According to the Bolivarian News Agency, Chavez told Obama he wants to be his friend, but in the picture they both seem to be saying Uck! as they shake hands. Revolution meets the Empire, who will charm who?
Observations focused on the problems of an underdeveloped country, Venezuela, with some serendipity about the world (orchids, techs, science, investments, politics) at large. A famous Venezuelan, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, referred to oil as the devil's excrement. For countries, easy wealth appears indeed to be the sure path to failure. Venezuela might be a clear example of that.
According to the Bolivarian News Agency, Chavez told Obama he wants to be his friend, but in the picture they both seem to be saying Uck! as they shake hands. Revolution meets the Empire, who will charm who?
I was going to write a somewhat geeky post (ok, a totally geeky post) on the financial statements of our own Banco del Tesoro. But after looking at it, the whole thing is so absurd, that rather than giving you a detailed blow by blow account, I will give you some of the highlights.
The real reason I began to look at the recently published financial statements of Banco del Tesoro was that Government institutions hold their investment trusts at Banco del Tesoro, so twice a year you can look at what is or not there and get an idea of what the Government has in terms of those hidden resources that it is always boasting about.
Just to remind you, Banco del Tesoro was once a good idea. When Hugo Chavez got to power, official (Government) deposits in the private commercial banking system, were less than 5% of all deposits in the Venezuelan banking system. Within five years, they had ballooned to over 30% of all deposits. Why? Simple: Graft. Banks were paying Government institutions commissions to make deposits. With spreads as high as 15-18% points at the time, paying 5-6% points in commissions to get fairly stable deposits was good bussiness for certain banks, not precisely the best ones.
Thus, it was suggested that a Banco del Tesoro would be created that would concentrate all of these deposits and at the same time operate as a commercial bank. The first thing that mystified me was why a new institution had to be created given that the Government already owned Banco Industrial de Venezuela and Banfoandes. I heard that this would be a “different” bank, but after a few years I fail to note any so far.
You can find the financial statements of banco del Tesoro here. First of all, it’s a small bank despite its grandiose name. It has Bs. 3.27 billion in deposits (US$ 1.52 billion) (Banesco, the largest bank in the system has ten times more deposits). Thus. clearly it has failed to concentrate Government deposits in it as originally envisioned. (Put in another way, the graft lives on!)
But what truly amazed me, was to learn that Banco del Tesoro has Bs. 1.64 billion of its assets (US$ 760 million) and Bs. 3.3 billion (US$ 1.53 billion) from the trusts it holds for other Government institutions deposited in other local private commercial banks! This gives some Bs. 4.9 billion or US$ 2.23 billion for which Banco del Tesoro rather than lending it in the wonderful projects of the revolution or in Government bonds, it takes the money and deposits it into a private bank, so that those banks can turn around and lend or invest in Government bonds. Weird, no? Not really, the truth is nothing has changed. Looks to me like someone at Banco del Tesoro is making a lot of money out of this.
To give you an idea, Banco del Tesoro has deposits in some 25 local commercial banks. How does it decide which ones to use? You would think the money would be more or less uniformly distributed in our banking system. Well, the blog Venepiramides (in Spanish) a while back created its own ranking system for local banks, by splitting them into three groups: Refuge banks (8), so-so banks (7) and Zombie banks (the rest which were not named). While we don’t agree in the details of the ranking, differences are small. But what is truly curious, is that of the 25 banks which Banco del Tesoro uses, only three appeared in Venepiramides’ ranking (Only in the second group) and one of them had only a tiny deposit. You can reach your own conclusions…
What this clearly shows is that creating the bank has truly been a waste of time. First, its deposits are small. Second, rather than lend money it simply deposits it in other banks. Third, it seems to concentrate part of the old problem (Government institutions depositing money into private banks) in a single institution, and Fourth, it does nothing different than the other banks, except that it holds in trust all of the money from other Government institutions, which was why I started looking at this in the first place…and that is part two of this post:
The first thing you find out is that at the peak of oil prices in the second half of 2008, assets in trusts went from US$ 21.5 billion to US$ 14.03 billion a loss of US$7.5 billion.
Who owns these funds? If I understand it correctly: Fonden US$ 8.7 billion, Bandes US$ 4.3 billion, Others US$ 903 million. While an agreement to hold the China fund in trust is mentioned, there is no evidence of ir in the investments.
Of the money in trust as of December 2008, US$ 1.543 billion was in Bs. not US$, which leaves US$ 12.5 billion.
Problem is when you try to delve into the “investments” of the funds. About US$ 8.7 billion is in short term investments. The rest however is a bunch of structured notes some of which originate from the Ecuador bonds Venezuela used to own or notes issued by Lehman Brothers which went under and have been “exchanged” for a new note which will depend on how much can be recovered. There is peanuts (US$ 100 million) in Bolivian bonds and surprise, surprise, the Argentienan BODEN are nowhere to be seen, unles they were exchanged for some of the notes listed.
Thus, Venezuela either took a huge loss (part of the drop from June to December in assets?) or exchanged them for notes that may not be worth as much as it says.
Thus, there is little one can say about all this, other than there were US$ 8.5 billion overall on Dec. 31st. 2008 between Fonden, Bandes and the rest. Add to this, the US$ 12 billion in reserves transferred to Fonden from the Central Bank and that seems to be the extent of how much the Venezuelan Government had in mid-January: US$ 20.5 billion in foreign currency, somewhat below the US$ 50 billion plus usually touted by various officials.
This implies that there willl not be enough dollars to import and at the same time supply the swap market in 2009. (Which by the way seemed to do today what everyone had been expecting for weeks…)
So, hold on to your seats..or your pockets…or simply pray…
Hugo Chavez got his way and recovered via unconstitutional treachery, what his PSUV party could not win democratically for the simple reason that the working class electorate of Caracas did not see what Chavismo and its hand-picked had going for them after years under the rule of one traveling fat Mayor by the name of Juan Barreto.
And the National Assembly rubber stamped Chavez’ wishes and gave him the Bill that violates the Constitution from all angles, but the Dictator orders and the Assembly yields and yesterday Chavez could release all of the orgasmic energy contained in his authoritarian glands and name none other than Jackie F to be the new Chief of Government of the Capital District. It was indeed another joyous occasion for Chavez’ participative democracy when he violated the rights of the 722,822 voters who very clearly said in November that they wanted Antonio Ledezma to be the Mayor of the Metropolitan area of Caracas.
Of course, if simpatico Chavista candidate Aristobulo Isturiz (He got trounced by over 100,000 votes, despite an outrageously unbalanced campaign), one of the most cynical and fake politicians I have had the dishonor of meeting in my life, had obtained more votes, none of this would have taken place. Such are not the ways of Chavismo. They believe in one way democracy: Always in their direction…
And to make clear what he wanted, Chavez appointed one of the most despised and fascist female administrators of the Chavez era. Because to me, someone who found the use of the Tascon/Chaves fascist list to discriminate fellow Venezuelans, to be something completely inhuman and absolutely against all of the principles I believe in, naming Jackie F to this position is an in your face affront to the dignity of those that are against Hugo Chavez and what he stands for.
Who can forget Jackief F, the Jacqueline Faria, Minister of the Environment on national TV saying the Government knew who and where to find every single person that signed a petition to ask for a refrenedum to recall Hugo Chavez and his Presidency. And that she personally would like to change their minds.
And with her “Who Me?” attitude today, trying to avoid the responsibility that simply accepting her illegal position represents, Jackie F immediately began her own personal totalitarian fiefdom, by removing some services from the poor, just because they took people to opposition ghettos which are apparently not within her scope of interest like Baruta, El Hatillo and Petare.
And in the other fascist corner, the “People’s Defender” was too busy defending Chavez’ threats against the media to even care about what was happening to the real people, the users of those transportation units that Jackie F decided to remove in her spite for anything that smells of opposition.
Thus, the first day under her Fuhress went by and we already saw the signs of things to come. Faria is another one of those faithful servers of the autocrat, who Chavez thinks can be shifted from post to post and be of service to him, confusing the role that they should serve.
Faria was already in our list of those we will never forget if this fascist nightmare is ever over, but with her acceptance of this flagrantly illegal position, she has certainly leaped quite a few notches in the ranks of those that Venezuelans should never forget or forgive for their servile and undignified attitude towards the most basic democratic principles of Venezuela and its Constitution.
I am declaring that any criticism of judicial decisions is “subversive”, it goes against me, and I have asked the judicial system to look into how the media is trying to destabilize the country and my rule. I have also asked the judicial system to find the “intellectual” authors of the 2002 “coup”. And I want it done fast! I know who they are, I add a name to the list every day!
And it is becoming clear to me, that I may have to lead this investigation, like I did in the Manuel Rosales case, when I found the Mayor of Maracaibo guilty even before the evidence had been evaluated. Why can’t those around me do their work as well as I do them? They could not beat Ledezma in the election, but I had no trouble beating him, I simply changed the law and will name him a boss! Simple, sweet and democratic! Why do I have to do everything?
I mean, why spend so much money on Judges, Courts, Prosecutors, when I can do all of their jobs so speedily and with the impartiality of ten years of trampling the opposition the way I have. After all, if the robolution, pardon me, revolution, is eternal, why carry out any more pretenses? Shut down Globovision, jail the reporters, send the Judges home. Let the Government’s TV station VTV give us daily its narrow view of what this revolution is about: It’s about me, Hugo Chavez, staying in power forever and not allowing anyone, friend of foe to dissent. Because after all, VTV only carries the official version about the revolution, no dissenters are allowed, interviewed or presented. I mean, if they are pro-Chavez they have to agree with everything I say, if they are not, they are oligarchs from the opposition. Ask Baduel or Ismael Garcia. Serves them right!
This is a democracy because the opposition can say most of what it wants, which is not the case for the people that support me. I will not allow that!
Because Venezuela has become the world’s most democratic country, after Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe. And if any of you doubt it, just look at Globovision, where the opposition can say whatever they want. That’s democracy, just look at the poor Chavistas, they can only say what they think in aporrea, and thanks God most Chavistas have no access to Internet, so they can not read aporrea’s subversive garbage.
And imagine that, El Nacional subverting my Government and the democratically elected order of the Bolivarian Nation, claiming that gringo rice is being sold by PDVSA nationwide. Lies! All lies by the oligarchs! Only the Chinese have the ability to write on a grain of rice, and we pay thousands of Chinese to write on each grain of rice so that each one says “Hecho en Venezuela”. It costs a lot (It’s cheaper to do it there, so we use Chinese rice, which is the rice of the future), but since by now every Venezuelan in the barrios has a magnifying glass or a microscope at home, they know exactly where their rice is coming from and it is not from Clinton’s home state. We will not allow anything to subvert our revolution!
And let Globovision (Por ahora!) say what they want, but we will not allow the Chavistas masses to be told anything but our truth, pre-digested, pre-packaged and pre-evacuated by me, Hugo Chavez. And while many believe I am the King of the Pendejos, it is all media manipulation. Take for example today’s report that mighty me, Hugo Chavez, has only built an average of 38,587 housing units per year, while even incompetent Lusinchi did better than that in the terrible days of the IVth. Republic.
Lies! Al Lies! Everytime a housing unit is finished, there is an opposition crew in a Globovision van ready to destroy it! Hundreds of thousands of housing units destroyed this way. And if I can not even fight crime (I can not be in all places at once, no?), how can I stop the millions of opposition oligarchs that spend all their time destroying what we build?
And look at how we have tamed inflation. I just called the Central Bank and brought Giordani back and the guys at the Central Bank have learned how to measure things right. If Giordani has his way, we might get the CPI into negative territory by the end of the year. That’s a revolution!
And there will not be a devaluation! Over my dead Bolivarian body! If necessary, I will stop giving out dollars at Bs.2.15, but I simply refuse to devalue. No way! We can’t do that to the people. They have suffered enough in the hands of the IVth.Republic. They shall not return!
And the only thing I agree with Obama on, is the need to print money to get us out of this hole that the world crisis has gotten us into. I have ordered the Central Bank to continue its pioneering work in printing as many Bolivars as we need without control. It has worked so well, that Obama is following my footsteps, printing a gizillion US dollars.
But I will not let Obama top me. I have ordered the Central Bank to print a Yotta of Bolivars, so that I can spend them in making the “people” happy. Remember, to me, the opposition trash are not people, just trash, so I will give them nothing. Just trample them! I order you to do so!
Enough for one democratic day. I have to go write an article about our democratic process. I have to go fire some people from my Cabinet. Every time I name a civilian, they go screw it up. I thought women were different, or at least Chavista women, but then the stupid lady I named to Science and Technology could not even go buy me a good satellite. So I had to put Jesse in that position. He really confuses people. You never know if he is civilian or military, male or…well you get the picture. If he does a good job, I will put him in charge of our atomic program. That’s why I put him there, I want him to catch up on nuclear and atomic stuff and start building us something the gringoes will get scared of. I even gave him a Physics for Idiots book for his birthday, but forgot he doesn’t read English. I guess we will take longer, but nothing will stop us. If he cant’ do it, I will name Merentes, he is really good with numbers. Remember how he lost four billion dollars that year?
Anyway, enought for today, unless I feel like talking later, in which case I may be back, there are no soap operas or important games coming up later tonight. And stop calling me a Dictator. If you do, I may decide to kill you…just kidding…but the threat works, no? I may have to prohibit words that start with D, I hate them all…Democracy, Devaluation, Dictatorship…
Today is the seven year anniversary of a truly terrible and dark day in Venezuela’s modern history. As protests increased for days, Hugo Chavez began planning how to counter the protests with the military. When the peaceful march turned towards Miraflores Palace, the pro-Chavez groups were all ready. Shooting began as Chavez tried to block TV stations from showing what was happening. People started dying, first opposition marchers, after a while, people fell on both sides.
Then a series of coups began. Chavez resigned as told to the Nation by his Chief of Staff. The military did not obey Chavez’ orders or turn on “Plan Avila”, the same repressive military operation that gestated the Caracazo in 1989 and made Chavez what he was and is today. Once Chavez resigned, all groups jockeyed for position and forgot to get his resignation formalized so that he could have been tried for what he induced that day. It was a true tribute to our military, how disorganized and unplanned the whole thing was. Somehow, the dumb and dumber group of incompetent Carmona and his military friends won and tried to bypass the Constitution.
Then, General Baduel, today in jail, brought Chavez back. the story was reconstructed, the myth of US involvement was started, the truth commission was buried and the day of “the coup” was born, even if we are never told which one.
A sad history of the ability of Chavismo to manipulate and twist history. To turn Chavez’ most damning moment into a victory. His role that day was clear: he wanted to repress the march at any cost. And he did, but he has never paid for it. His meetings the days prior to the march were grotesque for a Head of State that claims to care for his people or human rights. Even the Prosecutor General, whose mandate is to defend the law was there, preparing the attack on the opposition.
Chavez’ return was also grotesque. All contrite rosary in hand, asking for forgiveness, but ready to attack again, which he is doing to this day. All to promote himself. At any cost. And he will do it again if he has to.
Hopefully, he will not be able to change history again.
(You can learn more about that day here, here or here, I don’t have the energy to go back over it beyond my brief summary of that day above. Quico gives an excellent introductory review of this day for beginners and today he has an excellent interview with the author of an upcoming book on that crisis, which tells us a lot about the evidence available for the different stories of that day. )
Everyday that goes by, the lies and the feverish imagination of Chavez and his cronies takes us to new heights in their imaginary wonderland that supposedly Venezuela has become:
(Cartoon by Weil)
And in what people still think is a democracy, the Chavez Government decided to get back by legislation what it lost in the November elections, as it approved the new Bill for the Capital District, a Bill that castrates the newly elected mayor of the Metropolitan District Antonio Ledezma. Just like that, Ledezma not only will have a boss appointed by Chávez, but the Bill also takes away his office and his budget. His office will now be occupied by the new Chief of the Capital District, who will also get most of Ledezma’s budget.
Ledezma’s budget will now be only the 10% that is transferred to him by the other Mayors of the Caracas Metropolitan area. As for his office…well, he will probably have to rent one with the meager budget left to him. All of which guarantees that he will be able to do very little for his voters, no budget, no office no responsibilities, a eunuch Mayor if I have ever seen one.
Thus, another historic Chapter in Chavez’ “participative” democracy was closed yesterday and all we have left to find out is if the new Vice-President for the Capital District will ironically be the same person that was defeated by Ledezma at the polls last November.
Thus, much like Chavez’ other actions these days, a new coup was achieved Chavez’ style. To Hell with democracy, let’s stage a Metropolitan Coup and take over what we lost at the polls by legislating appropriately, much like it was done last year with the 26 Bills that revived most of the issues rejected by the voters in the 2007 Constitutional referendum, or the February reelection referendum, or the recent decentralization Bill. Just small coup after small coup, which simply disguise the true nature of the Chavez regime.
Not that Ledezma had been allowed to exercise much of the office he was elected to in November. His office is still invaded by a bunch of Chavista thugs, who I am sure will now sheepishly leave now that Chavismo won them back in this epic battle of the fake Chavista democracy.
Which only goes to show that this battle can not be won with the ballot box or peacefully. Ledezma should have hired a couple of hundred thugs of his own and taken over his office a couple of months ago. Because clearly neither the Supreme Court nor the Government will ever return to him what is rightfully and democratically his.
Because this is no longer a democracy, because neither Chavez’ nor the Assembly’s power is limited by the law or the Constitution. They do what they want and how they want it. And it is not a matter of assigning labels to it, it is a matter that Venezuelans have had their democracy stolen and they seem to be doing very little about it.
People seem to cling to a hope that somehow Chavez will go away magically or will not go beyond where he has so far. But they are wrong. Chávez has no ethics and no scruples. he will do what he has to do to preserve his power. The only way to fight back is to forget about those democratic and legal scruples which are no longer part of this fight.
You don’t fight a Metropolitan Coup with the law, you fight it in the streets. And if you don’t, you will lose the next battle too. Whichever it may be.
Even now, Sir Allen Stanford claims that authorities are finding “billions and billions” all over the place. Watch the full video in ABC News. BTW, he claims all customers in Venezuela got their money, which is certainly not the case, as the auction requires replacing part of the capital of the bank:
The story and more video here.
There was a very strong tremor in Caracas this afternoon. It actually felt stronger than the 4.2 being reported, probaby because of its proximity to the city (offshore 10 Km. from Caracas). I was actually taking a nap and the vibration of the building woke me up, very eerie feeling waking up like that and recognizing what was happening. Here is the image of the epicenter right of the Coast and a map (The webpage of the Venezuelan Foundation for Seismological Research is down, how timely!):
Direct from the thugs mouths, Hugo Chavez (El Nacional page A-4) on the sentence of the policemen (italics are mine):
“It is not that I want someone jailed (yeah, sure), but I was in jail and accepted it (But was never sentenced to 30 years in prison for the killing over 200 people, a silly old democrat pardoned me). Each person has to assume his responsibilities (Even if I never assume any?), I think there is sufficient evidence to condemn not only the captains, but for many others that are going around freely calling for rebellion and a coup (like I did for many years)
Here in my soul I am pleased (My orders were thoroughly obeyed) Not because of the personal tragedy of some, because this is not a feeling of revenge (only want to create fear)but because justice wins (general laughter) to guarantee the peace and development of the country. (So I can stay in power forever)
I think that there is lots to be done to achieve justice on April 11th. (Yeah! We still have to try Hugo Chavez). There are many other guilty ones (Get ready!)”