Archive for May, 2013

Venezuelan Military “Technology”: It’s All Kid’s Stuff

May 30, 2013

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Yesterday Venezuelan President Maduro presented this “new” system of drones built under a cooperation agreement with Iran which was hailed as capable of “counter acting any threat…so that the Fatherland is never violated…evidence that Venezuela is advancing in technology for military purposes”

The presentation also included “the launching of a test of an unmanned flight”, which according to the article was hailed by Maduro as “the bases for our the aeronautical industry of the future that we must have”

Well, I am not sure who was fooling who here. It was either Iran fooling Venezuela or the military fooling (or laughing?) at Maduro. This project, under the cooperation agreement signed in 2006 with Iran, took seven years to do what any model airplane club or kid in Caracas could have done ten or twenty years ago.

Because what you see above, is nothing but a large model airplane, comparable to the largest ones that Venezuelan model airplanes fans and their associations build. And in Venezuela there are quite a few of them.

And the Iranian “technology” and what is the basis of our country’s future aeronautical industry can be purchased at Amazon or any RC hobby store for a couple of hundred bucks, as can be seen in the picture below, where we can see the so called “drone” and its radio control.

avioncito

and in the red circle, you can see the sophisticated technology, basis for our technological future, shown here blown up (even if fuzzy):

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which anyone that has ever seen fly or flown an RC model airplane can recognize is an off the shelf RC radio system available at any RC store, hobby store and even Amazon for about US$ 100. Something like this model, taken from this page:

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There are so many models, it is difficult to determine exactly which model it is simply from the picture.But all we can say is that Venezuelan military and aeronautical “technology” is all simply kid’s stuff. The only question is who is ripping off who. Somehow, I think it was Maduro whose good faith and ignorance was take advantage of.

It is truly sad that a country that 40 or 50 years ago had frontier science and technology, has now such ignorant leaders, that they think that model airplanes, Chinese satellites and Portuguese computers have any thing to do with the technological and scientific future of the country.

The worst part is that the Bolivarian scientific “leadership” will simply remain quiet about all this.

What a pitiful revolution!

Important Media Window Now Closed For Venezuelan Opposition

May 28, 2013

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Anyone that thinks that the loss of Globovision as a possible channel for media communication of the opposition is not that significant, you just have to think back to how Capriles’ presidential campaign against Maduro was born out of a Friday press conference broadcast by Globovision  where Capriles created a “media intrigue” campaign announcing that he was ” considering”  whether to run or not in this unfair campaign on a Friday last March.

Thanks to that press conference, two days later, on Sunday, there was a popular clamor by most of the opposition that Capriles should be its candidate and that evening he held a second press conference, also broadcast live by Globovision, where he did announce that he would be the candidate.

The effectiveness of TV as a medium that weekend was reinforced, as we saw a “new” Capriles, more aggressive, “carajeando a” Nicolas. The traditional opposition loved it, the more radical opposition loved it.

No other TV station carried the press conference live that day.

Without Globovision, I don’t believe for a minute that the impact would have been the same. That beginning made Capriles’ campaign!

So, it is not a matter of Globovision’s editorial line, whether you hate it or not. It is not a matter of whether Globovision torments you or not, it is not a matter of whether Globovision was too political, too pro opposition or the like. No, what matters is that the only window the opposition had in Venezuela to communicate its personalities is now closed. We will no longer see the face of Capriles live, but more importantly, you will not see much of the faces (many of them new ones) of the opposition candidates to the mayoral elections later this year.

VTV will not show any of the opposition activity and will continue 24/7 promoting Chavismo and Madurismo, while all TV stations will be forced to show Maduro’s nationwide broadcasts.

But if the opposition needs to clarify a point about how to vote in an election, the latest scandal of Fonden, or Fondo GuachiGuachi, or the tenth installment of Mario Silva’s communication with Castro, you will not find it anywhere.

Oh yes, social media will carry it, but unfortunately, there is something very powerful of television as  a medium. And starting now, that power, dramatically reduced for the opposition over the last few years, will simply not be available.

The Government now has an almost monopoly of the most powerful media instrument available: television.

And I say almost, because there has to be a plan with Globovision. I never believed for a minute that the whole editorial line and programming would not be changed. I don’t believe for a minute that the latest moves are in reaction to Mario Silva’s tape either. This is the beginning of the execution of a plan. What it is, I don’t know, but you don’t spend a couple of hundred million dollars buying a TV station just to get rid of its audience fast and make the investment worthless in a few months.

If I had to guess, there is a political project behind the purchase, it is not pro-opposition, but it is not wholly pro-Government either.

My guess? Some sort of alternative to Chavismo/Madurismo. New figures promoted shamelessly as an alternative to both or something like that. I have no information pointing to this, but I just don’t believe the explanation that the idea was simply to silence the opposition

Time will tell.

The Maduro Toilet Paper Crisis

May 23, 2013

toiletThis signs shows the effects of shortages in Venezuela: Not only is toilet paper scarce you can only buy one package

It has been Nicolas’ misfortune that the toilet paper crisis exploded in his face less than one month after assuming the Presidency. It is not the worst shortage under Chávez or in Nicolas’ short Presidency, but it is one that affects everyone, captures the imagination of the foreign press and is simply quite symbolic of the failures of the Bolivarian revolution.

Start with the supposed solution to the problem. Have the National Assembly approve an emergency allocation to have the Government import two weeks of toilet paper. When you need to involve the legislature to import something, you can tell the system is really screwed up. After all, why toilet paper and not antibiotics, which have been scarce since December?

The answer is simple, not everyone uses antibiotics, or high blood pressure medicines or insulin, but in Venezuela, most everyone expects to be able to buy a roll or two once in a while when it is needed. In some sense, it is the same reason why Chávez never cared too much about fighting crime. At least in the first few years of his Government, crime only affected a small segment of the population, but as it went off the charts, it became a significant problem as more people were or knew victims of crime.

And while the Venezuelan President blames the crisis on hoarding and conspiracies by the opposition, the head of the National Statistics office blames the fact that people are eating a lot. Which makes you wonder if the problem is that they are eating the wrong stuff and going to the bathroom a lot, because there are many shortages in the food sector too.

But in the end, the problem is precisely that the Government has to go and import the toilet paper, because of the simple fact that it controls everything:

-The price of the toilet paper is controlled

-The foreign currency used to buy paper pulp is controlled

-The ability to buy or import toilet paper is controlled

Beyond that, it gets even more complex, depending if you are on the importing or on the local manufacturing side.

If you are an importer, you compete with none other than the Government. First your dollars may not be approved, thus you bring nothing. But the friendly “Boliborgeois” who competes with you, gets the money to import good quality toilet paper from reliable suppliers, but ends up getting it from who knows where, making half the profit in the toilet paper and the other half on only using a fraction of the dollars allocated to buy the toilet paper. The remainder dollars can stay in dollars or you can sell them at the unmentionable rate, making a profit with them of 344% at today’s rate.

So, as an importer, you can’t compete with those “briefcase companies” mentioned by Mario Silva in his top hit recording.

But if you are crazy enough to still be a manufacturer you are in Bolivarian control hell.

Suppose you priced the roll of toilet paper at a dollar in January 2010, when the exchange rate (official) was at Bs. 2.6. Well, your raw material costs had gone up by 65% by Christmas 2012 and 142% by today, but your price increases have not reached 40%.

To say nothing about your labor costs, which I will simply adjust for inflation, ignoring the recent labor Bill. By last December, your local costs had gone up by 98% and 122% by today. This is more than double the price increases for toilet paper.

And if you needed a part for your rolling machine, the dollar the swap market that you bought at Bs. 6 in January 2010 is now worth close to four times more and that is an integral part of your cost.

That is why the manufacturer is a fool, the legal importer is trying to get lucky and the “Boliborgeois” with his “empresa de maletin” (Mario Siva dixit) is becoming a millionaire.

And that is also why the revolution has failed. It has replaced a productive system by a planned system full of controls and corruption, which favors the buddies that can get official dollars, sometimes benefits occasional importers who get lucky and screws those that are still trying to make and produce something in Venezuela.

Just think, if you were trying to get into the toilet paper business in Venezuela, which model would you want to follow?

Well, given that they hate productive capitalists and oligarchs, Chavismo and now Madurismo have also chosen the same path that any sane person like you would, it is the most profitable for those involved, but the most expensive for the country.

And yes, people are eating more food, but I am not going to get involved in a technical discussion about whether the length of the toilet paper you use is directly proportional or not to mow much or how often you eat. But the most important reason that people are eating more is the same reason why they are using more gasoline and more electricity: They are all heavily subsidized. Assign a fair price to food, gasoline and electricity and the overall economy of the country would be better off, even if individually people would be worse off. And before anyone makes the argument that I have it backwards, you could give away the food for free, the electricity for free and the gasoline for free and the country would be in deep …. and we would all need a lot of toilet paper.

And with shortages comes rationing, something Cubans have known for 50 years, but Venezuelans had very little exposure to. Something the sign in the picture above clearly depicts.

Oh! But ideology beats realism or the “people’s” well being.

And thus Chavismo/Madurismo is never going to accept that its centralized planning system full of controls, rules and corruption is to blame for any of these problems. They have a religious belief that what they call “socialism” should work, despite the fact that all historical evidence shows it has always been a failure. But like Nicolas says, he believes more in “popular” wisdom than in scientific and technical facts.

Which only shows how primitive and lost the revolution is. Maduro’s paper toilet crisis is simply a reflection of both this and his ignorance.

Notes added: To add to the craziness, El Mundo reports today that the Government imports meat from Brazil at twice the price it pays Venezuelan producers. And people who are lucky enough to find toilet paper, put it into black bags to avoid being mugged, according to today’s El Nacional.

Such a pretty revolution!

Mario Silva’s Gossip Tape Aimed at Discrediting Chavismo/Madurismo

May 21, 2013

06 MG__9771Mario Silva with Chávez in happier days

Back from vacation in time to read the transcript of the purported conversation between Mario Silva and the Cuban intelligence General, in which Silva spews out a dense amount of gossip about a wide variety of Chavista/Madurista figures.

The first question one needs to ask is whether the tape is true or not. My impression is that it is a bit long and complex to be made up and the fact that Silva is the only one to deny its authenticity suggests it is real. In fact, Diosdado Cabello called it just gossip, which it is, but seems to be saying it is very realistic gossip coming from Silva’s mouth. The fact that Silva all of a sudden plans to leave his program “La Hojilla” also makes me suspect the tape is very real.

It is obvious that someone leaked the tape to damage someone’s credibility, what is not clear is who was the main target. While many think that it was Cabello, as he is blasted repeatedly, most of what Silva says about Cabello comes as no surprise to anyone that has been following this somewhat sinister figure of the revolution. Suffice to say that since Chávez left for Cuba in December, all of Cabello’s buddies that had been jailed by the former President have now been freed.

In fact, the most novel aspect of Silva’s gossip to me was the part about Maduro being looney and thinking that he had seen Chávez (again) in the military museum and claiming he even had a tape. I guess Maduro’s spiritual experience with Sai Baba has made him quite sensitive to having weird supernatural experiences.

Beyond that, the most significant thing about Silva’s tape is simply the fact that he is talking to the top Cuban General on intelligence matters. This alone should induce an investigation by the General Prosecutor and the National Assembly. While the opposition despises Silva, he is a mayor figure of Chavismo, whether Chavista/Maduristas like it or not. Silva rose from relative obscurity from aporrea and Chávez catapulted him to stardom by calling in to his daily program where Silva trashed just about anyone in the opposition, the same way he trashed Chavismo/Madurismo in this tape. Chávez would not only call in late at night to make announcements via La Hojilla, but Silva was the PSUV’s-Chávez backed-candidate for Governor of Carabobo, a race that fortunately he lost.

Beyond that, the main effect of the tape will be on Chavismo itself. Those that supported Chávez or his anointed heir have heard most of these accusations before, but always believed that they were opposition fabrications, now they will think twice about many of them. And that is the most important point of leaking the tape, it is not aimed at the opposition but at Chavismo/Madurismo. Its goal is to discredit the leaders of the Government, without it being clear who it was mainly aimed at. Cabello seems to be the main target, but there are very few stones left unturned.

In fact, Silva seems to defend only two people in the tape: Jorge Giordani and Admiral Molero. That’s it. He blasts the Vice President harshly, even suggesting that he may be the source of Bocaranda’s leaks about Chávez. He blasts Nicolas Maduro, Jose Vicente Rangel, Diosdado Cabello, Rafael Ramirez, Cabello’s brother, the former head of Cadivi Barroso, the Alcala Cordones brothers, Maduro’s wife Cilia Flores, Maduro’s confidant Temir Porras and the CNE ladies. So, its unclear what the objective of being divisive is, but the tape is very divisive for Chavismo.

For the opposition, nothing new in the tape. Maybe some juicy and explicit details of what we all know and knew has been happening in Chavismo. But nothing that surprises anyone reading this blog for the last few years. Just a very explicit confirmation from a very Chavista source.

Very divisive for Chavismo and another contribution to the erosion of the credibility of the Maduro Government and those near him.

Nothing less and nothing more.

The revolutionary corruption beat just goes on…

May 14, 2013

The cynicism of the so called revolution never ceases to amaze me. While away, I have been trying to follow the latest corruption scandal unveiled by the the US SEC in which some relatively minor officials in development bank BANDES managed to rip off US$ 66 million by performing artificial trades with bonds owned by BANDES. In one trade, for example, one hundred million dollars in bonds were sold and repurchased on the same day by BANDES, except that by the end of the day, BANDES had lost ten million in commissions, while the bonds still had the same price. The SEC is asking that all the “profits” be returned and has charged the individuals as well as the companies that funneled the kickbacks to a BANDES official.

Some of the transactions were somewhat comical, as the broker had to ask the BANDES official to return to him the money he paid in taxes, as he reported the gains as income. Showing there is little honor among thieves, he actually under reported his gains to his BANDES crony in order to pay her less in kickbacks.

But like so many other corruption cases in the last fourteen years, the Government’ policy is to ignore the case. The Prosecutor has been silent on the case, so has the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Planning who oversaw BANDES at the time and least of all the President. Maduro has said nothing of the money stolen from the people by these so called revolutionaries.

But the Prosecutor is the worst one as she is so quick to prosecute opposition figures for small amounts spent by them arguing obscure irregularities under budgetary laws.

The amazing thing is that these are minor officials who managed to do this scam, but they made off with US$ 66 million just like that. Recall that BANDES is the bank that gets the loans from the Chinese, money that is spent with no transparency or accountability. I dont even want to think what goes on in there!

You have to add this BANDES case to Maletagate, Illaramendi, the check in the hands of an Iranian for 40 million euros, all cases discovered abroad but never investigated or even discussed in Venezuela. But the largest of these cases, all discovered abroad, is “only” half a billion dollars, small scale in revolutionary terms. Nobody knows how much money was made selling the seven billion dollars in Argentinean bonds, or who received over thirty billion dollars in Pdvsa bonds or about twenty more billion in sovereign ones, all of them assigned using ever changing rules and with zero transparency or accountability. To say nothing of the billions fed to the swap market by the Government while it allowed it to exist until 2010.

. Or try to imagine the US$ 100 billion spent by Fonden under the same careless watch of Jorge Giordani! Or the billions stolen in the 2009 banking crisis, whose main Bolivarian actors, including Jesse Chacon’s brother, have now been quietly freed.

But the corruption beat goes unabated under revolutionary watch. While the opposition is blasted for its capitalism, capitalist greed and corruption is alive and doing extremely well under Maduro and inside his Government, slightly better than under Hugo Chavez. And allowing it to go on unpunished simply promotes the audacity of those involved. Billions of dollars have been robbed in the name of the revolution and there is nothing there to stop them.

Poor Venezuela!

Opposition Challenges Results In Over Five Thousand Ballot Boxes

May 8, 2013

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As you may have noticed, I have been traveling the last few days. But my friends keep me informed by sending all sorts of information which I read and file, but was not thinking of posting. Then yesterday I got the note on the second challenge to the April 14th. vote and thought I would mention it.

The opposition is challenging the results in 5,720 tables or boxes, which comprise 21,562 tallies. Each table challenged includes some form of irregularity which is documented in the challenge. The opposition is requesting that the vote be redone in all these, which comprises of 2.3 million votes.
Separately, the fingerprint analysis shows a large number of inconsistencies. But the most significant one is that 20% of he voters had no fingerprint on file, including over four hundred thousand new voters, all of which were supposed to have their prints on file.

 

This challenge to the election votes is separate from the first one, which was based on irregularities associated with violations of the electoral laws,such as assisted voting, propaganda and abuses, not with the details of the voting process and the results. Both include recusing those magistrates that have expressed an opinion on the case or are related to Government officials.

 

Above, a picture of where I am today.

Nicolas Loses His Cool Again

May 4, 2013

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Ever since the CNE said that Nicolás had won the election, things have not been going very well for him. From widespread pot banging the first four days, to bickering within Chavismo, to Diosdado undermining him and his own party members criticizing him, it is tough to be Nicolás Maduro these days. But if one thought there was one area where Nicolás could handle things well, it was on the diplomatic front. After all, he was Chavez’ Foreign Minister for almost seven years, where following Hugo’s orders alone was probably a difficult thing to do. And except for trying to stage coups in Paraguay and Guatemala, Nicolás was mostly discreet, like a diplomat should be.

But his bad streak is prompting him to losing his cool and making outrageous statements. The first one was to accuse former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of trying to assassinate him, throwing in Roger Noriega and Otto Reich into the pot. A laughable charge and a dangerous one, as Uribe is still respected in Colombia and Santos may get impatient with his new counterpart in Venezuela. But Nicolas likes to imitate Chávez, except that it doesn’t work very well with Nicolas.

But where Maduro really lost his cool was in his response to Peru’s Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo statements. Maduro called back Venezuela’s Ambassador to Peru and said: “You may be Peru’s Foreign Minister, but you can not give opinions about Venezuela. I do not accept that lack of respect towards the political process that Venezuela is living. I don’t accept it…But to involve yourself with Venezuela’s problems to give us advice, please, don’t. You made a mistake Peruvian Foreign Minister, you have made the mistake of your life”

By now you may be wondering what it is that Rocagliolo said that caused such outrage. Well that is the amazing part, not much. What he said was:

“Peru is promoting that Unasur pronounce itself in asking for dialogue and tolerance in Venezuela…the second element of the Unasur declaration consists in asking that there be in Venezuela a climate of dialogue and tolerance, request that we maintain, request that I reiterate. It seems fundamental to us for both Venezuelans and the region that such a climate of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect can be established.”.

Imagine, calling for tolerance and dialogue!

But Maduro losing his cool has backfired, as Peruvian politicians from all sectors have backed their Foreign Minister. Not only that, but it has given relevance to the trip by Leopoldo Lopez and Deputy Eduardo Gomez Cigalas around the region, explaining the treatment of opposition Deputies in the Assembly, as well as the refusal by the Venezuelan Electoral Board to do a complete audit as promised to Unasur countries so that they would accept Maduro’s victory in the April 14th. election.And now in Argentina, a Deputy is requesting that Venezuela be suspended from Mercosur for the non-democratic actions of the Maduro Government, while in Peru, the Vice-President of Foreign Affairs of Congress said that in Venezuela there is no President and what there is a an orangutan, a reference to the military gorillas that ruled that country, as well as seeing little birds and talking to Chávez:

The curious thing about this whole affair is that Peru’s Foreign Minister Roncagliolo is currently the spokesman for Unasur on these affairs and by losing his cool, Maduro may be helping the opposition in promoting that Unasur pressure the Venezuelan Government for a full audit and recount of the recent Presidential election.

Maduro Blasted By Chavistas In Los Teques

May 2, 2013

In this video, a lady blasts Maduro for not including the people in decisions, suggesting they are actually bypassed. The lady says that if elections were held for Mayor, Chavismo would lose “totally” . The people are organized, but they are not included:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD6-rWaem5I#!

Note the lady behind with the fake Maduro mustache. Maduro comes back and says he will not approve the project and asks how come the “right wing, bla, bla, bs, local Government” is not criticized but we are so autocritical of the revolution. The people present disagree with his decision and express it.Express it very clearly.

Not a good “mesa de trabajo” for Nicolas. Not a good day for the new President. A rough day for him in fact.

Trying To Nail The Productive Sector Under Madurismo

May 1, 2013

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We have had “new” Ministers for ten days, but very few announcements of new programs and policies. This is due in part to the repetitiousness of names in the Cabinet, most of which have already been there and have no new ideas. Others are simply not very qualified, as their expertise, if they have any, is seldom in the Ministry they hold.

One of the lone exceptions is Minister for Electric Energy Jesse Chacon who has made daily announcements about plans, programs and ideas. Chacon is not that qualified for the position, his expertise is in telecom, but he has been around and held a half a dozen positions, most of them Ministries, where he has learned how slow things move in Government and how things only move from the top. He showed that when he was Minister of the Interior and Justice, where he tried to understand the security problem, brought advisers from abroad (Even from the US! Fin de Mundo!) and was removed by Chavez when he had begun to formulate plans and understand things.

In his new Ministry, Chacon has been candid at times. He does not blame the power problems on opposition sabotage, a laughable position when power plants have been militarized since 2006 and those not loyal to the revolution were fired (and are still being fired) in various purges from important positions.

He has told us that the main problem is how the twelve companies that were integrated into Corpoelec don’t work together (Some have been “integrated” for ten years!) Well, this is a blunt criticism of Chavez’ brother Argenis, who learned of the appointment of his new boss watching TV and resigned immediately. He has also said projects are delayed, consumption is high and rates are behind. (Behind? Last rate increase was in 2000, the CPI is up about 900% since then. So behind is a mild word)

But so far, he has said little about specific projects, other than increase rates and force people to buy energy saving lightbulbs (At 4 times the price) He also gave himself an ultimatum of 100 days. Good luck!

But Chacon has also been less than honest in what he has said. He said that Caracas’ power is unstable because when AES took over Electricidad de Caracas (EDC), it stopped investing. What he fails to say is that AES owned EDC for only seven years, the Government nationalized and ran it for almost that same amount of time. EDC was taken over by AES in July 2000, Chavez took it over in April 2007, so it has been six years, not much of a difference. What did the Chávez Government invest in six years? Zilch. And the company now loses money. Way to go!

He also fails to say that at a time that Venezuela has power problems, the IDB (Interamerican Development Bank) has yet to disburse the US$ 700 million approved in 2010 for Guri and other power plants. Why? Venezuela has not complied with the requirements yet. The money is there, earmarked, approved, ready to go, but…

Chavista management…the biggest oxymoronic concept in Venezuela.

But Chacon is definitely better than Chave’z son in law Jorge Arreaza. He said the other day something like: ” We are trying to deal with the mess in the (State) productive sector. The State has yet to figure out (nail) how to leverage some industries”

Well Jorge, it’s very easy, you need people who know what they are doing, work hard and know what management is all about. Let me give you an example: Remember the satellite you purchased from the Chinese? The one bought to survey the country and called VRSS? When you made all the noise and it went into operation in Chinese hands, you yourself said that in three months it would no longer be in Chinese hands, but would be operated by Venezuela.

But shucks, you remembered to pay US$ 170 million for the satellite four years ago (easy money that could have been used in sooo many productive things!!!), but you forgot that to control the satellite from Venezuela, you had to install the antennas to control the satellite and to receive the images. The result is that the satellite “sees” Venezuela a few times a day, but its useless. Besides the pictures you asked the Chinese to take for show, the return has been exactly zero. (To say nothing of the fact that with US$ 170 million you can buy all of the images of Venezuela of France’s SPOT satellite since of all its satellites were launched and in all frequencies available, but that is another matter)

And you call this “technology”…I call it turnkey waste.

The problem is that to “figure out” or “nail” the productive sector, you need people that know the business, you need planners and you need managers. When the criteria for hiring people are political, nepotistic or cronyism, things can’t work.

You also have to care, understand what is wasting time or money, plan every day, have the know-how. All your Marxist ideas don’t work, because you are trying to adapt an ideology to the wrong type of people, led by the wrong leaders. Yes, you also need leadership. Like you screwed up in the satellite project, if you had not been your father in law’s son in law, you would have been fired.

But Maduro promoted you to Vice-President.

Think about it and you will figure it out Jorge, but you will not nail it!

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