Sunday, 30 December 2007

The Bolivarian answer to Big Brother

Hugo Chavez had a very hard defeat on 2nd of December of 2007. He called it in front of the cameras "a Pyrrhic victory" for the opposition, "shit, shit, shit" (sic) and a "victory of courage" for him, but it is was a defeat for him. I think that even Hugo himself thought after he had made that pathetic appearance on TV insulting people that he had made a fool of himself.

After that and after several rows with several political figures around the world (we probably do not need to explain what Por qué no te callas means even if you do not speak Spanish), after
Uribe told him he did not want Chavez any longer to be active as mediator in the hostage crisis,
after the Gucci episode and many other things, Hugo of Sabaneta (more on the Chavez clan here) decided to revamp his image abroad.

He is well known for his cheap shows to gain popularity with the gullible: the UN show about Bush, his assistance to the parallel forums, his hugging of Iran's president and so on.

But now he needed a real big doses of attention so he created the Bolivarian answer to Big Brother: El Gran Hugo.

In this programme you will be able to watch him 24 hours a day fighting for the liberation of 3 (or something like that) hostages.

Yeah...Hugo and the FARC announced 3 hostages in the hands of the Colombian narco-guerrilla were going to be him. One of the hostages is the son of one of the other hostages and a guerrilla. I wonder what we need to consider as hostages here.

Anyway, Chavez needed some additional drama. Although the FARC had previously released many hostages in their kidnapping business without making too much of a fuss around it (just getting some cash and the liberation of some of their accomplices), now they apparently need all the attention they can get. Everything can fail, Hugo tells us. This is a delicate mission. The Red (funny, this is very red) Cross is there. Commissions from France and Colombia's opposition. He relishes in showing time after time on a map to all journalists allowed within his entourage how he will proceed. Other people who also want to profit from the cheap publicity are:

  • Evo Morales and Nestor Kirchner, both heavily financed by Chavez
  • Oliver Stone, who is making a film of the Liberator II and who might get some needed support from Hugo as well

How low can these people go to look for some publicity?

The vast majority of Colombians and Venezuelans are very annoyed with the whole issue. They wonder why the international media and figures like Sarkozy have failed to ask why there are political prisoners in Venezuela, why Chavez is not mentioning the Venezuelan hostages of the FARC, why Chavez never condemned the criminal activities carried out by the FARC, why he is doing nothing to decrease a murder rate in Venezuela that is over 100% higher than when assumed power 9 years ago.

Some questions we have:

  • How long can this show last?
  • Are there other invited guests to GranHugo's show?
  • Which of these guests are going to fall out of grace to the international viewers?
  • What new shows will follow after the Colombian episode is not enough to distract from the mess in Venezuela, from the Antonini cases in the States and Bolivia and all other issues?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Are Venezuelan brains being trained as needed? Part I

I am going to add this data to the set of IDEAS I am writing about sustainable development for Venezuela later on, together with more data I am working with.


Venezuela MUST take part in the PISA testing programme. Our government avoids like hell any kind of real accountability on anything including its work on education. This must change. Venezuela must participate in the PISA studies, as other non-OECD countries are already doing.

The first results will show our education levels are disastrous, even for Latin American standards. The education minister must commit himself to raise the position of Venezuela within 3 years. If she or he does not accomplish that, she or he must be sacked.

More to follow...

Sunday, 16 December 2007

The clock is ticking: where do Venezuelans want to take their country?

Or how to avoid the lemming cycles

This is one of those posts I want to keep changing all the time. You might not want to reread things all the time, but you can jump to the new pieces of information appearing here from time to time.

The late Venezuelan writer Arturo Uslar Pietri wrote over 70 years ago those words about "sembrar el petróleo", to sow oil, about the need to use oil for securing our future and not just financing our present. He was complaining already back then about the disastrous economic policies, when oil started to be used on a massive scale to satisfy the country's immediate needs and above all, the rapacious habits of the politicians in power. Venezuela transformed itself from a poor agricultural country into a country that produced mostly oil and could not feed itself or export any meaningful product to feed itself but for oil.

Nothing has changed and much has worsened in all this time. Clientelism and a very inefficient petrodollar state is what we have. Venezuela is a country of vendors and tenders: we sell each other US shoes, Colombian dresses, Chilean paper, German heavy machines, Scottish whiskey (the average, not just the wealthy, Venezuelan drinks more whiskey than a Scotsman), just about anything. We pay most of it with oil exports and to a lesser extent export of such things as iron, cement, gold and a couple of other products (apart from cement, mostly commodities).

Venezuelans have had the Dona Barbara mentality. Dona Barbara was a book written by Romulo Gallegos in the twenties: the country is a vast, wild, untamed place one just has to conquer. Mix the hidalgo mentality ("physic labour is demeaning", "earns from someone's else are what a gentleman should have") and very corrupt regimes supported by colonial powers ready to plunder as far as possible and you have the perfect mix for underdevelopment.

Reality is different. As Jared Diamond wrote in Collapse, a society can choose to go for total collapse or survival depending on its uses of its environment and its relationships with the outside world. By "environment" he did not just mean "trees, rivers and birds". Environment is the whole set of resources we have.

So far neither Chávez nor most of the opposition have produced tangible proposals, much less the slightest beginning of a project for sustainable development.

As we know, oil will not last forever, population continues to grow, pollution in Venezuela is very bad, even for such an underdeveloped country, and Venezuelans use their resources as if there were no tomorrow. One does not need to be a tree hugger to know where this all is leading.

We human beings are not lemmings. These little rodents have periodic population booms that are regulated by massive migration (in which sometimes the huge movements lead to many of them pushing and falling down cliffs) and death by starvation. Even though homo sapiens sapiens are subject to the limits of the environment and even though human populations have repeatedly undergone through similar processes of population growth and massive starvation, humans have a particularity: our neocortex allows us to learn exponentially.

This leads us to two new situations: we can be incredibly more rapacious and destructive than the hungriest lemming and we can also learn exponentially from our errors. It is up to us what path we take.

Let's start putting some figures on the board...

This is Venezuela's population growth:

And we keep producing more or less the same thing we have done throughout the years. The increase in the export of other products than oil has not been nearly as high as the increase of imports or the increase of revenues by effect of oil production. We are more dependent than ever on oil. The government does not want to believe we are approaching a cliff and some within the traditional opposition is just hoping we arrive to the cliff and fall so that we can get rid of Chavez, but they do not think about what comes next.

Let's look now at the birth rate in South America.
Venezuela has the third highest birth rate in a region that has already one of the highest birth rates in the world.

Only Bolivians and Paraguayans have a higher birth rate among the independent nations of South America (French Guyana does have a higher birth rate than Venezuela).


Saturday, 15 December 2007

Some ideas for Venezuela

How can we attain the standard of living of Danes and Canadians, Koreans and Japanese? I know that question sounds almost obscene for many Venezuelans, a joke, a dream. I think it is possible. I refuse to think my country is doomed to be just an underdeveloped country. The only way we have to finally get moving towards a sustainable development is to start thinking of the very concrete steps we need to take and then make the sacrifices we need to do.

Let's start to propose some ideas. As the list has been growing, I have decided to create a different post for each of the domains. I will be moving the ideas there.

(This will be a post permanently updated about Venezuela. I will be adding stuff with some frequency)

1) Education

2) Economy

3) Industry, science and technology

4) Security

5) Culture

6) Environment

7) Population

8) Health

9) Tourism

10) Agri

11) General management

12) Politi

Who supports Hugo Chavez and his regime in Europe?

This post is going to be updated on a continuous basis.
The total amount of people supporting Chávez is decreasing by the day, but there are still some. It is a similar situation to Mugabe, who previously had so much support in the West.

Heads of State

Well, there are not many of them in Europe. Firstly we have:
  • Alexander Lukashenko, Belorussian head of state. You can find some information on what the European Union thinks of Alexander here. I read Scholl-Latour's book with a lot of interest, although I do not approve certain things he writes about. He has produced a good account of Lukashenko in his book "Russland im Zangengriff" (in German). There is one chapter there dedicated to Belarus and what I read there corresponds very much with what my Belorussian friends have told me about the whole issue.
And that is about it. We can say Vladimir Putin's Russia is making a lot of money by selling weapons to Chávez's military, but that is far from saying Vladi loves to get a picture next to Hugo.

Eurodeputies supporting Chavez
  • Sahra Wagenknecht: German, member of the Linke, she is from the left part of the communists.
Some articles about her: Wikipedia (German) has general information (there is less information about her in other languages), Spiegel (German) Sahra the the lobster pictures
  • Giusto Catania: Italian communist, GUE/NLG
  • Georgious Toussas: Greek, GUE/NGL, a member of the Greek Communist party.
  • Manuel Medina Ortega: Spanish, PSE Group
  • Ken Levingston, a.k.a. Red Ken, the former mayor of London. He was promoting a deal by which poor Venezuela is giving oil to help the poor of one of the richest cities in the world. They were supposed to deliver "know-how" on such matters as tourism and traffic to Venezuela but in reality the deal costs much more to Venezuela than to London. Here you can read how Mr Levingston praises Hugo Chávez and says everything the media says are "lies". I wonder if he would be ready for a live debate with opposition for Britons and Venezuelans to see. I want to see the results in Venezuela of London's part in the deal.
  • Michel Collon, Belgian journalist, linked to Telesur, Hugo Chavez "response to CNN" and to Belgium's . I wonder if his work for Telesur is compensated in some way other than "thank you".
  • Sfia Bouarfa, senator of the Belgian (French-speaking) Socialist Party. She was invited by the Venezuelan, very red National Electoral Council to "supervise" the quality of their work. She gave a very positive report on it to the Belgian government.
  • Tierry Deronne, another Belgian journalist and vice-president of Vive TV, one of Chávez's TV channels. He is a friend of Sfia Bouarfa, according to Bouarfa's blog. This journalist says on his blog that still 70% of the TV in Venezuela is in the hands of the opposition. I wonder if he managed to watch TV from a TV without cable outside Caracas. Mind: in Venezuela, unlike in Belgium, most poor do not have cable TV and outside a couple of major cities it is hard to get any non-cable TV station that critical to Chavez.

Here you have a list of all the Eurodeputies who support the regime of Chávez, a list by themselves.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Who will succeed Chavez?

Well, Chavez has been telling us since the referendum he will have to leave office in 2013. Just a couple of days before the referendum he was announcing he would rule until 2051 or until his body could endure.

Chavez is not sure about what to do next. He is going from "Venezuela is not prepared for socialism" to "I will have to leave you because you were so lazy to stay at home while you should have voted for me" to "I won't change a comma of the proposal and it will pass by other means".

Like many others, I started to wonder what possibilities Chavismo might try now.
Some of the options I think that movement can take are:
  1. introduce by enabling law or other paralegal means the indefinite reelection and thus to prolong the rule of Chávez as president.
  2. create a new post of "Prime Minister" tailored to Chavez's desire and make the presidential post a symbolic one.
  3. make Chávez the big boss of the PSUV and make him unofficial rule from there (basically, the same as 2 but with a less evident title)
  4. replace Chávez with another figure as real "leader" and give Chávez a rather symbolic role, like the Queen in England (OK, not necessarily hereditary, but you know what I mean)
Chavismo without Chavez is, obviously, nothing. The "process" would have to go through a major remaking.

Both 1 and 2 would be very difficult for Chavez to do. He might be tempted to do the "Putin", declare a "heir apparent" as Putin declared Medvedev and then just sit back and pull the strings.

In any case he would either need to push for new laws using the powers granted to him by a National Assembly that is almost 100% behind him. Even if PODEMOS deputies have been declared by Chavez as traitors, they have a huge identity crisis and are unsure about what path to take. Some of them still hope for a reconciliation, but then: reconciliation is a word that can drive hard-core Chavistas crazy.

One possibility for the succession could be Rafael Ramírez, who would be the equivalent of Medvedev, but then: does he have even a fraction of the charisma Chavez has (or is losing right now)?

Another possibility could be Jorge Rodríguez Gómez. That would mean a radicalization of the regime, whatever the economic and social climate he may encounter.

José Vicente Rangel is a conservative-moderate Chavista (I have difficulty considering him a "moderate", he is just a moderate in opposition to such people as Jorge Rodríguez Gómez). He is well known and respected among the Chavistas, but he is probably too old for the job and too...cough, cough, moderate for Chavistas.

The bets are open.

In any case, we also need to ask: when is Chavez going to try to try the main gambit for prolonging his power? He might try to do it by enabling law and he will then expect a major resistance from the opposition and from a growing sector of people who initially supported him.
We will have to wait a couple of days, at most until January but most probably already before the end of this year to know about it. I think Chavismo is trying to figure out if the opposition has its own plan at all.

Chavismo might try to do "the Putin thing" by a Constituent Assembly or Constituyente. The move for the Constituyente can be initiated by Chavismo itself or it can come from the students' movement.

That last option would be paradoxical: while the students try to open up the government for other ideas, Chavismo can try to use the whole procedure of Constituent Assembly to actually pass those modifications to the law they could not pass now.

In any case, time is running out for Chavismo. Venezuela's population is one of the fastest-growing in South America, Venezuela is importing more and more by the day and oil prices do not seem to be climbing further and if they do, they might not climb as dramatically as now.

Now, whatever happens, time is running out for Venezuela as well. Whether we have Chávez or not, a Chávez-close ruler or the opposition, our chicken of the golden eggs cannot produce enough eggs for all of us.

If there is not a real change in thinking from the majority of the population, we are in for a bigger collapse than anything we have seen for many years (and our standard has been decreasing for so many years now)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


Why did it take so long?

This is some stuff for the conspiracy masters. It goes half way. It describes some alleged details of how Chavez was ready to wait until all votes were counted and how he conceded to give in after military pressure. I think that before advancing anything more, we need to see all the actas and stop speculating. Some people are going through the data available and they will publish it in Caracas Chronicles.

It would be very interesting to ask Hugo Chavez about the veracity of the events described below, but then we all know how difficult it is for journalists to approach him with difficult questions.

Now, here with the "stuff":

Journalist Hernán-Lugo wrote yesterday in El Nacional what he thought happened for Chavez to take so long to recognize the result. The article has been republished in several other newspapers and sites. Here a translation on the run:

2 December: Hugo Chavez meets at 7:30 pm with the Alto Mando Militar, the top of the military, and informs them he is determined to wait for 100% of the actas, the voting registers, to arrive before recognizing any defeat. Jesse Chacon, Diosdado Cabello, Jose Albornoz, Miguel Perez and 4 officers are at his side. Vice-president Jorge Rodriguez is absent. His mission is to keep the National Electoral Council waiting.

Tension grows at the Fuerte Tiuna military base, soldiers are ordered to stay put. A general stands up and after expressing his respect for the commander in chief, warns him that the Armed Forces would not go out to repress the people. To count all records would mean four days of endless waiting and protests. "This country won't stand those days of unrest", he warns.

Chavez looks at them all and remains silent. "They lied to me, they deceived me", he says to Cabello, as the Zamora Command of logistics had constantly reported the YES vote was going to win, even if the reports of the DIM, the Venezuelan Intelligence, said the contrary. Chavez was mad, incredulous in front of his first political defeat in 9 years and after the failed coup of 1992, as those who saw him and heard the details of the story report.

"The blame is on the National Assembly", he said. The governor of Miranda State just manages to say: "The day they leave you, I will stand by your side". Cabello is the unconditional person of the man from Barinas. That has earned him becoming minister of the Presidential Secretary, head of Conatel, Vicepresident of the Republic and the candidate that besieged Enrique Mendoza.

The warning of the officer as well as the messages arriving from Maracay, in Aragua State, from military officers close to retired General Raul Isais Baduel, made Chavez understand that it was inconvenient to postpone the agony. After one hour of discussions, they convinced Chavez that the result, even if close, was technically for the NO. They even brought an expert from the CNE to Fuerte Tiuna to explain him the maths. The functionary explained the numbers in the states with the highest population made the result irreversible. "We are ready to recognize that but we would like to see the results", Cabello said. Chavez only listens. He does not speak. Finally, he stands up and goes to a room he has at the military base. He remains there alone for a long time. Nobody knew what he was going to do.

When he goes out, the President goes back to the Miraflores Palace, where his followers expect that Venezuela will have a new constitution from December. Although the celebration had been cancelled, the music started in order to distract those present and keep them there, to make a wall in case that some "madman" would like to take power in the framework of the "Operacion Tenaza", an alleged CIA plan lead from the US embassy in Valle Arriba, Caracas.

Chavez himself confessed when he recognized the numbers from the CNE that he had thought for a long time about the decision to take and that he had admitted his defeat to avoid a bigger anguish, as 8 hours had already passed and the CNE had saud the country would be informed after 2 hours, as in December of 2006, during the presidential elections. The gambit was to make Chavez look internationally as a democrat and to prevent a possible civil war in Venezuela.

At 9:02 pm, Jorge Rodriguez had appeared publicly at the Provisional centre of the Zamora command, in the Alba hotel, and admits that the votes were very close. In fact, when the vice-president arrived at the place, the difference went down from 8 to 4% and when the voting closed, the difference was around 3%. For then it was impossible to do anything: the voting had been closed, the machines shut down and as in any defeat, loneliness accompanied the besieged, who promised to transform it into a new victory. A new "for the moment" came from a skillful politician and not from the idealist that on 4th February of 1992 tried to get the power through a coup d'etat

Now, CNE official Diaz declared all representatives knew the delay was due to technical problems. Could it be that there is a part of the truth in every version?

Monday, 3 December 2007


Democracy won. The reform has been rejected.

We firstly were nervous because so few people were coming out to vote. Some were saying there were no queues because the process was much faster, but still there were too few people and we knew this could be very bad for the opposition.

Shortly before 2 pm Venezuelan time, the students declared they were calling all students to go out to vote after 2pm. In fact more and more of them came. They wanted to keep students in the voting polls after these were closed. If the students had gone earlier, they would have gone back home and would be less likely to be in the centres to defend the votes.

Voting centres finally closed. Time passed and no news came from the CNE. Chavez's government leaked to the international press some "exit polls" by "independent pollsters". Those pollsters were actually well-known in Venezuela as Chavez-close organisations. Reuters started to spread the news Chávez was winning. Some minutes later all kinds of news agencies started to repeat verbatim that Chávez was leading in the exit polls by several points.

We knew it could not be like that. That was way too different from what we had from many polls and even though polls are known for their inaccuracy, these time the difference was just too big and our own stories from different voting centres made us believe we could not be losing.
Quico has reported extensively in Caracas Chronicles about the different polls.

Venezuelans started to get the results from people in many different counting stations from inside Venezuela and abroad and those results had nothing to do with what the government had "leaked". I also had the exit polls from some voting centres in Europe, but I was aware most Venezuelans abroad are against Chávez. Still, the reports from our country were clear: we should be winning.

I wrote to Reuters and other news agencies telling them to wait as we were getting completely different results. The students were talking about a 6 to 8 point lead for us.

The National Electoral Council had previously said it would give the first results at 7:30 pm Caracas time. Time passed. People everywhere started to become more nervous. It was only after 1 am that the CNE finally talked and only did so after the opposition put a lot of pressure and threatened to go public.

The CNE could not hide anymore and they conceded Chávez's referendum had failed.

These are the results so far in Venezuela:


Block A 4.504.354 (50.70%) 4.379.392 (49.29%)

Block B 4.522.332 (51.05%) 4.335.136 (48.94%)

Valid votes: 8883746.

Invalid votes: 118 mil 693.

All votes: 9002439.

Abstention: 44.11%

Here we will be putting the results for Europe:

Block A15440
Block B14432

Block A33
Block B33
Total of votes: 112
Abstention: 45.64%

Block A17
Block B17

Block A25
Block B23

Block A35800
Block B38
Total of votes: 837
Abstention: 53.5% (apparently there were many who had problems with the registration: they had been moved)


Total of votes: 256
Abstention: 61.7%

Block A27
Block B57

There was a very high abstention. In many places in Europe, Venezuelans were angry because the government did not announce on time the conditions or the time of the voting in Europe and many said that was one of the reasons why many at the end did not go: they knew of the voting too late.

We have had an important victory. Chavismo is shocked and confused. We have shown Chávez can be beaten. He can be beaten even though he has at his disposal all governmental resources and though he can use so many tricks against us: preventing opposition marches to take place, forcing public servants to march for him, broadcasting endless "cadenas" in the public and private stations and so on.

This was just a battle and we have a long way to go, but we are in the right path, we know we can lead Venezuela to a path of development and more democracy, we will make Venezuela a pluralistic place and a country finally on the road to sustainable development.

There are still lots of rumours about Chavez having lost by far more than what the CNE and he conceded. We need to examine as best as possible the records to check there has been no fraud.

UPDATE: Sorry, guys, the stats are in several forms and I do not want to duplicate work, so I just point at the results in Notiven

There you will fine more numbers. I do not have the time to put all the numbers together from the different formats. What is PJ and UNT doing?