Archive for January, 2012

Chavez Applies His Destructive Expertise to Agriculture, With Banks As a Side Benefit

January 30, 2012

Daniel wrote an excellent post on why Hugo was simply speaking for the gallery yesterday when he threatened to nationalize banks if they do not comply with the required credit quota for agricultural loans. The punchline is the most important part, Chavez is simply lying, private banks are indeed complying with the quotas, it is the public banks that actually fail to do so, but, of course Chavez does not even suggest he may sell his banks to the private sector.

But it is even worse, Chavez plans to make it obligatory for banks to transfer their agricultural credit portfolio to a fund managed by the Government. Read: credits given out with depositors money will be moved so that they are “controlled” and “managed” by the revolutionary Government, who has shown little ability to control and manage anything. But think about it, if the Government does not ever return the money, the amount “owed” is comparable to all of the banks capital, about US$ 9 billion. You get the picture, no?

What Chavez is actually doing with his lying, is just passing the buck, trying to blame the private sector for the failure of his thirteen years of trying to change Venezuela’s agriculture through idiotic policies. And as if to prove it, Hugo Chavez in the same episode of his variety program Alo Presidente, happened to remove his Minister for Agriculture, reportedly for medical reasons. Even if we give Chavez the benefit of the doubt, we suspect he was mad at Minister Loyo for one reason or another. Chavez’ solution to the problem is even worse: He named his Vice-President Elias Jaua as temporary Minister of Agriculture, as if he did not have anything to do.

This is incredibly stupid, when Chavez already announced a week ago that Jaua will leave the Cabinet in June, to run for Governor of Miranda. When agricultural policy is in such disarray, you want someone that knows his stuff and will be able to be around for quite a while and shape it up. But Jaua will not be. That is simply bad management.

Which raises another question: Why can’t Chavez let the Vice-Minister take the position? Why can’t Chavez even come up with a single name to replace Loyo? Is the revolution so short of “qualified” people?

And we suspect the answer is : Yes it is. The revolution lacks experts who are not fully loyal, rojo rojito inside out, that Chavez can trust. That is why the Cabinet has become such a revolving door of the same incompetent personalities, asked to solve all of the problems. Jaua is after all, a sociologist, who became Ambassador, who became Minister of Agriculture and then Vice-President. And he has not held that many positions so far.

But Chavez moves on using his best Terminator style, trampling over everything and lying to “the people” he claims to love, but cheats at every step. Ready to nationalize the banking system to satisfy his predatory insecurities, no matter what the cost and inefficiencies and using the people’s money.

Hugo is simply clueless, but so far, he is the President, the terminator President, who destroys everything in his path, just because…

Agriculture is just one of his areas of destructive expertise.

A View Of The New Venezuelan Primary Field: From Six To Two, If Not Just One

January 28, 2012

I apologize for being absent since Monday, but things got complicated after the debate on Monday, stopping me from blogging until now. Not that I did not want to. After Leopoldo Lopez’ withdrawal and endorsement of Henrique Capriles, I actually had to, but perhaps it was better this way, as I was able to be surprised by the diverse reactions to the political maneuver, many of which were surprisingly negative.

I found Lopez’ decision to be a good political move, typical of a primary process. Lopez had clearly not gained much in the polls since joining the race, in fact some polls suggest he had lost ground and politically it was risky for him personally to perform badly, obtaining even less than ten percent of the vote. There is no question that Lopez’ legal case remains an anvil hanging from his neck. Too many people that I talked to believed it too risky for him to run and win, only to be banned from taking office. I have always disagreed with this, believing that a victory by Lopez in the Presidential race guaranteed that he would take office. Nevertheless, this fairly widespread belief, combined with Lopez’ poor campaigning in the initial stages of the race, simply did not allow him to gain ground.

Lopez could have simply stayed out, rather than join Capriles. This is something that some Lopez supporters find infuriating, they somehow find it insulting that Lopez can think that their votes can simply be endorsed to Capriles on Lopez’ say so. Of course they can’t, but that is what primaries are all about. Lopez wanted to make a statement and stay visible, but Lopez also needed a lifeline for his Voluntad Popular party, which requires funding for its candidates in the regional race and for its nationwide network. Lopez’ withdrawal would make it hard to have a continuos flow of funding that would surely go to the other candidates in the race. The move guarantees this funding.

And while it is clear after listening to so many people gripe about the endorsement that not all of Lopez’ votes will go to Capriles, it is also clear in my mind that a good fraction of them will, which added to the apparent strong support for Capriles, should push him over the very magic, and desirable, fifty percent number and seal the fate of the election.

And in that, the move is politically masterful. Two, new generation, persecuted politicians, have put the nail in the coffin of the Cuarta Republica, represented by the traditional political parties and politicians that back Un Nuevo Tiempo’s candidate Pablo Perez. Not that these parties will go away, but a loss by Perez in February, will do away with some of the encroached traditional politicians used to manipulating everything in smoke filled rooms.

In that sense, the move is not only brilliant, but if it works, it will be historical and will become when the sixth or a potential sixth, killed the fourth.

And clearly, if Leopoldo was going to support someone, it had to be Capriles, he could not back any of the others, including Maria Corina Machado, who so far has shown less progress in gaining support than Lopez, even if we don’t have any numbers after her “To Expropriate is to rob” statement. And even if she did, she still does not have a national structure to get out the vote on primary day.

Which is in a sense, Lopez’ biggest contribution to the Capriles campaign: combining both structures to insure that Pablo Perez does not win simply because Un Nuevo Tiempo and Accion Democratica managed to use their political machinery to get out of the vote. And Lopez’ Voluntad Popular has even a far wider presence (in geographical extension, not in size) than Capriles’ around the country, which in my opinion reinforces Primero Justicia’s well and contains the possibility of a Pablo Perez surprise.

Hopefully, the resentment over the move will be forgotten by the time February 12th. comes around and the other parties remain united in the Presidential race.

As to the possibility that Maria Corina Machado will mount a surprising and last minute surge, I just don’t buy it. That is simply wishful think by people who live in Caracas and who in their hearts have always viewed MCM with sympathy, but felt that she had no chance until she started confronting Chavez. I did  not see any evidence that this has changed, even if some tried to change my mind on the subject.

To me, primaries have done their job at this stage. Clearly, given the negative reactions to the news of Lopez’ endorsement of Capriles, people still have to experience a few primaries to understand why the dynamics help promote and decant the candidates, while giving them additional exposure. With Lopez’ withdrawal the field narrows and in my opinion, it just went from six to two, if not just one.

The Devil Live At The Globovision Debate, But Technology Did Not Cooperate

January 23, 2012

Thanks to Leopoldo Lopez campaign group, who thought blog coverage of the debate would be useful and thanks to Daniel including me in the plan, I was able to be at the Globovision debate tonight live. Unfortunately, Digitel failed to cooperate and the organizers failed to provide the required technology, despite the fact that at the Universidad Metropolitana, where the debate took place, there were plenty of wi-fi networks available.

The debate was structured around questions and then candidates could come back and say how they disagreed with answers or how they would do things differently. It would be meaningless for me to do a blow by blow of the debate, even if I do have the notes. Instead, I will give a summary of how I saw it and will comment at the end on Leopoldo Lopez’ hinting that he and Capriles will be joining forces.

First, the biggest loser in my mind was Pablo Perez. The Zulia Governor was certainly not very impressive, with meandering arguments and very general, vapor filled arguments that meant very little. He may have the party machinery, he may have the funding, but he was absolutely unimpressive, so much so, that Pablo Medina looked his equal and I don’t even plan to talk about what Medina said or did not say.

The most impressive, edging Leopoldo Lopez, was Maria Corina Machado. She had many arguments and specifics that I appreciated. While I don’t buy the “Capitalismo Popular” simplicity, she did show that she understands the economics and the vision of what is necessary to make a country click. I particularly liked how she affirmed that as President she would have the tools needed to rescue the judicial system from the Chavistas. She did not answer the last question properly, the moderator asked each candidate to say what they would say at the end of their term, while she said all the things she would do. But then she mentioned in that list, returning expropriated properties to their rightful owners, kicking Cuban military out of the country, freeing political prisoners and eliminating cadenas. Wrong answer to the question, but good answers. The lack of a nationwide structure will stop her from doing well, but she has certainly been impressive the last few weeks.

Diego Arria was consistent in his program and what he has said all along, that he only wants three years, that a Constituent Assembly is needed and this is not  a “normal” situation. He has done a good job in making his points and he will not go much beyond here, but he ran to make these points. Kudos to him for being the only one to differentiate the problem of the rural worker from those of the city worker.

I just did not like Henrique Capriles. He was vague. I did not get a felling he has vision or understanding of what makes a country grow and work. He is the front runner, but maybe I don’t get him for the same reasons I don’t get Chavismo, I just don’t know what he is about. He can tell me many times what he did in Miranda. But being President is more than about servicing people and solving current problems, you have to look way down the line, He did not mention one concrete or semi-concrete proposal to that effect.

To me Leopoldo Lopez was second to Maria Corina. I would have liked his summary question to have more punch, even if his answer was the most realistic, saying that he had partially solved problems in six years in office. But overall, he showed that he understands economic terms as well as Maria Corina, the two candidates that showed some economic and visionary concepts (Diego Arria did not even try to go there). I also like Lopez’ emphasis on making things in Venezuela, so as to eventually become an exporting country.

Leopoldo did throw a curveball at the end by suggesting that he and Henrique Capriles would somehow join forces in ways  yet to be announced. We will have to wait and see what the announcement is. Clearly, if Lopez is not going to do well, it makes sense to withdraw. And if he gives his support for Capriles, he will not only be showing his inclination for supporting unity, but also that he is willing to sacrifice in a classy way to make something happen. He has to be given credit for that. Even if he just withdraws, giving up for the common good is uncommon in Venezuelan politics. This is not a moment for selfish politics, too much is at stake.

A very interesting experience, Daniel was able to tweet live, even if I could not blog, but cool to feel the politics up close. I will tell you who I will vote for before the primary, but no matter who wins now, I will vote in October for the opposition candidate.

You Know Crime Is A Problem In Venezuela when You Can Buy An Anti-Kalashnikov Door For Your Home

January 23, 2012

I was a little shocked by this ad in yesterday’s El Universal of a company touting a door for your home that is claimed to be “Anti-Kalashnikov”. When companies play with peoples’ fears this way, you know we have a very serious crime problem. (I mean, can’t they open a hole through the wall next to the door with the same rifle?). I understand most armored cars in Caracas can not stop the bullets of an AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle, but if you are worried, you can shield your home from them now.

Another sign of progress brought to you by the Bolivarian revolution.

Thanks Hugo, we really needed that factory!

If The Revolution Can’t Do Something, It Just “Substitutes” Words To Make It Happen

January 22, 2012

The ability to lie and twist is legendary for the Chavista revolution. From illiteracy to oil production, facts are changed, twisted and  massaged in order to fit what Chavez and the Government want to say they achieved, even if complete lies have to be said.

The latest is the new euphemism the Government has found for what constitutes building a new home. Given that the country’s problem is the shortage of housing, estimated at over 2.5 million housing units, a new home should be a newly built unit, until Chavez decided he wanted to build 150,000 housing units in 2011.

It was an impossible task from a Government that has never built more than 80,000 housing units in one year and given the fact that his “Mision Vivienda” was announced in April. But by the end of the year Chavez was talking about completing 94% of the goal and the year ended with an official number of 146,714 units built by the Government.

The number has been repeated so many times, that it has become the truth, even if nobody believes it. But this week, Minister of Oil and Energy Rafael Ramirez explained the “miracle”, Chavismo simply changed the definition. How? It now includes among new housing units built all rancho (shacks)”substitutions”.And it says that a whopping 45% of all the “new” units, were actually “substitutions”.

From what I have been able to understand, a “substitution” is the definition for a rancho (the type of elementary housing you see in the hills of Caracas) that has been upgraded in the materials that are used in its construction. Which means we have no idea what it really means.

Which also implies that we have no clue what it really meant when the Government claims to have built only 80, 692 new housing units, its best number in thirteen years, but still above other estimates.

So, maybe next time you drive by a barrio, look up and if you see a freshly painted rancho, you are seeing one such “substitution”. Not much change beyond that.

Another way of hiding the revolutions inability to do anything, just change the definition and the goal has been accomplished and Chavez is certainly pleased.

As it should be.

Maria Corina Machado Sticks Her Finger Into Hugo’s Eye…Again

January 18, 2012

Well, Maria Corina Machado was not content with her good performance on Friday and comes back to stick her finger in Hugo Chavez’ eyes with this wonderful, clear and succinct statement of why it is a “grave political error, a show of the lack of respect for Venezuela’s Armed Forces and a provocation” on Chavez’ part to name General Rangel Silva Minister of Defense.

Maria Corina then lists her very clear objections:

-General Rangel Silva’s administrative performance in previous positions has been put into question.

-There have been accusations and indications internationally about presumed links between irregular groups, this has to be cleared up.

-As a Venezuelan it is unacceptable, it is a mockery to the people of Venezuela for a General to say that he does not plan to recognize the will of the majority by their votes in the most important elections of the country’s history.

What will Hugo say this time: You have called me a provocateur!

To which she could answer, No Mr. President in this case, I am the provocateur!

Chavez’s Non-Endorsement of Diosdado Cabello

January 17, 2012

During Chavez’ last State of the Union address, I heard him say that he was not in favor of Diosdado Cabello becoming Head of the National Assembly, that he favored Soto Rojas for a second year in the Assembly’s Presidency, but that “discussions” led to Diosdado being named.

Say what?

Is that a Freudian slip, a parapraxis, a manifestation that Hugo is no longer Hugo?

Isn’t he the all powerful, all-mighty, who decides even whether there will be a devaluation? (Yes, there wasn’t one, but it was recommended)

So, Hugo, can you tell us who supported Diosdado? Was it the same people that supported Rangel Silva? Clearly you and the Cubans lost, but can you tell us something more? What is going in Chavismo when the anti-Cuban, pro-business, pro-shady deals faction wins?

Pleeeeeeease!!!

Another Lie, Another Cynical Day For PDVSA’s President Rafael Ramirez

January 15, 2012

Today the direct, straight lie, like Chavez feeling offended by having MCM calling him a “thief”, which he is, comes from the Minister of Energy and Oil, Rafael Ramirez:

With a straight face, only a Bible missing from the scene, Ramirez tells us:

In the new projects of PDVSA with foreign companies, in none of them we will never establish that we will renounce our sovereignty. International arbitration does not exist in any of these new projects”

Funny, that he only mentions “companies”, because when it comes to countries, Chavez and Ramirez seem to have no problem in selling the heart, the soul and that same sovereignty of the country, as shown by the Devil himself a while back.

Indeed, in the contract between Bandes, the Chinese Oil Company, PDVSA (yes, the company Ramirez happens to be President of) and the China Development Bank whereby China lends Venezuela a gizillion dollars, guaranteed by barrels of oil sent by PDVSA. (Ramirez does not sign the contract, Asdrubal Chavez does it)

View this document on Scribd

In page 6, it clearly states in point 10:

“10.
DISPUTE RESOLUTION
All disputes, controversies or claims arising out of or in relation to this Agreement,including the validity, invalidity, breach or termination thereof, shall be settled exclusively by arbitration in accordance with the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (“Rules”) in effect atthe time of the arbitration, except as such Rules may be modified herein or by mutualagreement of the parties:
10.1.1
the arbitration shall be administered by the Singapore International ArbitrationCentre (“SIAC”) in accordance with its practice rules and regulations;
10.1.2
the place of arbitration shall be Singapore;
10.1.3
the language of the arbitration shall be English;
10.1.4
the number of arbitrators shall be three (3) to be appointed as follows;
(A)
the claimant shall appoint one (1) arbitrator in the request for arbitration.If there is more than one (1) claimant, all claimants shall jointly appointone (1) arbitrator in their request for arbitration. If they cannot agree ontheir choice of arbitrator, any claimant may request the SIAC in writingto appoint the arbitrator for them and the SIAC shall appoint thearbitrator for them as soon as practicable following receipt of suchrequest;(B)
the respondent shall appoint one (1) arbitrator within thirty (30) days following the service of the request for arbitration upon the respondent.If there is more than one respondent, all respondents shall jointly appoint one (1) arbitrator within thirty (30) days following the service of the request for arbitration upon the respondents. If at the end of the 30-day period the second arbitrator has not been appointed, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the SIAC shall appoint the second arbitrator as soon as practicable.
10.1.5
the two (2) arbitrators thus appointed shall choose the third arbitrator who will act
as the presiding arbitrator of the tribunal. If within thirty (30) days of theappointment of the second arbitrator, the two (2) appointed arbitrators fail toappoint the presiding arbitrator, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman of the SIACshall appoint the presiding arbitrator.10.1.6
the arbitral award shall be in writing and shall be final and binding on the Parties.The award may include an award of costs, including reasonable attorney’s feesand disbursements. Judgment upon the award may be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof or having jurisdiction over party against which the award is entered or its assets;
10.1.7
during arbitration, all the Parties shall continue to fulfill their respectiveobligations under this Agreement and the other Transaction Documents; and
10.1.8
the Parties agree to waive, for purposes of arbitration pursuant to this Clause 10(Dispute Resolution), any right of application to determine a preliminary point of law or appeal to any court of law on a point of law which may be available to it under any applicable law.

 

So much for “sovereignty”, so much for “never again”, it is the usual gray line, these guys give away sovereignty, the Republic and whatever is needed for their political means,  whenever it is needed. They are cynics, they are liars and they do it all with a straight face.
Or, is Singapore in Venezuela? Not that I know of.
That is how cynical and liars these guys are. Just like their boss.

The Turning Point in Chavez’ State of the Union: “Mr President, to Exproriate is To Steal”

January 13, 2012

A priceless moment. When Maria Corina Machado called Hugo a thief, the tone of the State of the Union simply changed. Chavez became very serious and has yet to change his composure.

(P.S. Chavez’ current UN Ambassador called him an “assassin”, go figure!)

The Fantasy World of Hugo Chavez And the Story of the Expelled Miami Consul

January 12, 2012

Hugo Chavez has a mind of his own. He goes on TV and tells lies and stories just as if they were facts, sometimes lying about things a President should not even know about. Case in point is housing, Hugo needed housing built for his Mision Vivienda, in the absence of sufficient housing units built, he started making up numbers, claiming by the end of 2011 that 92% of the 150,000 promised housing units had been built. Experts do not even believe half of that was built as the program did not even begin until April.

But his ability to spew out high quality BS was clear when talking about the Miami consul Livia Acosta, who was expelled from the US after being taped by Spanish broadcaster Univision plotting with Cuban and Iranian buddies to cyber attack US nuclear power plants.

Chavez publicly confirmed the expulsion, but then went into imaginary overdrive, saying that Venezuelan intelligence sources new the action was coming and thus Mrs. Acosta left the US in Dec. 15th. and was already in Venezuela.

Except that…

Mrs. Acosta herself in a radio program said this week that she was in Miami on January 9th. when the expulsion order came through and immediately left the country, contradicting Chavez’ imaginary tale of Venezuelan intelligence being ahead of the game.

In fact, it appears that this was more of a problem of lack of communication within Chavez’ Government (Surprise, surprise!) Reportedly, the US Government had informed Foreign Minister Maduro of the upcoming broadcast and revelations to allow the Venezuelan Government to withdraw Acosta quietly. Except that Maduro not only decided not to remove her from her post, but failed to inform the boss.

Meanwhile Mrs. Acosta (shown above) is back in Caracas after her meteoric rise in Venezuela’s diplomatic circles. She went from being a member of Chavez’ Bolivarian Circles, to being trained as an intelligence office in Cuba, to being a member of Venezuela’s intelligence service SEBIN (where apparently anyone can check if they have your ID number if you are an employee of the country’s intelligence service!!)  to Consul in Miami in eight years.

Only in the revolution…

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