Archive for August, 2012

Venezuelan Governmentt Spins On Amuay Disaster, Evidence Mounts Of Insufficient Maintenance

August 30, 2012

Although the Government is trying to convince Venezuelans that the Amuay disaster is something normal and has little to do with bad management or bad maintenance, evidence seems to show the opposite and is mounting fast. The leak of the report by the refinery’s underwriter is quite damming, it makes for great reading for geeky types. (Yes, like me!)

I will not bore you with the details, but I will note that the report says on page 8, that while US$1 billion was budgeted for maintenance, only US$314 million was actually spent. Less than US$ 2 billion was spent in the last four years. So, when Asdrubal Chavez boasts that US$ 4 billion were spent on maintenance in the same period, he clearly is talking about how much was budgeted, not spent (Aren’t you glad he is in charge of he electric network now? Just kidding!)

Part of the problem is that Bariven, the PDVSA affiliate in charge of imports, is now in charge of all the food imports of PDVAL, thus it’s just in time ability of yesteryear is no longer there. The result, even if maintenance needs to be done, there are no materials for it. Somewhere else in the report i t says that materials procurement now takes 60 weeks. Yes, over one year for imported materials and only, yes only 30 weeks for local materials. Sounds like a dysfunctional company to me.

The report also says that the target of PDVSA was to have 80% of the maintenance be preventive and 20% corrective. However, the report concludes that it ended up being 69% corrective, 31% preventive.

The report says that major maintenance suffers delays of one to two years, while routine maintenance had a low in 2009, it has no evidence that this was corrected, other than it was “reported” to management, which probably was out campaigning.

These people should be fired!

The report says that fire pump testing has not been performed yearly as required (page 14) and describes fires and explosions that are anything but “normal”

But Chavistas seem now convince that the sinking of the Adan Pearl is “normal”, that the Cavim weapon factory exploding is “normal”, that Conviasa’s six accidents in four years are “normal”, that half a billion dollars stolen from PDVSA’s pension funds is “normal”, or $800,000 in bills in  suitcase is also “normal” and that daily blackouts all over the country are “normal”.

What is not “normal” is how this people think a country should be run.

Another Chavez “Cadena” Rudely Interrupted

August 28, 2012

So Chavez in Amuay was going on and on about the Fatherland and the Motherland. About the he Doctors and the She Doctors. About the he nurses and the she nurses, when all of a sudden:

his nationwide TV address was interrupted by VTV.

Are we watching these “cadenas” live? Or are they inserting a delay just in case? What happened? Why the rude interruption?

Another Terrible Tragedy Due To Chavista Mismanagement

August 26, 2012

During the last two weeks, there have been three events in Venezuela which demonstrate the basic incompetence of the Chavez Government. First, the Cupira bridge fell down, despite earlier warnings that it needed maintenance. Then, there was yet another tragedy at a Venezuelan jail, this time the Yare prison, which left 20 people dead. Finally, in the early hours of Saturday, an explosion rocked the Amuay refinery in Falcon State, leaving at least 39 dead and 89 injured.

The Government has tried to evade responsibility in all three cases. Without an investigation, the Head of the refinery complex was already saying that deferred maintenance had nothing to do with the worst accident in PDVSA’s history. A temerary statement to say the least. There may be no record of maintenance for Cupira, there is not even an annual report for the newly created Ministry of Prisons, but PDVSA’s Memoria y Cuenta, which you can find here, tells the full story of delayed maintenance and increased accidents and shut downs.

As an example, the Paraguana Refinery Complex is composed of Amuay and Cardon. According to the Memoir, Amuay was supposed to be shutdown nine times in 2011 (page 371):

But seven of them were postponed until 2012 for lack of parts. Thus, not only there was no maintenance, but there was no planning for it either, as the parts and materials necessary were not purchased ahead of time.

Cardon is even worse, there were thirteen scheduled stops for maintenance:

ALL OF THEM were postponed for 2012. That is not what maintenance is supposed to be about. It is the tragedy of Chavista mismanagement.

In fact, if we go back to Amuay and look at the ten plants it is composed of, these are the days of programmed (42 days) and un-programmed (639 days or 64 per plant on average)

What this shows is the failure of the Chavista model. You can’t fire 20,000 people because you disagree with them. You can’t hire people on the basis of loyalty. You can’t have someone be The Minister of Energy and Oil and the President of PDVSA and Head political honcho at PSUV and have him be at all of Chavez’ speeches and rallies and hope that PDVSA and/or the Ministry will run well. You can’t give away ambulances to Bolivia and not have any near one of biggest industrial complexes where they may be needed. You cant’ have all your Ministers involved with the day to day of the Presidential campaign. And so on.

In fact, you can’t put politics and ideology above all. The sad truth is that all of the political leaders of Chavsimo have been involved in the last two months with the campaign and nothing else. The Ministers are all at political meetings and get involved with he most detailed planning. Nothing is being done to run the country. Announcements are made that are only meant to gain votes, but decisions are being postponed until after the election. A campaign they can fund, micro-manage and over manage. A country? Sorry, that is not the priority.

Meanwhile the strategy is deny and minimize, while the outgoing-Presidente-saliente either can’t appear on camera live or has been advised not to do so.

It would seem irrational for the voters not to react to all this. A horrible tragedy has developed in front of their eyes and the same man who claims to “love” the people and appears on TV for the most trivial events is still in hiding. The country is falling apart, piece by piece due to Chavista mismanagement, but it is nobody’s responsibility. Even medical supplies for the injured are limited, they are probably sitting on a ship outside the Puerto Cabello port now under Cuban management.

It’s all part of the same tragedy.

Protecting The Votes in Venezuela Part III: The Opposition Has To Defend The Votes Everywhere

August 22, 2012

The picture above shows why the opposition needs to have witnesses in more electoral centers that it has done in the past. In the plot, voters are divided in seven groups of equal size, roughly 2.5 million voters per group, going from polling places where the opposition wins 80% to 20% on the left, to where Chavismo wins 76%-24% on the right. The vertical bars show the vote difference between the two sides in each of these seven blocks.

Note that as we go from left to right, abstention increases, going from 27% where the opposition is strong and increasing steadily to 39% in block six, but then surprisingly going down in block seven. Curiously (not shown), the number of null votes, also increases from left to right, but magically also decreases in the last block, which comprises some of the poorer areas of Venezuela. We also note that the poll stations on the right block on the extreme right, tend to be small, one or two mesas at most and in isolated locations. The opposition had almost no witnesses in these polling stations in the Parliamentary elections.

The conclusion that the Comando Venezuela has reached, is that the trend of higher abstention and lower null votes in block seven on the right, simply reflects the fact that we had no presence. If you extrapolate the trend of higher abstention the more pro-Chavista the area is, you would have expected abstention to come in at 42%, a full 6% points above what was obtained. We are talking about 150,000 votes that should not have been there.

The hypothesis is that these votes were not cast by voters, but by members of the polling stations, once no more voters were in line to vote and in the absence of opposition witnesses.

In fact, the same trends seen in the graph above have been used to identify ¨critical¨voting centers in blocks five and six on the right, where there exist anomalies in either abstention or a low number of null votes. These critical centers are the subject of special attention in the upcoming Presidential election and could make the difference in the outcome.

Now, I definitely don’t want to go into the details of what is being planned, but essentially, the objective is to have witnesses everywhere uniformly. In the past, political parties were assigned this task and typically they would fill the “easy” centers first. This time, all centers are considered alike, regardless of location and size and witnesses have to be found uniformly for them. However, “critical” centers have been identified as a way of checking that the plan is working. That is, a number of checks are defined for these witnesses. Things as simple as, do they answer the phone? Have they been trained? and the like. Then, every week, random auditing is made of the witnesses and these parameters are quantified and compared between centers using not only the “critical” versus non-critical parameter, but also geography, socio-economic background and the like.

What I was shown, is that these audit numbers, seven weeks before the elections, differ little for each of the blocks shown in the chart above or even if you look at it differently, using geography or other parameters. This implies, that the witness coverage will be the same or equivalent whether a center has on mesa, is located in a city or in an isolated region. This should be key in the upcoming election, as it would wipe out or significantly reduce the possibility of fake votes, as it is suspected there were in the past.

In the opinion of the people in Comando Venezuela, this issue is more important than any of the others. If the opposition can have witnesses present in all these polling stations, we can prevent thousands of non-existing votes from being cast, far more than errors or fake ID’s in the Electoral Registry could ever generate.

Could there be problems? Of course, no plan is infallible. The military via the Plan Republica could interfere. Some witnesses may be threatened or scared away. But vote protection should be orders of magnitude better than it was in 2010. And as I always tell people who are worried: We did win that election in terms of the number of votes, even if gerrymandering gave the victory to Chavez.

Chavez’ Nationwide Address Interrupted, As Guayana Workers Protest

August 20, 2012

Tonight, Chavez nationwide address was interrupted when Guayana workers broke into the stage and started protesting. Chavez tried to go into the Hornest Nest, but it did not work well. Guayana workers are tired of promises. Is this a turning point in the campaign?

And this was the preamble to the protest: Mr. President, we haven’t had a collective contract for three years. And one more thing…!

Protecting The Votes in Venezuela Part II: Insuring the Integrity Of The Voting System

August 20, 2012

The Comando Venezuela will have to work with the same voting system used in the previous four elections. This system has been audited extensively and there is no proof that via this system any votes have been modified since the 2005 election. The only part that is different in this election, is that a new fingerprint software has been introduced, which implies that there will be extensive checks in this new part of the system.

The voting system process is like this:

The voter shows his or her ID card and register the fingerprint. If it is that in the database (which is local) the President of the “Mesa” unblocks the voting machine and the voter can cast the vote. Should this fail, the voter fills out a form and registers a new fingerprint. Thus, one of the audits that will be performed is that of the quality of the fingerprint database to insure that it is uniform across the country in both geographic and socio-economic terms. This are checks on the fingerprints which have international standards of quality.

The Comando Venezuela knows that the only purpose of the fingerprint system is to intimidate, it will thus audit and check the system to insure that voters can cast their vote with confidence that it will be secret.

The vote itself only contains information about the vote, it has no information about the voter and it is all encrypted. When the vote is stored in the machine, it goes into a temporary memory:

Each time a new vote comes into this temporary memory, another is moved at random to the permanent file with the record of the votes. Thus, theer is no sequencing in the memory. The national ID number (cedula) also goes into the machine, also into five memories and one is moved at random, to record that this voter already cast the vote and can not do it again. The two registers and files are separate and they are both encrypted. Recall that the opposition did not participate in the Parliamentary elections in 2005, precisely because the tests showed that there was some sequencing which was later corrected.

Once all of the votes are cast, the machine prints the total tally, with enough copies for all of the witnesses at each “Mesa”. After this printing has taken place and only after, the machine is connected to the telephone line and the results transmitted to the CNE. At the CNE, all political parties have representation in the totaling room. This has been the case since 2005. (Note that 2004 is not included)

After all of the mesas in one center close, 54% will be audited at random. That is, 54% will be counted by hand and insure that the manual count agrees with the machine count.

Thus, if we have witnesses at all Centers and Tables, it is very unlikely that the vote is not secret and/or that the vote can be changed. In fact, there is no evidence that any vote cast by a voter has been changed since 2005 or that the machine count has been altered after the vote was completed.

However, we need witnesses everywhere, as we need to insure that the votes are truly cast in each mesa and center by real people. In part 3, I will describe what the problem is and why the Comando Venezuela has made of this the centerpiece of its strategy to protect our votes.

Venezuelan Infrastructure Suffers From Fourteen Years of Chavismo

August 19, 2012

Caracas has three main highways that take you out to the rest of the country. For a few hours this weekend, only one of them was available, the Autopista Regional del Centro. The other two, the Autopista de Oriente and the Caracas-La Guaira highway were closed for different reasons, making life difficult for those wishing or needing to travel.

The Autopista de Oriente was closed because the bridge at Cupira, about 130 Kms. East of Caracas, collapsed last week, as you can see in the picture above. The School of Engineers of Puerto La Cruz had been warning since 2009 that the bridge was in bad shape, but the warnings, much like those of the viaduct in the Caracas La Guaira highway a few years ago, were ignored by the Chavista Government. On top of that, you can see in the picture the large truck crane sitting in the middle of the bridge. There are reports that this truck crane, leased by the Government, weights almost twice as much as Venezuelan laws allow for a vehicle. Nobody stopped it and it was not complying with the regulations for a large vehicle circulating in a highway. This may have contributed to the collapse of the 40 year old bridge.

The consequences are felt everywhere. This is vacation season and an estimated 30,000 people scheduled to return from Margarita island by Ferry in the next couple of weeks will have troubles doing so, unless they take a 4 to 5 hour detour. Add commerce and supplies to the East and you can see that the picture is not pretty. The first day of the collapse the Government said it would have an alternate route ready in three days, but word now is that it will take around 15 days for the alternate route to be ready.

Meanwhile, the Caracas la Guaira highway was shut down yesterday for 14 hours (it was less than that in the end) so that the steel beam of the bridge of a new distributor in the Caracas La Guaira highway could be put in place. This was obviously needed, the information was unclear. At the beginning of the week, I thought it would affect me and I would have to sleep at a Hotel near the coast, as I had an afternoon flight out. But the hours were changed magically and it did not affect me, but it did many others departing and arriving from Maiquetia airport. You only had two alternatives, either sleep at a hotel down by the Coast, or take the old Carretera Vieja, which is extreme adventure tourism because of its decaying state, as well as the possibility of being mugged. You can see the new steel beam below:

But the more interesting thing is why this distributor is being built. The Distributor leads to Ciudad Caribia, a supposedly “socialist” city invented by Chavez on one of his Alo Presidentes. People are given the apartments, but they don’t own them. But the worst part is that thousands of apartments have been built but transportation to and from that new city is terrible. The plan is to have over 100,000 people live there by the year 2018. The problem is that the Caracas La Guaira highway is already overloaded and there are no plans for an alternate route to the 59 year old highway. (I know exactly how long it has been around, my mother always told us about going to see the highway the day it was opened, despite the fact that she was nine months pregnant and gave birth to my sister the next day)

But this is typical of the improvisation of Chavismo. Ciudad Caribia was rushed, without having proper infrastructure for it. People are very critical of it and construction quality has been bad, with building walls falling down months after the construction has been completed. This is not unique to Ciudad Caribia. All over the country buildings are rising, without any additional infrastructure being built. In order to rush the housing units to completion, all ordinances are bypassed, there is no planning and the result is that the quality of life is simply lowered for everyone. I guess that is what they mean by socialism.

Chavez no longer has the excuse of blaming the previous Government. Venezuelan democracy was reinstated in 1958 and Chavez has governed for 26% of those years. Moreover, he has had immense resources but has little to show in terms of infrastructure. In fact, even housing is a late project by Chavez, conceived last year as a way of buying votes ahead of the upcoming election. Chavez track record in housing is so dismal, that he has yet to better the average of the Caldera years in any given year, despite the fact that oil was in the low teens when Caldera was President.

But his track record in maintenance is even worse. Electric projects, highways and bridges have been neglected. Prior to Chavez there would be maintenance, even if few significant infrastructure projects were built.  But those in charge of maintaining the infrastructure were slowly replaced by loyalists, many military officers. Venezuelan infrastructure has suffered fourteen years of neglect under Chavismo.

You would think that this would impact the upcoming Presidential vote. The excuse of the previous Government is no longer valid. After 14 years, Chavez really has little to show, so he resorts to selling ideology rather than facts in his campaign. Hopefully for Venezuelans, it will not work this time.

Another “Creative” Transaction For PDVSA Where The Loser Is Venezuela

August 17, 2012

When the history of the past 14 years is finally written, people will wonder how a Government claiming to be revolutionary and a defender of the country’s sovereignty and the “people”,  managed to give away so much of the “people’s” money just to cover up mismanagement and in the interest of buying allies around the world.

In the latest such transaction, PDVSA has given away money to Uruguay, a country with a higher GDP per capita than Venezuela, not once, but twice, in one of the strangest transactions to date.

It all begins in 2006. PDVSA begins sending oil to Uruguay’s oil company Ancap under the following exceedingly favorable conditions: 75% to be paid in 30 days and the remainder 25% in 15 years at the absurdly favorable interest rate of 2%. (Think about it, Venezuela, which needs to pay 10-12% interest rate when it issues bonds, only charges 2% to a country that can issue bonds paying only 3% interest in 15 years)

By now, Ancap owes Venezuela US$ 718 million, but if the interest that needs to be paid is included, Ancap will owe US$ 860 million.

Curiously, just after Venezuela finally managed to enter Mercosur through the backdoor, PDVSA has agreed to accept that Ancpap pay it with PDVSA bonds worth US$ 860 million in face value, but which are only worth US$ 510 million today. Thus, PDVSA “receives” bonds worth US$ 810, registers that it got paid that amount, but if it sells them gets US$ 343 million less. But Ancap only pays US$ 510 million of its money, for oil worth US% 710 million plus interest.

Thus, Ancap, which already got a sweet deal with 2% financing for 15 years so that Uruguyans can vacation in Punta del Este, now gets a substantial discount for its debt.

The only benefit for PDVSA is that it gets the money today, rather than over the 15 years and Ramirez and Co. can use the money elsewhere.

But there is absolutely no justification for the discount. PDVSA is using an interest rate, as if Ancap were PDVSA, which needs to pay high rates. In fact, the transaction is being funded by the Government of Uruguay, which is lending Ancap the US$ 510 million at a rate of 4% interest plus inflation. This is easy for Uruguay to do, since it can borrow at even lower rates than that.

And, of course, we are supposed to believe this had nothing to do with paying back Uruguay for allowing Venezuela to sneak into Mercosur. Sure!

Protecting The Votes in Venezuela Part I: The Evolution Of The Electoral Registry

August 13, 2012

Last week I was invited to the Comando Venezuela to see what they have been doing about insuring the votes for the opposition are counted in the Oct.7th. Presidential election and that only votes that should be counted are part of the results. The person I talked to has been involved with many of the statistical studies done up to now but you could say that his role today is that of auditing all processes going forward, insuring that things are done, that the quality of the work done is a good one and coming up with tests for all these processes.

As you walk through the halls of the comando, the walls are covered with maps of all states, showing critical voting centers, ranked according to their importance. These maps are more than decoration, while I waited to be met, twice people went up to them to talk or discuss some point about them.

The Comando Venezuela has been working on essentially three fronts to guarantee a clean election on October 7th., these three main areas have been the subject of a lot of work (there is some overlap):

1) The cleaningness of the Electoral Registry

2) The voting system and the new fingerprint system

3) Protecting the vote on October 7th.

In this first part, I will discuss their study of the evolution of the Electoral Registry since the 2010 National Assembly election and what this shows. You can find the presentation for this part here.

The first concern is how the electoral registry has evolved, whether it makes sense or not. Below is the table for the evolution since the last election (which the opposition won numerically).

Clearly, it makes sense that 86.6% of new voters registered are under 25. There has been a request from the CNE for more information about the newly registered people in the over 40 group, some 40 thousand voters, which has yet to be satisfied. However, for those that believe that the Electoral registry is a mystery of sorts, political parries receive monthly data about the newly registered voters and migrations.

The data of newly registered voters has been examined to see its consistency. For example, below you can see the distribution of new voters and changes in voting center distributed according to socio-economic level, showing that there are more new voters in the poorer strata of the population, which is consistent with birth rates 20 years ago. :

In terms of migrations, close to 1.7 million people requested a change in his or her voting center. A study was made of the patterns of these migrations, the summary is shown in the table below:

The data was found to be consistent in terms of migrations, most of them occurring between centers which are similar in terms of socio-economic characteristics. But more importantly, a random telephone poll found that 97% of those that had migrated, had requested the migration and those errors in the migrations (or those whose center had been closed) did not appear to have any political bias in terms of who they affected, that is, both pro-Government and position voters were affected by it. Finally, during the opposition primaries in February, the Electoral Registry was used and there was no evidence of involuntary migration affecting voters.

There are two problems that have yet to be cleared up in the Electoral Registry. First, there continues to be roughly 18 thousand id’s associated to 9 thousand people and dead people have not been removed sufficiently fast from it. Both these issues are being discussed with the CNE and particularly the first on is expected to be solved before October 7th.

The Catholic University has made a study of the registry and has found that it is consistent with the population. The only inconsistency is that of an over representation of the group above 70 years of age, which I already noted.

All in all, the Comando Venezuela believes that with adequate, well prepared witnesses at the tables, the areas of concern with the Electoral Registry can be minimized and the vote  affected by it in only minimal fashion. This is the main thrusts of point 3) in this discussion which I will try to present before the end of this week.

We’re Saved! Now We Have Hugo Chavez By Carlos M. Reymundo Roberts

August 10, 2012

We’re saved! Now we have Hugo Chavez By Carlos M. Reymundo Roberts in La Nacion

The U.S. government and legislators from that country demonstrated again this week their concern for the poor business climate in Argentina. They say we close borders, that we do not pay debts and are unreliable. I have a message for the White House and Capitol Hill. Don’t worry. Now everything will change: We just had Chavez join Mercosur!

I am convinced this will provoke a sigh of relief in all of you. Commander Hugo is synonymous with legal certainty, and even if he has expropriated thousands of businesses, properties and independent media, he has has done so up front and usually pays compensation (that’s the part of Bolivarian socialism that Cristina does not like)

We Argentines are also happy. Now, at last, the great natural gas pipeline linking Caracas to Buenos Aires, which was announced during the presidency of Nestor (kirchner) will advance. The work is a bit delayed: let’s say, it has yet to be started. But when they start, hold yourself! They will advance at the same speed as the Banco del Sur, announced in 2007 and conceived as a South American International Monetary Fund. It’s a great idea, spectacular. Basically for now is just that: an idea. It will take shape and brin the Monetary Fund and the World Bank to its knees, even if for the Argentines, and especially for Kirchnerism, it may involve a great sacrifice: we propose that Boudou and Vandenbroele preside it, two entrepreneurs who surely at some point will become  known.

It makes me salivate thinking about the momentum that will be gained by other initiatives we have been announcing for years. Do you remember the regional common currency, the Sucre? Of all the projects this is the most advanced, with the only subtlety that for now the common currency is the US dollar. I think if we want to finally make this happen, the right person to handle it is-again-Boudou. I tell him he has to create a new currency, the guy goes and solves everything.

And the Railroad of the South (Tren del Sur)? We announced it with much fanfare on August 20, 2008 at the railway station of La Rinconada, Caracas. What a wonder: a train that was to unite that capital with Buenos Aires. “It’s a realizable utopia,” the then Ambassador of Argentina in Venezuela, Alicia Castro dared to say. Work began and ended on that day. People seem to prefer a different type of adventure tourism. But now that he is unemployed Schiavi could be entrusted to restart it. In any case, with the suggestion that the train arrives station Retiro, rather than station Once.

And the 600 gas stations that were to be installed here jointly by Enarsa and PDVSA? They only built two and I think they have disappeared. Again, the idea was excellent. Perhaps the problem was that financing was from Banco del Sur, the gas was going to come via the Gasoducto del Sur and the materials needed were going to be brought by the utopian train.

Enarsa and PDVSA also did not build a dam, as they had promised, and never finalized the project of creating joint ventures for the enhancement of natural gas for cars. This is fine. If you do everything at once, the people adopt bad habits. With the addition of Chavez to Mercosur other things are guaranteed. Airplanes that come from Venezuelan with dollar for the lady’s campaign will no longer have to undergo custom’s controls. Air Traffic will be more fluid.  For example, if the Boca Juniors team took four days to return from Caracas, in the future it will be no more than two or three days.

Another advantage: Chavez a few years ago lent us one billion dollars at a rate of 14%, which was considered abusive. For example, this is much higher than the one charged by the IMF. It was such a scandal that we never went back to ask him for a dollar. He was the last guy that threw some mangoes at us and we treated him like an usurer. Now that he is our partner (and the world continues not to lend us anything) we should apologize and re-finance ourselves with him It would be fair treatment: we tell him how much we want and he tells us at what rate. We should trust him. I don’t think it will be more than 20 percent.

On the other hand, the Lady already said it: Mercosur is now the fifth largest economy in the world. No matter that we live in a constant trade bout with Brazil, or that Uruguay accuses us of corruption in a dredging project in the Rio de La Plata and that we promoted the suspension of Paraguay to manage Venezuela’s entry into Mercosru via the back window. It does not matter if next year in Brazil people will be able to buy dollars even in tire stores, while here we want to turn into rubber those that buy dollars. What matters is what we want. Ti me the picture of Cristina, Dilma, Hugo and el Pepe together joining hands seems super tender. Let businessmen fight, let the people have fears, and let Governments kill each other: The Presidents will eat partridges.

Welcome then Commander Hugo Chavez of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Welcome to the natural gas pipeline, the bank, the train, the Sucre. The gas stations and the refinery. Welcome Antonini Wilson, the planes full of dollar bills and the transparent deals of the socialist Caribbean. And welcome, above all, a more democratic and respectful of human rights Mercosur, in which the assassins and rapists of our prisons could be rehabilitated campaigning for Hugo Chavez in Caracas.

(Note added: And now PDVSA says it will help Argentina exploit gas and oil deposits in the Falklands. Another empty promise)

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