Archive for September, 2009

Forrest “Jimmy” Gump Carter: Stupid is, stupid does…

September 20, 2009

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And this year’s loser award goes to Forrest “Jimmy” Gump Carter for managing to say in a single interview that:

“I am disillusioned with Hugo Chavez”

That is called being a pendejo Jimmy, you should have known better, but I guess you lusted for him in your heart…

and…

then he told us that he thinks the US knew about the 2002 “coup”. Yeah, that violent coup that overthrew Hugo Chavez, as seen in this picture:

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sorry, that image was not violent enough, here is this one

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There you are, the violent General forcing Chavez to resign. But the next one is even more grotesque:

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nothing worse than a man of the church with a machine gun pointed at a President to stage a coup.

By the way Jimmy, there is a really cool store online called Amazon, you can buy a book with you credit card (I assume you have one). Buy this book and then tells us how the US “knew” about all this.

Stupid is, stupid does…

Chavista Management at its best, some case studies

September 20, 2009

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(Painting by Oswaldo Guayasamín, late 60’s “The Macuto (The Brute)”)

Case study 1: Mision Barrio Adentro

This one comes from the horses mouth, Hugo Chavez yesterday. The President declared health services to be in an emergency state. Somehow, someone has just discovered that 2,000 of the Barrio Adentro modules that are supposed to provide primary health care in the barrios, do not have a medical doctor. It’s hard to know how many there are total, because the target was to have around 9,000 by 2009, but if the existing ones did not have a doctor, you have to wonder whether the “new” modules were actually completed. But see, according to Hugo Chavez, 2,000 modules don;t even have a medical doctor.

I would like someone to explain to me how the “showcase” program of the revolution can be short its most basic supply: Doctors. How does someone running Barrio Adentro not notice that a large percentage of the modules hailed around the world as the revolution, manned by questionable Cuban doctors, a parallel system to the existing one, does not have Doctors of all things. We are not talking gauze, or needles, we are talking about the most important part of the system: It’s Doctors.

Somehow, feeble Fidel Castro had to tell Chavez (according to the master storyteller yesterday) that something was amiss and he would send replacements soon. Apparently, nobody, absolutely nobody in Venezuela had realized it, the Cuban Doctors left and that was it, they were empty. Minister of Health? Well, he did nt even go to the Unasur meeting on the needs for the swine flu virus shots of each country, how could he have time for knowing that Barrio Adentro had become Barrio Empty?

Imagine now, if this is the state of the showcase of the robolution, what is happening at the regular health care system that Chavez tried to bypass with Barrio Adentro, the many hospitals in Venezuela where people have, for example, operations, or give birth in, the same ones that Chavez seems to acre little about. Well, 65 of those hospitals received half a billion (Yes, 500,000,000 dollars, the revolution does not fool around) in 2005 and the National Assembly opened an investigation to find out why not a single ONE of those projects has been completed. (Corruption? Nahh!!! According to Russian the Comptroller)

Case Study 2: Merida has become an island

Merida is the capital city fo the State of the same name. It is a beautiful city, in a valley in the Andes with 5,000 meter high mountains surrounding it. Chavismo has run the State for the last 9 years, but somehow, Merida has become isolated as described by Milagros Socorro in today’s El Nacional (page A11, by susbscription).

Merida has become an island 15,000 feet above sea level. Let’s see ho you can get there:

1) By plane. Well, flights from Merida’s airport have been “suspended” since mid-2008 because there was an accident and the Chavista solution was to simply suspended all flights and make you go to El Vigia airport, a smaller airstrip two hours away.

Then there are roads. To go fro Merida to Caracas, you either go towards Valera (7), via Barquisimeto, or through Barinas/Barinitas (1 and 5), as shown below, Caracas is to the Northeast (top and right):

merida

Well, there is bad news if you are in Merida. If you want to go through Valera, the Timotes bridge fell 7 months ago and the revolution has not gotten around to fixing it (Certainly not because Barrio Adentro was distracting it). The Barinitas road has been closed for almost three weeks (lots of rain, but it did rain in the horrible IVth. Republic, no?)

The solution is clear, you have to go back the other way (remember Merida is in the middle of the mountains, so this going “back” implies going down these mountains in the wrong direction). Once you have managed this, you go down towards Lake Maracaibo and you are on your way, some five to six hours added to your schedule. (As Milagros Socorro points out, you could all the way back to San Cristobal, near the border of Colombia, but that would be like going from an Francisco to New York with a stop in New Orleans)

Buy hey, maybe it is like the Barrio Adentro problem, nobody noticed the bridge fell and after all, people go from Caracas to Barinas, Chavez was born there, but who wants to go to Merida where people work hard, the weather is nice and there is one of the best universities in the country?

Case Study 3: LOE or Lee?

With all the concern about the new Education Law, someone in Government forgot to get the school buildings ready for opening last and next week. You see, apparently Minister Navarro was so busy ghostwriting the new Bill for the National Assembly and Chavez so busy getting the PSUV patrols to make sure schools opened, that some 40% of the schools facilities were not ready on time.

Surprise! The patrols had nothing to patrol, even if in most cases they did not even show up. (PSUV is looking into the latter, not the former, patrols not showing up is more serious than schools not being ready on time)

I guess that is why the revolution needs 40 years to succeed. Running a country for ten years, while controlling all powers and having an oil windfall in the middle is difficult when the few clever revolutionaries are busy turning themselves into millionaires, rather than helping out Chavez that has no clue as to what managing is all about. Thirty more years!

When ignorance takes over a country: Minister of Science Chacon and earthquakes

September 16, 2009

Last April, there was an earthquake in the early morning hours with a magnitude of 5.4 in the Richter scale. Jesse Chacon, the current Minister of Science and Technology came out and made this very public statement:

Now, I don’t know who told Chacon then about this non-existent models that predicted that in 1,000 years there would not be another earthquake of this magnitude, because the area where that quake took place has had stronger quakes every sixty years. So Mr. Chacon did not know his science, nor his history when he made that statement, because he was proven wrong ver fast last Saturday, when Caracas was shaken by a quake with magnitude 6.4 in the Richter scale, a full order of magnitude higher than the “impossible” event in 1,000 years predicted by Chacon.

But this is the man that is guiding policy in Venezuelan science these days, despite the fact that he has no knowledge or training whatsoever in science and confuses science, technology and even making modern products when he talks about what science is. This was demonstrated by his letter to Science magazine a couple of months ago, where he noted among the accomplishments of science in the revolution, the access to computers by school kids, a cell phone factory and the fact that Venezuela purchased a turnkey satellite from the Chinese.

But that has been the hallmark of the Chavez administration, he has had a bunch of Nescafe instant Ministers that he has rotated from one position to another, without these Ministers having any knowledge or training in the newly found position. Chacon has been Minister of Justice, Telecommunications, Infrastructure and Science, among others, and he has pontificated with the same style as the video above in each of them.  A year ago his topic was police systems, now its science and technology, next year it will be healthcare or who knows what. This is the hallmark of the Chavez administration: Improvisation by former military with little management experience but who walk through positions acting and talking as if they had intimate and extensive knowledge about their positions.

And in the process they do irreparable harm to whatever they do, from oil, to light and heavy industries, to science, culture, to agriculture, the track record of destruction by the Chavez revolution is truly remarkable. Minister after Minister talks about projects, future, but never about accomplishments, there are so few of them. We always hear about oil projects, never about the completion of one. We always hear about grandiose promises (Remember the Amazon pipeline, the 16 refineries with other countries and the grandiose gas and oil projects?) but we never see Chavez inaugurating any of them, because they never get completed or even started.

It is the revolution of ignorance that has taken over our poor country and Jesse Chacon is simply setting the bases so that Venezuela’ s Science and Technology system is destroyed, such that it will insure that we remain an underdeveloped country for years to come. His ignorance and arrogance is the guarantee of that.

Comptroller defends Chavez on corruption, as the Andorran corruption/terrorism accusation is covered up

September 14, 2009

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The man in charge of fighting corruption in Venezuela, Clodosblado Russian, is truly a remarkable puzzle. Which world does he live in? Today, as an example, he admitted, I think for the first time, that there is corruption in Venezuela, but he then proceeded to ruin it by saying that President Chavez was his greatest ally in fighting corruption. According to this man who has earned the nickname “Ruffian”, which is one of the few puns which is bilingual, Chavez has “expressed himself strongly against this scourge”.

It was, without any doubt, the wrong statement to make by the Head of an independent power about the Head of the Government that he is supposed to supervise to prevent corruption and which an Andorran Court has just frozen accounts in the thousands of millions of dollars belonging to “leading officials of the Venezuelan Government, military officers of that country and…relatives who are more or less close to the Venezuelan leader

Thus, the Comptroller should not only be distancing himself from the Venezuelan Dictator, but should be holding a press conference to announce that he is opening an investigation on who are these people, how much did they have in the Andorran accounts and where the hell they got the billions of dollars in them. And the first thing he should do, is to contact Andorran authorities to obtain all of the relevant information.

Instead, the Comptroller, the same one that never investigated the Maletagate affair, despite the clear involvement of Ministers and Venezuelan officials in it, gives Chavez a blanket endorsement. Clearly, Ruffian is simply part of the local cover up of the accusation, much like in all of the other previous scandals for which he never opened any investigation.

And in this bizarre country, the Venezuelan National Assembly goes into a higher plane of bizarro overdrive and rather than asking who has the money in Andorra, where it came from and its origin, opens an investigation into why the accounts were frozen?

You got to be kidding me!!!

Because that is the only thing that is actually clear in the report in either the Andorran paper or the Miami Herald: They were frozen because there are suspicions that these accounts are linked to the financing of terrorist activities.  Moreover among the groups that may have benefited from this financing are none other than the FARC, Hizbul·là, Hamàs, al-Qaeda and ETA, among others.

What is not clear about that accusation to our esteemed National Assembly?

So, why not ask the right questions: Who owned the accounts? Where did they get the “thousands of millions of dollars”? Who are the relatives of Chavez involved? Who are the important members of Chavez’  Government involved? How about the military Officers? Those would be the correct questions to ask, but clearly the Assembly is simply taking part in the same cover up, much like what it happened in the Maletagate case, where nothing, absolutely nothing has been investigated by the Assembly, the Comptroller and/or the Prosecutors’ office.

Think of it, in what other country is there such an explosive accusation of a foreign Court issuing such an order without even a denial from the Government. Or even a simple response.

But there has been nothing. Absolute silence. After all, what’s a couple of billion dollars for a country like Venezuela? Chavez just got a US$ 2.2 billion loan from Russia to buy 92 tanks or something nutty like that.This in a country without hospitals, with decaying infrastructure, malnutrition, homeless people and poverty.

Can it get more bizarre than this?

Venezuela’s tangled financial and nuclear relations with Iran

September 13, 2009

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Chavez came back and he is clearly noticing the criticism of the high expenses of his trip as he spent time defending why these trips are expensive and why they are needed. He never explained why he needs luxurious accommodations, 50 bodyguards or three jet planes to follow him. He also used the reverse logic that he had hoped he did not have to buy weapons, but the US Empire forces him to, as if the weapons he acquired were comparable to what the US has or as if they were designed to defend Venezuela from the US.

Separately, there were a lot of news about Venezuela and Iran and a sort of mixture of news on Venezuela’s nuclear program with Iran. The financial aspects are covered in the widely disseminated Margenthau report and the nuclear aspects by announcements made during Chavez’s trips. To me it is clear that one should separate the two. To begin with Chavez never misses an opportunity to talk about the nuclear program, while the Iranian bank was hailed as an idea only when it was created as a local development bank. Since then, little is said about it and little is known about it. One is a show, the other has a real purpose.

In any collaboration like the Iran-Venezuela collaboration, programs are either done altruistically or they are done because each side will benefit somehow from it. In the financial cooperation between the two countries, it is clear that given the restriction against Iran in the Western banking system, using Venezuela’s State banks as a conduit for transactions which would be banned otherwise is desirable to Iran. What Venezuela gains from that is first of all goodwill with a country that Chavez wants to be close to, but more importantly, there will be charges (and commissions I am sure!) to Iran for channeling money via Venezuela’s banks or even the Government to the US or elsewhere.

If one looks at the financial statements of the Iranian local bank, it is a tiny operation in Venezuela, but one does not know what other operations are handled in, for example, foreign currency, which are not registered locally. Banco Industrial de Venezuela, a fully owned bank of the Venezuelan Government could, for example, be used by the Iranian bank, given that Banco Industrial has offices in New York and Miami, where transactions and payments could be channeled under the guise of being done for Venezuelan companies or even for the Government.

Thus, there are reasons while both countries might want to do it and the financial cooperation is more than just a show.

But in the short or even medium term, I can not take Chavez’ nuclear program very seriously, beyond the exhibitionist aspects of it. There are all sorts of stories that hang around about Uranium exploration and the like, but I just don’t believe it. I don’t think Iran needs Venezuela’s uranium The same way that I do not see any connection between Iran’s nuclear program and Venezuela’s. In fact, it was interesting to hear Chavez talk today about his “peaceful nuclear energy cooperation” with Russia. For the very simple reason that these are the types of agreements that are talk and no action. And so far, that is all they have been. (Funny that Chavez says “we are going to start developing nuclear science”, in the context of modern Venezuela, that was one of the first fields of science to be developed in the 50′ and 60’s. Venezuela owned a small research nuclear reactor the RV-1 built by GE, it shut down and then became obsolete)

To do anything in the nuclear field, you need people and very simply, Venezuela does not have them. It would take years for Venezuela to put together a group of nuclear scientists to perform a small project whether peaceful or not. Unfortunately, educating high level people like that has not been and is not a priority right now and there is no local talent available to even begin doing it locally. The Venezuelan science establishment is getting old and in nuclear physics in particular, the people I know of are mostly retired or in the process of retiring and there are few people coming up below them.

The reasons are multiple, but they go from lack of opportunities,to lack of funding, to better opportunties abroad, to lack of scholarships, to the fact that it was never a terribly important field in Venezuela despite there being a small nuclear reactor (today dismantled) at IVIC.

For the Iranians, this is no big opportunity. They have no equipment to sell and I am sure they have no people to spare in their own nuclear program given how ambitious it is and the pressure to obtain results. The number of Iranians with advanced degrees in Physics are large compared to Venezuela’s, but they can’t be spared.

So to me, this is part of the Chavez show, he knows that using the word nuclear scares others, while it helps his revolutionary aura in Latin America. But a Government that can’t even build homes, or roads, or maintain hospitals, is far from being capable of carrying out a significant nuclear project for a few years.

The only thing that would change my mind on this was to learn that the country was importing huge numbers of experts from other countries for such a project. But even in this case, you would require a team of local experts to coordinate, plan and supervise and even the existence of such a team would require a level of planning and perseverance that has not been the hallmark of Chavismo management.

Thus, follow the Iranian money through Venezuela, but forget about Venezuela’s possible nuclear capabilities unless a large and dedicated human resources program is undertaken by the Chavez administration. As far as I can tell, this does not even exist.

Andorran banks freeze accounts of people close to Chavez, including relatives

September 10, 2009

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In another revolutionary milestone, Andorran authorities have frozen the bank accounts of people close to the President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez, including “relatives fairly close to the Venezuelan President” according to the Miami Herald. The action is apparently done at the request of the US Government which tied the Andorran accounts to thousands of millions dollars of “dubious origin and possible links to the financing of terrorism”. According to the Miami Herald report, the accounts have a double link to possible fraudulent activities, first they belong to Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) plus they belong to the close circle of power of the Venezuelan President and they may be linked to terrorism.

Apparently many of these accounts were opened with the aid of “members of the Bolivarian elite, businessmen who with the aid of Hugo Chavez have obtained Government contracts which are not very orthodox”.

Of Course, the fanatics and cheerleaders of the revolution will ignore these signs of corruption (thousands of millions of dollars belonging to the people of Venezuela! Explain that Oliver!), much like the obviated Maletagate, the acquisition of companies by people who ten years ago did not have much money and the freezing of the accounts of the Generals in charge of the military and civilian intelligence services for complicity in drug trafficking.

Hugo Chavez’ show must go on!

September 8, 2009

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So, I went away for four days for a family event and not much changed in that time, as expected. Chavez is still traveling as the country falls apart. He feels no need to be here, as power failures not only occur, but repeat many times a week. And while we have shortages of corn, Chavez offers Syria some of our own, and while we import gasoline, Chavez offers Iran some of that too. He is such a generous guy!

But we all know that this is not generosity, this is much like what is going in Venice, part of the show, the same tragicomedy Venezuelans have been watching for years. We have all heard about employment programs, housing programs, food self-sufficiency, lower inflation and our hate for the US. But underemployment keeps increasing, the housing programs have been a failure, food production has gone down, inflation has become “structural” and we keep exporting oil to our enemies. Simply put, the revolution is just another show, what is important is to say that we will export corn to Syria and gasoline to Iran, the rest, is simply immaterial and will all be forgotten.The show must go on!

Forgotten like all of the other promises of the revolution, the shutdown of TV and radio stations, the murder of protesters, the firing of 20,000 oil workers. Forgotten like the thousands that die murdered just because Chavez could care less about crime and the like. Or like the fact that Chavez has been in power for more than ten years, so that using the excuse that something is “structural” should no longer have any validity.

But nobody asks if Oliver Stone got paid by Chavez to make the documentary about him (or Chomsky’s trip for that matter) or whether the three jets and fifty bodyguards that follow Chavez around can be justified in a country with such high poverty levels. (But heck, we pay for Zelaya’s jet, why not Chavez’?)

Unfortunately for us, people just don’t pay attention to detail and Chavez and his cronies everywhere know how to manipulate the media and the revolutionary spirit of the ignorant. It is very romantic to hear that Chavez will replicate Iran’s nuclear efforts in Venezuela. We will just wonder who they will do it with? Will they revive Argentina’s effort under Richter who promised Peron “bottled nuclear energy” Or will we begin importing Iranians and North Korean’s to satsify Chavez’s ego?

And since those that know about oil are not interested in our heavy crude fields, we give them away to country’s as clueless in oil as we are nuclear energy, like Belarus or Vietnam, so they can get their training wheels in Venezuela, just when we will be needing more oil production to survive.

But this is not about survival, this is about the show. The show, the Hugo Chavez show, must simply go on! At any cost! So, I may go away for four days or four months, but nothing will have changed. All older projects and announcements are forgotten both by Chavez and his cheerleaders. It is the new announcements that matter, whether they are made in Teheran, Damascus, Venice or Caracas. And these in turn will be forgotten when new announcements are made later, in order to create a new show.

As Hugo Chavez told his Minister of Finance long time ago, it does not matter if there is money or not, if it gets done or not. Chavze lives for these annuncements. He only lives for the show.

And the show must go on!

Some pictures from Saturday’s peaceful march

September 8, 2009

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And Karl Marx (the 3d. ?) sends his pictures from Saturday’s march which was fortunately peaceful.

Vancouver No mas Chavez

September 5, 2009

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B. Could not find a No mas Chavez protest in Seattle, so off he went to Vancouver. Thanks!

No más Chávez and no more repression

September 3, 2009

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Unfortunately I will be traveling this weekend to the wedding of a close relative on Saturday. I will be flying and changing planes on Friday which will not allow me to to participate in any of the many No mas Chavez demonstrations around the world. Obviously, on Saturday I will be far from Caracas so I will not attend the local march to protest the way the Chavez Government has tried to intimidate and criminalize protests in Venezuela.

While I hope that the Government does not repress the march, recent events do not make me very optimistic, particularly on Saturday. Chavismo has once again called for parallel demonstrations, which I am sure will be there to distract and confront.

I should have access to computers and email, so that if anyone has pictures of demonstrations from tomorrow anywhere in the world, I will be more than delighted to put them up. Just tell me in what city the demonstration took place. (Send to devilexcrement@gmail.com)

I guess my new gas mask will have to wait…

(It has become a boring topic, but 40% of Venezuela lost electric power today, a common occurrence these days. due to a problem at the Tacoa Plant. Of course, the spin doctors are already out suggesting it was opposition sabotage and the matter should be investigated)

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