Thursday, 30 April 2009

The Venezuela-Europe drug connection

AP reports 17 people have been arrested in Curacao "for involvement in Hezbollah-linked drug ring". There were Venezuelan, Colombian, Curacao and Cuban citizens involved. The ring would be involved in sending cocaine produced in Colombia (and now Venezuela?) via Venezuela and from there through Western Africa to Europe. The proceeds would in part help to finance Hezbollah and also provide arms from Venezuela to the militias in Lebanon.

I have been reading news source on how drug dealers use now the Orinoco, specially the Delta, as a base for drug transports to Western Africa. I want to post on that in an upcoming post on the Orinoco.

How far are Venezuelan officials involved in this problem?

I had written a couple of things on this already here and here:

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Chavez supporters and the swine flu-Rumsfeld connection

It is such a nice distraction for the semi-literate in Venezuela. While the Chavez government is illegally taking over hospitals, schools and other installations that were under the control of municipalities and states where the opposition won in the 11.2008 elections, while the Chavez government is trying to prosecute every single known opposition politician under charges of corruption, Chavez's supporters try to call attention to a new conspiracy theory.

According to the government's Radio Mundial (also to be seen in Chavez's fan site Aporrea), and "based on news from Colectivo Periodístico in California", the cause of the current swine flu pandemic is nothing else than the Pentagon.

They say former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could earn a fortune now as he is co-owner of Gilead Sciences, Inc. a company that has the rights to produce "Tamiflu", a medicine that would cure the influenza. Well, according to Wikipedia (which refers to CNN), "Federal disclosure forms indicate that Rumsfeld owns between USD$5 million and USD$25 million in Gilead stock. The rise in Gilead's share prices from USD$35 to USD$57 per share will have added between USD$2.5 million to USD$15.5 million to Rumsfeld's net worth". From there to developing this new strand for earning some extra cash is a big shot.

What these conspiracy theorists have is a series of weak links, but they would never like to have a real discussion about their incredible statements. They just need a better smoke screen as now "Chavez quiere ser amigo de Obama". Chavez supporters are trying to divert from the fact that:

  • the Chavez regime reduced the percentage of money that goes to all states and municipalities (situado constitucional) and is now diverting extra money to the local regions and state institutions not controlled by the opposition (some pseudo-legal trick to financially suffocate the opposition)
  • the Chavez regime took over havens, airports, motorways and much more from the opposition states and with all that a huge chunk of taxes
  • Chávez took almost all power from elected mayor Ledezma (who got over 700000 votes) and named one of his most fundamentalist pawns, Jacqueline Faría, as "head of the Capital District"
  • Chávez officials are taking over more and more farmlands "in the name of reform" but only farmlands of people who do not support Chavez (the Chavez clan and several of the high "socialist revolutionaries" being big landowners themselves)
  • Chávez's government has taken over hospitals and schools that were managed by opposition governments (in several cases it prefers to let hospitals and other public services collapse than to let the opposition show it can manage them)
  • more and more students are being violently repressed by police forces

Expect in the coming months more land to be taken over by the Chavez regime. They firstly went for the bigger landowners (as long as they were not pro-Chavez), but they will go for the smaller ones now.

Expect more buildings and companies in the hand of Chavistas. Expect professional squatters to thrive more than they have done so far.

Expect more repression as the oil price drops make the crisis be felt in Venezuela.

And still European politicians like this person support Chávez.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Here I added a couple more titles to the music I like (two Venezuelan songs, one Greek)

Obama and the Stalker

Fundamentalists from right and left are both desperate because of the meeting where Barak Obama shook hands with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

I am happy. It is pathetic the way Chávez craves for attention and it is not a nice sight to see Obama going to shake hands with him, but most Venezuelan opposition people, people in the middle and non-extreme supporters of Chávez welcomed the move. Obama has done so far the right thing towards Chávez. The Venezuelan former military and coup monger would have wanted to steal the show anyway. Obama neutralized him and then focused on other matters. Chávez at the beginning seemed ravished, excited. Still, I am sure after that he felt fool and now he is wondering what to do. Even if Chávez craves for attention, he has not gained the respect he wanted. Most importantly: it has become much more difficult for him to attack a US president who is - so far - much more respected abroad than any of the other US presidents of the last 15 years or so. And I don't thinkObama will do the Carter or the Kissinger thing (and shaking hands is not THE thing).

Obama should maintain a cool attitude. We, as Venezuelans, though, should not expect much from the United States than respect. It is up to us to get rid of Hugo Chávez - by democratic means and not using the ways of Hugo Chávez in 1992 or Carmona in 2002.

It is going to be difficult and it will take probably a couple of years but we will do it. More importantly, though, we will have to have a good plan for after Chávez.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Obama Derangement Syndrome

I just want to recommend this excellent article by The Economist on Obama Derangement Syndrome. It is not about Venezuela, but it does show a lot of what is going on in the heads of a minority in the United States (a country that is so present in Latin America). It is very interesting to read the comments as well.

Friday, 17 April 2009

The People's Fingers

Look at the picture above. Do you see the red circle on the left upper side? Those are the People's Fingers. Yes, that is right, the People's. I'll explain.

Hugo Chávez Frías did not like the opposition had won several states and municipalities during last November's elections (accounting for 45% of the population). Consequently, he and his regime proceeded to decree in a rush all kinds of "laws" to take away the control of most revenues, schools, hospitals and much more from those regions. They diverted millions of dollars from the exiting governments to the national one so that the incoming opposition governors and mayors would have less to work with.

Still, Caracas was a problem: its people, including those of one of Latin America's largest slum, Petare, had elected Antonio Ledezma, an opposition leader. What does Chávez and his Chávez Assembly do? They decide to create a figure that completely circumvent the post of Ledezma and takes away almost all of the budget that he had to manage. Chávez selected Jacqueline Faría. Do you know what she said now?

Well, here the article in Spanish. When non-Chavista journalists managed to approach her (that is getting more and more difficult to do) and asked her what she thought about her being elected by one person and not by more than 700000 as Antonio Ledezma, she said "Chavez's fingers are the People's fingers, his fingers want the best for Caracas". Her followers chanted "the one who rules here is Chávez and the revolution". Further, she said her direct election by the president (and replacement of Ledezma, basically) was valid because the national government is in Caracas. She added "it would be uncomfortable for the president to have opposition leaders around". She also said she was going to work side by side with the pro-Chavez mayor of Libertador (another part of Greater Caracas) to build a socialist Caracas (the other mayors can bugger off, I assume).

What are the European socialists saying about this? Hello? Shame on you if you do not speak up.
Well, if you speak German or French I can give you two examples, here (admittedly, extreme left) and here (so-called social-democrats or PS from French-speaking Belgium).

You would not be better than the right parties that tolerated and even flirted with equally fascistoid governments of the right in Latin America.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Orinoco II

Continuation of Orinoco I

If you travel upstream, the first part you have to go through is the Orinoco Delta. The Delta is as large as Belgium. The Orinoco splits here in thousands of tributaries. Navigating through the Delta is like going through the largest labyrith...a labyrinth made out of jungle islands. There are permanent wetlands and freshwater swamp forests. The margins are full of mangroves. The fauna is incredibly varied, with animals coming from the Atlantic Ocean and others from the Orinoco.

Daniel Duquenal wrote several fascinating posts about the Delta here, here, here and here.

I will examine the Delta and then the rest of the Orinoco in a rather less poetic way.

The geographic Delta is located in the Delta Amacuro State. With a population of little more than 152000 inhabitants, it has a density of 4.39 people per km2. That does not seem like much but you have to take into account most of it is of very difficult access. Urbanization is hardly possible without massively destroying a very fragile agriculture.

The Delta Amacuro state is extremely poor. It has one of the few major groups of native Americans who still remain more or less as a distinct ethnic group, with their original customs, their language. They are the Waraos. Demographic reports vary a lot, they go from 20000 to 50000 people. I would probably go for something in between. You will find Waraos also in places as far as Caracas and my city, Valencia. I remember when I was living in Valencia how a couple dozen Waraos would go there, sit down in some place in the city centre and start to beg. Unlike criollo beggars, they did not know their way around and had a hard time, they were victims of thiefs and the like. They were mostly women and children andthey would not speak Spanish well (which shows how isolated they used to live). The local government would give them some food, clothes and take them back to the Delta, from where they would come back time after time. I will go back to the Warao Indians in another post.

In the following weeks I will be going into these topics:

Politics of the Delta
The Ecological Issues
The Drug Problem

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Chavez takes over the regions where the opposition won

It is as simple as that: Chávez is taking over the regions where people voted for opposition governors and mayors. The latest is the new law approved by the Chavez Congress (a.k.a. National Assembly) creating a post that would completely circumvent the elected mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Furthermore, the little budget and the office of the elected mayor were taken over. He will need to work from home or find out how he can get some place to do the little jobs he can do (actually, his job is almost irrelevant now and his functions are being reduced by the week).

The office of Caracas' mayor had already lost the TV channel, hospitals and schools as well as hundreds of millions of dollars as soon as the results showed the opposition had won: all those things were transferred by "laws" to the central government.

The Chavez government also declared in the last weeks it is taken over control (and taxes) over harbours, airports and motorways and now over all kinds of roads "of strategic interest". The governors of the opposition are being left with little more than their offices and some minor cultural institutions. They will have problems paying soon a lot of bills. I got the news some of them have already declared the need to reduce the payroll as much as possible.

I wonder what Sarah Wagenknecht and other people from the European extreme left , all defending Chavez no matter what - have to say about this. All a complot of the all-powerful capitalist media? Sure.


Interesting article at The Economist. For extreme lefties out there: it doesn't hurt to read The Economist occasionally. One can read your newspapers and magazines as well as those of the centre, the centre-left, the liberals, the conservatives and others who reject to get pinned down to a simplistic label.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Venezuela's voting system

I will be writing about the electoral system in Venezuela in the next months. I ask any of you with concrete information that may be interesting to send it to me.
This will become a reference post in this blog.

The Carter Center said Venezuela's elections were fair. After that the supporters of Chavez have been proclaiming time after time that is the case.

Is it?


Carter Center: what they claim to have done and seen in Venezuela can be read here.

European Union: the European Union sent a lot of observers for the 2006 elections. They produced a lengthy report with criticisms towards the government and opposition, but nothing really major. The interesting thing is what we find out about them by testimony of one of the observers (and it is a testimony that corresponds to what I have learnt via other sources)

Extremely partial foreign politicians sold to the general public as "representatives of the European Union": The government has also invited on several occasions European deputies who support Chavismo no matter what. You can see a couple of posts about that here and here. The way Chavismo announces those invitations, it looks as if those deputies were representing the whole parliament or country in which they worked or the EU as a whole and were not just the extreme left (and even a subset of the extreme left).

Paper trail

Chavez supporters in Venezuela and abroad say the Venezuelan system is better than the ones Germans and others have because "there is a paper trail"! Basically, unlike in those systems, you push a button and you get a copy of your vote intention, which you then must cast in a box. If - in principle - there is problem with the electronic data, people can go and count the paper ballots.

Well...not only have many people who oppose Chavez claimed the paper trails they got did not reflect their votes, but also these people:

  1. Hugo Chavez Frías father
  2. pro-Chavez governor Tarek Saab (here you can see a video where he destroys his paper trail and then goes to vote again, something that is forbidden by law and for which several non-pro-Chavez people went to jail)
  3. another Chavista, Aristóbulo Isturiz, declared his paper trail came out as "invalid"
Electoral Council's Failings

There are lots of things that are not working well with the CNE, the National Electoral Council, but here I will name just a few:

  1. It does not count votes of Venezuelans abroad for several years already. Why? The Venezuelan government and the CNE know the vast majority of Venezuelans abroad do not support Chávez's government. If you look at their official site here you will see they have not published the votes of Venezuelans abroad for 2007. If you check out here you will see they did not publish the results for the referendum of March 2009. Now the government has an additional reason not to publish those last results: Foreign minister Maduro had publicly declared that at least HALF OF ALL VENEZUELANS REGISTERED ABROAD actually signed a petition in support of Chávez's referendum. You can see Maduro's declarations here (in Spanish, Aporrea, pro-government site). That is a huge lie.

For further information, go to the Esdata site, which has very detailed information about the irregularities in the electoral process. A general document can be found here. It is outdated. Things have got worse and we foresee gerrymandering big time shortly before next elections.

Countries having strong discussions about the validity of voting machines

The Netherlands:
They are going back to paper for the next elections.
Here you will find a site where the Dutch express the whole issues at hand with electronic voting. There is some data in English and German as well there.

Here you have also information about the German discussion (in German only)
Germany's Supreme Court recently declared (here in its site, in German) that the use of computer machines for the Bundestag elections of 2005 was unconstitutional as voters could not control what they voted was what the machine counted. In Venezuela there is the paper trail, but this does not seem to work even for Chavez's dad (and one can imagine they will take special attention in programming that machine correctly)