not say
that she had checked all of the luggage, just that all of it went through the
x-ray machine and she noticed something in the now infamous $800,000 suitcase.
By the time she had that one open, the rest of the luggage and the people had
moved on.  Thus, all of it went
through the machine but only this suitcase was opened.

At some point the judge in the trial seem to suggest there
was sufficient evidence to find Duran guilty of being a foreign Government
agent and asked the defense if he would bring new evidence to the contrary.

The defense brought Duran’s nephew to testify that it was
Antonini who asked for help, not the other way around. This angle seems
surprising, given evidence that the men were acting on behalf of the Venezuelan
Government, independently of who initiated the request for help.

The trial seems to be winding down and it will resume on
Tuesday.

How quickly does Hugo Chavez forget his fake beliefs in democracy or Venezuela, a democracy no more!

October 2, 2008

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In 2003
Hugo Chavez was grandstanding around the world claiming he did not believe in
“representative” democracy, because he only believed in
“participatory” democracy. Supposedly he only believed in the
“people” and not in those elected by them to make decisions.

Of course, at the time he had a plural National Assembly that wanted to discuss
things and the like, which went against his vary autocratic and dictatorial
nature, so the word participatory would come out of his mouth every ten words.

 

Not any
more!

Because the “people” decided in December in a referendum that they
did not want many changes to the Constitution, but instead of accepting the
decision of the “participatory” democracy associated with a
referendum Chavez simply went back to the only form of participatory democracy
he likes: He participates the people what it is he wants, independent of the
illegality.

Because yesterday after midnight the Venezuelan National Assembly approved
the Organic Bill for the Organization and Management of the Territory
,
which contains the same concepts rejected by the “people” in last
December’s referendum.

The Bill gives Hugo the autocrat (dictator) the right to be the “supreme authority
on the organization and management of the territory” conducting public
policy in the building of a socialist geographical space”, all concepts
rejected in the referendum and thus in violation of what people voted.

The Bill also gives Chavez the authority to name the same “Regional
Authorities” that voters said last December they did not want, a new
position which represents Chavez in the regions and have a hierarchy above the
elected Governors of the country.

There are other morsels, like the whole territory of the country is defined as
“public utility” and all subject to expropriation, also a concept
rejected in the December referendum.

So, when people come and tell me Venezuela is a democracy because Chavez was
elected, they better be prepared t tell me how it is that Chavez can ignore the
vote of a referendum and legislate at will what the people rejected explicitly.

Of course, they will just go on a tangent that simply demonstrates that they
are Dictator lovers with no democratic principles or beliefs in human rights.

But we knew that even before this or the 26 Bills approved by Chavez the
autocrat (dictator) under his enabling Bill were passed without consultation.

Because in the end, Venezuela
ceased being a democracy long ago, when Chavez began walking the gray areas he
is not afraid to step of these days. And as rights and laws are violated the
fascists of the left continue to raise their ugly heads to defend the
indefensible.

Maisanta database download

October 2, 2008

For some reason, probably not innocent, all public files with the Maisanta program online end up corrupt or useless. So, here is another try. I have placed the file over here, it is called santaines and it is about 300 MB. It is an .exe file. You download it and run it and it will install the Maisanta database in all its infamous glory on your PC. No Mac version available. I tried it, it takes about an hour with Cantv ADSL (ABA) and it works!

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