Si-Cad Or So-So-Cad in Venezuela’s new fx system?

March 11, 2014


Almost eleven months ago, Nicolas Maduro was elected President and since then, the Government’s economic team has been telling us about the new foreign exchange system (fx for short) in the works, which was almost ready. Today, everyone wants me to write about the “new” and “improved”  fx system, called Sicad 2, but there is not that much really that I can say about it. The Devil is in the details and we still don’t know most of them.

Meanwhile, Maduro keeps thinking that talking and not working, is the way to survive as President. He now has a new program (above), While that may have been something good to do for his former boss, he just does not foot the Bill. I mean who wants to listen to Nicolas give us his usual BS that half of Venezuelans are right wing fascists oligarchs, and the other half pure PSUV socialists? If that were true, there would be hope for Venezuela, not because we need more oligarchs, we have enough with Chavistas, but because there would be more market ideas, which does not seem to be what the opposition is proposing either. But Nico sounded nostalgic tonight, maybe he has been reading too much Dieterich these days. Eight weeks left of this nightmare? First time I am rooting for a Chavista prediction!

But going back to the new fx system, the so called Sicad-2, which is what people want to know about, all I can sayis , so far it looks like So-So-Cad, more than Si-Cad in my opinion. And I do hope they change my mind in the upcoming days. I would love to be proven wrong.

But let me be clear: Sicad-2 is a huge and positive step for Chavismo. First, it is a significant break with their ideological straight jacket, which has tied them for so long, and it it is very positive step for PDVSA, which will improve its cash flow by selling dollars at a much higher rate than the official Bs. 6.3 per US$ or the Sicad-1 rate of Bs. 11.8 per US$.

End of positives.

Because in Sicad-2, the Government has not created a foreign exchange market, but as usual, a complicated auction-like system, in which it is not clear who will win and how much you win. This is typical Chavista thinking: They spend eleven months thinking of what to do and come up with a Goldberesque system for fx trading.

To begin with, what is the fixation with bonds? Why can’t people trade Bolivars for US Dollars, Euros, or Yuans?  (or vice-versa). Remember that bonds were introduced in the fx system as a pantomime to mask the true fx rate at which things were being done. The Government made it a criminal activity to buy or sell Bolivars for dollars or vice-versa, unless you used securities. You could not even say at what equivalent price transactions were being made.

But now, neither how you do it, nor saying the price is illegal. You can even say the price of even the black market, it is no longer a crime. Remember all those brokers jailed in 2010? The case against them has been dropped, as the new Foreign Exchange Illicit Bill, decriminalized everything they were accused of doing.

So, why not forget about bonds? The Venezuelan Central Bank will actually state at which rate each batch of dollars will be sold on average.

Anyway. The new and improved Sicad-2 will begin operating…soon. We still need the rules and regulation. But if we are to believe the authorities, it will work something like his:

You go to your friendly bank, where you will say you want to buy x dollars and you given them a range of prices at which you want to buy (or sell if you are deranged enough). (You need an account in Venezuela and in dollars first)

Your bank, will create a spreadsheet with all its postures, which it will send two or three times daily to the Central Bank. You can only place a single posture per day. Unlimited, in amount or price.

The Venezuelan Central Bank will come back to you and say Si-Sicad for you, or No-Sicad for you, without explanation, after “matching” buying (bids) prices and sell (offer) prices. At the end of the day, the Central Bank will publish only the average price of all dollars sold.

So, this is not a market, it is a pseudo-auction system, where only the Central Bank will know bids and asks and what it does with them.

Fairly opaque in the details.

The system has no upper bands, limits and is flexible, but nothing says there will be unlimited offer to all the bids. In fact, I am sure there will be limited offer only. Nothing says that if you want to buy 1 million dollars at Bs. 100, they will give it to you. In fact, they may give it to you cheaper, as the Government has the right to intervene to keep the price down.

So, it is still is unclear. My opinion is that the Government has very limited resources for this market. Thus, initially there may be some optimism, which will fade fast. No matter what you may have heard, the parallel market (it is no longer black) has barely budged, suggesting some level of skepticism with the new Sicad-2 system.

At the same time, there will be little demand at the beginning. The large buyers (multinationals) will have to review the foreign exchange agreement, the regulations and the Foreign Exchange illicit Bill before they can even begin to operate in this new Sicad-2 market. The small buyers (you!) will have to open a dollar account in Venezuela, which is apparently one of the requirements to participate.

So, it may be on Maduro’s first year anniversary as President in mid-April (which falls in the middle of Dieterich’s prediction) before Sicad-2 shows its true dynamics and whether it is a real positive or not. In my humble opinion,there will be too many exchange rates, not enough transparency and too many limitations. The Government in trying to solve economic distortions, simply creates more and more, without understanding the true implications. To begin with, a new price for the dollar, which represents a huge devaluation, implies allowing prices to rise in the middle of 56% inflation per year. The Government has yet to understand that a foreign exchange market is not economic policy, but a transactional part of the economy. If it does not create other rules and regulations, it will all be a waste of time.

But if Sicad-2 is all they could come up with in eleven months, there is little hope for the rest of the policies. Thus, maybe Dieterich is right.

I just find it hard to be that optimistic.

The Ignorance Of Venezuela’s People’s “Defender”

March 8, 2014

People’s “defender” today

The Chavista Constitution of 2000, created the position of the People’s Defender, better translated as the People’s Ombudsman. This was a great idea of the 2000 Constitution, which, as so many things with Chavismo, it has received really bad implementation.

Like really bad…

Because those holding the position in the end have only sucked up to Chávez then, or Maduro now, defending the Government and seldom doing what Art. 280 of the 2000 Constitution mandated them to do:

Artículo 280. La Defensoría del Pueblo tiene a su cargo la promoción, defensa y vigilancia de los derechos y garantías establecidos en esta Constitución y los tratados internacionales sobre derechos humanos, además de los intereses legítimos, colectivos y difusos, de los ciudadanos.

(Article 280. The People’s Defender is in charge of promoting, defending and watching over the rights and gurantees in the Constitution and the international treaties about human rights, besides the legitimate, collective and diffuse interests of the citizens. )

And so far, the only person to occupy the position and do her jov was the first one, Dilia Parra, who was the only one qualified and truly independent to hold the position. The other two, German Mundarian and the current one, Gabriela Ramirez, have been know as the “Defensores del Puesto” (“Defenders of the position”) spending their time more defending the untenable positions of the Government, than those of the people.

Over the last few week, little has been heard from Ramirez, while repression blossomed in Venezuela. Ramirez, who reached her position with little human rights back1groung, reached her position after failing to win the race for Mayor of Baruta, three years ago and her buddy Diosdado brokered the position for her in a deal with Chávez.

But she is clearly not qualified. She has no interests in human rights and protecting the people.  At least in three years as the People’s Defender, she has shown no inclination for this. She is also a terrible (abominable?) speaker and knows very little about her job.

A typical Chavista Government official…Not qualified, not competent and fairly ignorant.

Today, there was a controversy over Ramirez, based on the video above. Despite three weeks of protests, Ramirez has been fairly invisible. In fact, only four days ago, she made these absurd statements, in which she claimed not to have any accusations of torture, despite individuals making them, as well as those of Foro Penal Venezolano, which have been very clear and extremely specific and quantitative (Alfredo Romero tweets updates regularly under @alfredoromero). In fact,Ramirez claims that “bullets” have come from “somewhere else” while there are numerous videos which show cops, police and National Guard shooting real bullets at people, exactly what Ramirez says is prohibited.

But today Ramirez in one single sentence showed not only that she is not qualified for her position, but that she has not even bothered to learn the basic tenets of what human rights are.

The controversy arose because people took her statement “la tortura tiene un sentido, por eso nosotros tenemos que ser muy rigurososos con el uso de los términos. La tortura se emplea para obtener…” (Torture has a sense, that is why we have to be rigorous in the use of terms. Torture is used to obtain information…) to mean that she thinks torture is justified.

While this may be what is understood or derived from her statement, I think it is just a consequence of how badly prepared she is to speak in public. But if her words were wrong, her true intent was just as bad, because while I don’t think she was trying to justify torture, she was trying to walk a very fine line and differentiate between torture and cruel or degrading punishment. Suggesting the “Torture” Committe only had to deal with those cases where people were obtained to obtain information.

But it just so happens, that Ramirez is stupidly and ignorantly wrong, because the United Nations, the OAS and even the Venezuelan Government have tried precisely to differentiate that very fine line. And Venezuelan law even includes “intimidation” as part of torture to make Ramirez look even worse and even more ignorant.

Thus, in her attempt to defend the Government, instead of doing her Constitutional job, Ramirez showed her ignorance of international law and the fact that she is not complying with what the Venezuelan Constitution says or what international says are the rights of  the people. As such, she could be one day charged for not preventing “torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” an as stated very clearly in the convention, people like Ramirez will not be able to argue that they followed superior orders as “they will be held accountable individually”

In fact, Ramirez’s statement justify her immediate dismissal from her position, something we know will never happen. Which simply proves the point that Venezuela is a Dictatorship, where human rights are not only nor respected, but those in charge of defending them are incompetent, ignorant politicians who only want to suck up to the highest levels of Government to scale positions in the future.

A profoundly sad and disturbing episode, which simply surprises nobody. Scruples is not a word Chavistas have in their vocabulary, nor is it a concept they can understand or comprehend.

But Humann Rights violations never expire…

Who Is In Control In Venezuela? By Paul Esqueda

March 8, 2014

My good friend Paul Esqueda, a very distinguished Venezuelan, with a career in science and science and education management, asked me if I could publish here his article expressing his concerns about where Venezuela is headed. I do so with great pleasure.

Who is in control in Venezuela?

Paul Esqueda

The recent events in Venezuela suggest a very concerning trend. The Government seems to control the centers of power (the Military, Congress, the Supreme Court, the National Elections Board and most of the governors and city mayors). However, a critical piece such as the economy is completely out of control. Inflation is at an all times high (55%), the parallel market rate of exchange of the national currency is ten times that of the official rate fueled by an obvious shortage of US dollars, and the supply chain of consumer goods is completely disrupted with the consequent shortages of vital consumer goods in the supermarket shelves. There seems to be a mix of improvisation and ignorance with the end result of very poor management of the economy. In addition, oil production seems to be declining, which is the most important source of revenue of foreign currency. Furthermore, the Government has not be able to honor the debts to most suppliers from neighboring countries and the international airlines. These are just some of the serious imbalances of the economy that may lead Venezuela to be a failed state.

Since Chavez came to power he began the creation of a “militia force” to defend the revolution. At the time, most public figures warned that this type of paramilitary forces presented a huge potential danger for our society. They have no clear chain of command, they are not trained to apply the rule of law, and most important they could get out of control at any time with their fire power. This is actually happening as I write these lines.

The Movement of Democratic Unity (Mesa de la Unidad Democratica, MUD) gathers most of the opposition groups. They have made every effort to turn things around by pointing out the economic imbalances with very little success. As a very democratic movement, the MUD is a heterogeneous group with many critical thinkers and very strong intellectual power. The MUD has promoted peaceful protests with rallies that have had massive attendance. However, things are getting out of control because the protests have taken root in many neighborhoods in Caracas and in most large cities in Venezuela setting up barricades (guarimbas) and progressively paralyzing the economy. The student movement, mostly from higher education institutions, are leading the guraimbas together with the local residents in each neighborhood. By the way, the MUD has very little control over the student movement. The MUD has constantly called for peaceful protests and have condemned the guarimbas as a violent and improper approach. The Indeed, one of Venezuela’s most important political analysts and economist, Luis Vicente Leon, referred to the guarimbas as a “path to a cliff.” Most importantly he claims that there is a “lack of leadership” and no clear way to funnel the powerful street protests.

The Government has opted to exercise all its power to crush the guarimbas by massive repression and shear use of military and paramilitary power. The consequences are evident, blatant violation of human right and a fake approach to power. Nicolas Maduro would call for a peace conference and dialogue only to turn around a few minutes later and order his militias to “wipe out” all protesters. Words definitely do not follow action, a clear lack of integrity that does not contribute to generating trust.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has been called to intervene by invoking the “Democratic Letter.” This is an agreement signed by all OAS members with a commitment to enforce democratic principles such as respect for the diversity of ideas and freedom of speech as we understand it today. OAS is moving at a snail pace arguing that Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected and that Venezuelans should resolve their issues among themselves. On the other hand, Nicolas Maduro argues that the protesters are a minority that only represent the upper class in Venezuela. Nothing further from the truth, the protest and barricades have taken root in all neighborhoods. Those low income neighborhood that stay quiet are under the rule of the militia thugs that violently repress any sign of dissent. Two important conclusions: the guarimbas need leadership badly since they are out of control and democracy is extremely lacking in Venezuela.

The whole argument of this article is that the Government is not in control of the economy (the main source of the problem as admitted by Chavista Governor of Tachira State, Jose Vielma Mora) , the militias are out of control, and the guarimbas are out of control. So who is in control in Venezuela? Is Venezuela at the verge of becoming a failed state? Is chaos going to reign in Venezuela? That is why the help of OAS is badly need in Venezuela. The human rights and freedom of speech pieces are pale next to the real challenges that Venezuela faces.

What have we learned after three weeks of protests in Venezuela?

March 6, 2014

BiFikYLCUAAKa1lOpposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in jail

It has been four weeks since the first San Cristobal protests that ignited the current wave of repression. Some people are still trying to understand what is happening, why it is happening and where it will end. I have no answer to where this will all go, but I do think I understand parts of what took us to where we are.

The current wave of protests began in Tachira State, as understood well by Girish Gupta in his article in The New Yorker, the people of Tachira are among those hurt the most by shortages in Venezuela, add to that a student protest, some jailed students taken to another State, which is illegal, and you had the necessary sparks to get this thing going.

But this wasn’t enough. You have to add to the combination tha,t coincidentally, that same week, Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado,  both called for protests under the slogan “La Salida” (The Exit), something which many thought was a bit too radical and a bit too much at the time. Combine that with a march where two people are killed and have the  Government blame and even jail Leopoldo Lopez for the violence that day. and you have the perfect combination for the flare up of protests we have seen in the last two weeks.

I mean, look at it. The Government could have defused the whole situation at many points in time. In fact, it even accused policemen of causing the deaths in the violent march that Lopez was accused for. What a perfect excuse to reduce tensions, release Lopez, send some jailed students home and give the Government some working space. Instead, Maduro does exactly the opposite: Lopez remains in jail, more than 1,000 students jailed, 60 accusations of torture, 20 dead and Maduro on nationwide TV calls on his paramilitary groups, the infamous “colectivos” and go and repress the opposition.

Which they have done in earnest since two nights ago.

And I could choose many pictures or videos, but here is one with some repression which makes me ashamed of being a Venezuelan:

And I ask the same questions I have asked before: What is Maduro’s strategy? Why hasn’t he defused the conflict? Is he so afraid of Lopez? Why more repression, which begets even more protests? Why provoke the paramilitary “colectivos” into a civil war?

The answer is I don’t know, because what is coming in terms of shortages in April and May is so much worse than the current official “you can’t find one of three items in the supermarkets”. And I really don’t see how you can blame the opposition this time around.

Remember Sicad 2? Well, Venezuela remains Sicad 2-less two weeks after it was first announced it would start operating and I am willing to take bets on the fact that despite Ramirez’ claim today, Monday will come and go and nothing will have happened, unless they fake it. Not only do we not have a Foreign Exchange Agreement, we do not have regulations as to how this new market will work. Maduro has been improvising for eleven months as President.

Call me skeptical, once again.

But going back to where the Government wants to go, it is  a very dangerous game. The next step is that beyond “Guarimbas”, where neighbors protest by blocking each others way, just because they want and they can, by now people are tired of the repression and being repressed. Today two people died, none of them students, one a National Guardsman and another a “Moto taxi” driver, which could or not be a euphemism for a a member of a paramilitary  “colectivo”. I just don’t know.

What I know is that people are fed up with the repression and they are ready to attack back. And it could get ugly. Guaicaipuro Lameda, a retired General and former Chávez Minister,  makes the point today that conditions are the same as those that preceded the 1989 infamous Caracazo, which Chávez used in part to become famous. And they are very similar. The “people” perceive a Government that is not only not providing basic necessities, but is showing that it is far and removed from the people. People forget Carlos Andres Perez was elected with 56% of the vote a month before the Caracazo. That is how fickle Venezuelans can be.

And yes, the Caracazo was mostly about looting, but that was once it got beyond control. Before that, it was protests. Protests about unfulfilled promises. Protests about frustrations. About crime, about inflation. There were no shortages. And repression only got out of hand once the protests were out of control. Are we there yet?

And we are certainly close to it, based on what people experienced today in Los Ruices, where coincidentally the death of the National Guardsman and the moto-taxista took place. The people of Los Ruices are tired of it. tired of Colectivos, Tired of guardsmen, tired of tear gas and tired of being repressed day after day for protesting.

And it all goes back to San Cristobal. The whole city is up in arms, such that the Governor had to come out and say he disagreed with the violence and the jet planes flying overhead as a threat (he backed down a bit, but he wants to be considered to replace Maduro). San Cristobal is not middle class and the National guard seems afraid of people by now. Neither is El Guarataro, nor is Caricuao, nor is Petare or Las Minas.

But instead of backing down, Maduro presses forward. He lost his international prestige as a Democrat? Insult the Panaminian President Martinelli. Which shows he what he thinks about Panama.

And Ramirez came back saying the Chinese and Russians will lend the Government money. I just doubt it. Not now, least of all under this conditions. I mean, the Chinese are so conservative with their money that they keep it mostly in US Treasury Bills. They are not going to lend to a shaky Government with a nebbish leader. What if the Government after it decides to place the Chinese at the back of the line?

And they should. They should wait with the Brazilian and Argentinean “alcahuetas” in the back of the line.  After all, the Venezuelan private sector should be paid first, no? It is crucial for the future, despite what Maduro and his cohorts may think today. And between the Panaminians and the Chinese, the choice seems quite clear.

As for the Cubans, the problem is that most will want to stay here, rather than go back. They think Venezuela is savage capitalism, where you can live off remarkable opportunities for arbitrage and where corruption is rampant.

Another reason why this incapable revolution has to be eradicated from the land of Venezuelans.

The question remains: What is Maduro after? Suspend constitutional guarantees before the real shortages begin? Blame the opposition for those upcoming shortages?

It could be, but somehow, it seems as if the people of Venezuela are beyond those tricks. Which is why I see more violence, almost civil war-levels ahead. Until the Government makes a mistake. The opposition can make many, but they are not in charge and they are not armed. But any use of excessive force by an aggressive and well armed Government, could simply be the beginning of its end.

And that seems to be where the Government is taking us.

The Venezuela Paradox

March 1, 2014

After three weeks of repression, fifteen dead, at least 60 reported tortured and more than eight hundred detained, including opposition leaders and reporters, the Venezuelan students have at least shown the world what little respect the Maduro administration has for the human and civil rights of the people. Venezuela has seen similar repression before during Chavismo’s rule, but never has it been compressed in such a short period of time. Or taped, photographed and videoed so extensively. By now, it is clear around the world, how prevalent repression, censorship and violence are under Chavismo. Maduro talks peace and repproachment with the opposition, the day after calling an opposition lady a prostitute and the day before the most repressive use of force in Caracas. Maduro decides to give two days of vacation ahead of the four-day Carnival break, in the hope or belief that by next Wednesday people may have forgotten what he has done.

How little people learn from history! In fact, Hugo Chávez believed the same thing in March 2002 when the Easter week vacation arrived. He thought the protests would subside and all the insults and repression of the previous days would be forgotten. He was gone four days after Easter Sunday, only to return due to the stupidity of those that did not follow Constitutionality after he resigned due to the deaths of April 11th. 2002.

The problem is that this victory by the students has by now become a paradox. Venezuela represents the paradox that in the twenty first Century, as those that were repressed in the twentieth century become Government, Human Rights and Democratic Rights have become less important around the world.

It is an amazing turn of events. I remember the era in which Virela and Pinochet were despicable figures who governed Argentina and Chile. It was beyond my comprehension how famous physicist Antonio Misetich, who had returned to live in Argentina to find his missing sister, could also be disappeared jut like that. Or how Juan Jose Giambiagi, a Nobel class scientist who later became my friend, would emigrate to Brazil and the Argentinian Government cheered. Venezuela was a recipient of the emigration of this era. We heard the stories, we could not believe that this was happening in what were once thriving democracies.

But today many of the same countries are run by those that were persecuted and their silence is deafening. Argentina ignores what is happening for ideological reasons, Colombia for commercial ones, Chile because it is in a transition, but I do not expect much from Bachelet. But the real surprise all these years has been how morally empty Brazil’s left is. You can not lead a region when you behave like that. It will come back to haunt them one day. They have also forgotten history. Sadly, they seem to think or feel that repression is a thing of the past in their respective countries. They think they have the institutions to withstand anything. Think again. Chile was the strongest democracy in Latin America in the sixties. Venezuela took its place. And we know how both turned out.

And that is what makes me pessimistic about the future. Not of Venezuela. Of the whole region. When you hear repeatedly that Maduro was elected  (Was he?) from those that are leaders of their respective countries. When they so conveniently ignored that the audits promised to them never took place, you have to wonder what concept of democracy they have in their minds.

And while they are many decent people expressing their outrage at Maduro’s repression and discrimination of those that oppose him, it seems that they are few and far between. And few are powerful. The international media knows by now. Some countries like Panama have stood up on the right side of humanity. But unfortunately, Panama is one of the exceptions.

The rest simply prefer to ignore it.

And I do not expect anyone to come in and intervene in Venezuela, nor do I want them too. Cuba is here already, we should just kick them out.

But I do expect people who call themselves leaders to express their outrage at a Government brutally repressing its people, killing some of them, torturing kids for doing what is a Constitutional right under the Constitution proposed and approved by the party in power. And institutions like the OAS, who have decided not to say much, should also raise their voice. Not only against repression, but about the silencing of the media, the censorship of the Internet and the jailing of opposition figures. Otherwise, they will soon lose their right to even exist.

Because the other paradox is that as the students have continued their protests, the Government has become even more violent. Protests are not going to stop and the current handling of them will only increase their intensity. And the death toll will rise. It is the Government that has all of the tools to stop this, but so far, it has not budged an inch, pushing forward at every step.

And I think the students have won the international media war. And their battle will continue, but nobody knows where it will end.

With an economy in shambles, scarcity increasing and Maduro acting like their is no urgency to attend economic problems, the protests can only add participants.

And those that think that these are middle class protests should think again. It was San Cristobal that initiated the protests and in that city it is a proportion much larger than the middle class that is participating actively in the daily protests.  An in Caracas, Caricuao, Petare and Catia have taken part, even if they have pressure not to do so. And I have been in Altamira and talked to the students, anyone that thinks they are just middle class, should visit with them.

My theory is that some in Government are undermining Maduro to have an excuse to replace him from within. But what do I know.

Much like 2002 or the Ukraine today, these protests have unforeseen consequences and ends, Some “tenientico” , for example, can get the wrong idea. Why not? If Chávez tried it, why can’t he?

That is not only part of the paradox, but is also part of Venezuela’s  current tragedy.

A Confusing Day: Confession, Repression And Backtracking In Venezuela

February 24, 2014


It was a very intense and confusing day in Venezuela today. It all started with Vielma Mora’s statements, which likely threw a curve ball at Nicolas, who can barely handle a softball. While many were wary of Vielma’s statements or confessions, who cares? The importance of Vielma’s statements is not that he may become the leader of any force, but that it throws a monkey wrench into Nicolas’ dream world. A shaky Maduro now has to face internal dissent, when he can barely manage his own faithful groups.

Because even when Vielma tried to backtrack:

VMHe still said “I assume my words one by one“. i.e., no censorship, no repression, no overflights, no Leopoldo in jail, even if he “loves” the revolution.

Jeez, if he loves it so much, why is it so imperfect? Why not just blast it and be done with it?

And as Maduro met with motorcycle drivers, the wrong image, even if they were not part of the same armed groups terrorizing Venezuela today, you have to wonder what goes through Nicolas’ clearly feeble mind. He should have never left his bus driving position.

And for those PSF’s visiting us recently claiming the US wants Maduro to go, I remind them that you know little about what is going on here in Venezuela. Among other things, besides the worst repression of the last 15 years, “Madurismo” or whatever you may want to call that guys’ following, is avoiding the Constitution blatantly, including:

-The Venezuelan Supreme Court is full of Justices who are alternates. In order to name full time members of the Supreme Court, you need 2/3 of the Deputies of the National Assembly to approve them, something Maduro wants to avoid.

-The same is true of the members of the Electoral Board, whose terms expired in April of last year. The Government has made no move to elect them.

-And the Comptroller died two yeras ago and has yet to be replaced. Another position that requires 2/3 majority.

And even Henrique Capriles, who days ago was taking a Ghandi-like position, today came out blasting Maduro and refusing to meet with him. I heard only part of what he said, so here is Bloomberg’s quotes:


So much for a Mandela style or Ghandi-like posture, Capriles finally seems mad.

And he should be. And he should not call for a “truth” commission, unless Maduro has some form of gesture, like releasing Leopoldo Lopez or Simonovis, or all of the above.

Or Maduro could resign too…Given the deaths, the repression, the human rights violations, that is what Maduro should really do. He will have to soon anyway.

In fact, Capriles (can’t find the quote) suggested that Maduro had committed genocide, not easy words to pronounce when you are talking about a President.

But with twelve deaths form the depression so far and over 600 detained, that is exactly what is going on in Venezuela.

Because Art. 53 of the Venezuelan Constitution says anyone can gather publicly with anyone without permission.

And Art. 55 says security forces have to respect people’s human rights

And Art. 49 says every person has the right to be judged by his natural judges, but Leopoldo is in a military prison, where he was charged.

And the same Art. 49 says that every person has the right to know why he is being charged, have access to the evidence and time to prepare a defense. None of this is being followed in Venezuela with the protesters.

And on top of that they are being killed (twelve so far) injured and repressed violently, without Maduro even showing that he knows what is going on in the country he presides over.

And to top it all off, Maduro declares Thursday Feb. 27th. and Friday Feb. 28th. to be holidays, so that Venezuelans will have six days off in  a row, since next week are the Carnival holidays.

Clearly Maduro does not want to offer peace, he is hoping protests will go away. But like Valentine’s day, when the same strategy backfired, he may be surprised again.

In fact, people are as militant as ever today. What did Vielma know that he said what he said? Why did Capriles become aggressive all of a sudden?

I don’t know, but when two such dissimilar political figures act the same way, something is afoot. Some crack in the facade is showing. Some weakness is being perceived and they both want to take advantage of it.

Remember, if Maduro resigns, the Constitutional way out of it is elections within a month and both sides seem to be jockeying for position in that race.

just a feeling…

(And Ramirez talked about Sicad 2, who cares?)

Tachira State Declares Rebellion In Venezuela

February 24, 2014

Hey! Vielma Mora, f…. you!

Tachira Governor Distances Himself From Venezuelan Government

February 24, 2014

vielmaGovernor of Tachira Jose Vielma Mora

In a surprising development, pro-Government Chavista Governor Jose Vielma Mora distanced himself sharply from the Government.(audio link to interview included) Tachira is the most radical state in its protests against the Government of the last few weeks.

Among other things Vielma stated:

“I am autonomous… I have asked General Bermudez (who led the repression in his State) to be replaced …to show my intention of peace””I do not agree with Simonovis and Leopoldo Lopez being kept in jail””There is a problem of shortages and there is an economic problem, there is a problem with the foreign exchange differential””I am against censorship of any kind””I disagree with flying military jets over Tachira, it was an unacceptable excess””Students have a right to protest”
“There was an excess of General Pirela of the National Guard, he was replaced”There you have it, the first major Chavista political figure to clearly distance himself from the Government. This creates a new problem for an already tangled Nicola maduro. The only question at tis time is whether Vielma Mora acted alone, knows something or is simply being opportunistic. No matter which, this is a very significant development for Venezuela and the current events taking place in it.But only time will tell why he did it.

Peaceful Day, Violent Evening in Venezuela

February 22, 2014

After a very peaceful day, when Chavismo held its somewhat small march and the opposition, despite the limited media availability, held huge marches everywhere, including a massive one in Caracas as you can see by the overall view from that drone above, the evening has not been as quiet.

And it is hard to understand what is the Government’s strategy. What does it gain from sending the National Guard and “colectivos” at this time, on a Saturday night? After the march, students returned to Altamira and blocked their usual stretch, which is no more than around three sides of the square. They did this Thursday, nothing happened. Again last night, nothing happened. But tonight after a very peaceful day, the Guard went after them with the aggressive and armed colectivos, much like Wednesday. Really, what’s the point?

It would seem at this time, that it is to the Government’s advantage for things to quiet down. So, why repress the way they did in Altamira, where they have retaken the square after avoiding it for two days?

This is the square right now:


What have they gained? To send the students back to planning where they go now. To get them even more angry than ever after a day that was sooo nice for them.

Because at this point, Caracas is third in the ranking of the Government’s problems.

Number one, of course, is San Cristobal, where the Government has a huge problem in their hands. If they try to get the people out of the streets, there will be violence and repression and things will actually worse. Many are likely to be killed if the Government tries the violent approach. And the peaceful route seems to be a dead end, as the population is incensed at the violence an it seems as if even the National Guard does not want to fight its “pueblo” and there are very few avenues of negotiation available.

Then, there is Valencia. Repression there has been remarkable and today the girl who was shot in the eye with pellets died after three days in intensive care. This will only get people more incensed than ever. To give you an idea of the level of violence in Valencia by the National Guard and the police, this is a picture of the cartridges, bullets, shots, casings left at a single residential complex on Wednesday:


Is this normal? Isn’t this a little bit overdone?

So, why would you want to increase unrest in Caracas?

And I repeat, the question is what is the Government after? Because I don’t see a pleasant end to all this repression. And it will have a huge political cost for the Government. Are Maduro’s buddies simply letting him run the show so that he screws up and they can remove him? At this time, this seems the most likely scenario in my mind.

The march was extremely peaceful and it was really massive. here are my pictures in no particular order:

photo(25) photo(23)

Looking back on the Los Ruices elevadophoto(22)

From the Los Ruices elevado


Heading back after two hours, people still arriving in droves.


Students jailed, criminals free, Made in Venezuela

The next to last picture above was taken two hours after the first picture after I started heading back. people were still arriving in droves and I could not go close to the stage, simply there were too many people to go forward. I don’t recall this ever happening again.

And despite all of the Government expenses, the Chavista march was puny in comparison. Last night, I went out late at night, bordering the La Carlota airport and found the military airport filled with buses with the people brought to the march in Caracas, the only one the Government held today. To say nothing of those held all over the world.

Maduro has made mistake, over mistake over mistake so far. Today just seems to be another one. Jailing Lopez was stupid, shutting down the Colombian TV station was another, massive repression over and over is another, kicking CNN out another one (even if the backtracked)

Internationally, Maduro has lost what little credibility of doubt some people may have had. Even his closest allies are likely wondering what is going through his head, even if their silence is shameful. Funny how these leftist idealists are more concerned about their mercantile interests at this time than about human rights and the violation of the Venezuelan Constitution.

What a pitiful bunch of so called leaders Latin American Presidents and politicians have become.

But a day of reckoning seems to be arriving for them. They should be concerned by now that a Government change, even within Chavismo, will lead to less preferential treatment for them.

And I will soon leave Caracas, with mixed emotions. On the one hand I have to go back, on the other it has been so much fun being here and covering events close to them. But there is also a feeling of wanting to be here to see the end of this. I don’t know when this will happen, but I want to be here no matter what. It’s been so long in coming…

Not that I know what is coming.  think Chavsimo will replace Maduro at some point, How and in which sequence of legality or not, I have no clue. Who comes after him is even more of a mystery. What is clear is that economically the days ahead are very tough and this instability has debilitated the Maduro Government even further. And it remains as indecisive as ever on economic matters, which will only exarcebate events even further.

Stay tuned, even if I will no longer will have a front seat, like I have tonight in Altamira.

How Venezuelans (mostly Gochos) Build Barricades

February 20, 2014

As I said today, students are getting more organized. Nowhere is this more the case than in Tachira State, where this protests begun. For those that say that this is a middle class protest, look at San Cristobal, the capital of Tachira, a state that suffers from the fact that 30-40% of the food in Venezuela is being smuggled to Colombia to be sold. If you think things are scarce in Caracas, try going to a supermarket there.

San Cristobal has suffered the brunt of the repression. Last night they had no lights, no internet and no water. Despite this, the people have kept up the fight. Reportedly 70% of the city is in the hands of the protesters. Tonight,  I have heard little from San Cristibal, maybe the blackout is complete. I just don’t know.

What I do know is that the gochos, as people from the Andes are called, are tough people. They have been at this fight longer than anyone, so they have learned. Here are examples of some of the barricades and some of the tactics that these Venezuelans are using:

IMG-20140220-WA0013(1) A simple barricade, bring lots of junk to block tanks from going by IMG-20140220-WA0015 How about some big rocks to block the way. This pebble seems to do the job

tuberiasThe Government never built the water system , but they did leave the concrete pipes, let’s use them!

IMG-20140219-WA0018Why don’t we move this small tree onto the street?

arbolOurs is bigger than yours!!!


IMG-20140220-WA0017How about this home made anti-pellet vest?

Wait for it, wait for it, now!

(Thanks to all the people that sent pictures, many were repeated, you know who you are)


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