Thursday, 31 December 2009

Venezuela 2010

Yesterday, our democraticaly elected president, Hugo of Sabaneta, as usual in cadena nacional (forced TV and radio transmission) wished all of us a Happy 2010. He said that if the bourgeoisie - obviously never meaning his billionaire friends - returned to power, they would desmantle "the achievements of the revolution", that his people have to guarantee we do not lose the majority in the 2010 parliamentary elections" and that if the opposition were to get that majority, they would destabilize the country. So far for his love for plurialism.

The National electoral council is working very hard now to define the key electoral districts again in a show of massive gerrymandering. In January we shall find out how they transformed the electoral regions for the most populous states. Two of the council's key members are hard-core chavistas who had previously declared they would do anything to guarantee the success of the so-called revolution.

Hugo also announced "major advances" on crime reduction, citing again some magic chavista numbers about people's perception of crime. Never mind the government refuses to discuss openly about numbers on murder rates. Never mind the murder rate in Venezuela was 19 per 100000 in 1998 and now it over 60: crime is, according to chavismo, in the eyes of the beholder. Never mind Hugo of Sabaneta recently announced the national police was getting a 260% rise now as an achievement, as if the government had been elected just some days or months or years ago.

Perhaps - best case scenario - we finally see next year a reduction of the murder rate compared to this year, which is not hard given the current numbers, given the fact we have long become South America's most dangerous country. If this were to happen, I am sure the government will announce it as a huge success, even if the rate would still be several times worse than when the government took office over 10 years ago...then people in Venezuela have a very short memory retention span.

As the red-very red National Assembly diverted a huge amount of the budget from the municipalities, the states, the Ministries of Education and Justice to be directly controlled and distributed by the president, he will have some cash in hand to impress a bit for election time. He will probably close a couple of very bad deals with the chinese or the Spaniards or someone else to get some fast cash as well. Things will not be easy economically, as even Ow (former chavista) says in his latest post here. Still, the government is the one with the petrodollars and the opposition not.

Still, the opposition has to wake up and at least use the few opportunities it has. It does not communicate well. It still thinks it has to talk through Venezuela's FOX version, Globovision, which only reaches the converted. Most of the new opposition leaders are people with middle to upper-middle class background from the capital or the largest cities. It does not matter that most chavista leaders are wealthier than many of those leaders now. It is a matter of perception in Venezuela, at least with voters.

Most know Venezuela is highly urbanized. What the opposition leaders and many of their supporters don't seem to realise is that "urban" is much more than just the capital and the other largest 5 cities. As soon as we get out of those regions our influence drops dramatically. We have forgotten the "rural urbans", so to speak. The opposition will need to put its act together with regards to defending the votes outside the major 5 cities during the September elections. Those leaders will really have to move their asses.

Below you have a couple of maps about the 2008 local elections. Firstly you have very urban and central Miranda state. Then you have the rural Monagas. In red you see the municipalities won over by chavista mayors. In blue those the opposition got (kind of, as the government rushed to decrease their resources and competences). The dots represent population (a big dots means 100000 inhabitants, a midle one about 50000, a tiny one some 10000).

The third map shows my region, another very central and urban state, with Venezuela's third largest city and one of the main industrial sectors of the country (as far as we can talk about industry in Venezuela). The blue and cyan regions refer to those municipalities where the current opposition governor, Salas, got the majority. The pink and red municipalities are where the other candidate, Mario Silva, won. This is incredible as 1) Salas is well-known and his dad was also governor of the state and 2) Mario Silva is hated even among chavistas. One of the things that happened was that Salas, who comes from a family of people who were players in the local politics already 2 centuries ago, is acting as the usual local caudillo, wanting every other group, including PJ, to accept his candidates.

Finally, I put here the start of a Mind Map about Second-in-command Diosdado cabello (aka God-Given Hair, aka Pretty Eyes). He is very linked to billionaire Berrueco, who just recently fell from Grace. Diosdado's Ministry had signed some obscure deals with the Spanish government as Gringo tells us here (and in other places), deals with no public tender and the like. As the electricity problems of the country have become just too much, Hugo of Sabaneta recently passed the control of the electricity industries away from Diosdado to a new Minister, the minister of Popular Power for Electricity, Rodríguez.

Let's see what fortunes await Diosdado and the other Second-in-command, Aristóbulo Istúriz, who is capable of anything for the "revolution", but who seems not to be connected to very murky billionaires and deals (as far as I know).

In spite of it all, I think we have good chances to avoid the worst and start turning Venezuela towards sustainable development and away from autocrats and other caudillos. For that we must work.

In that spirit I wish you a very happy and succesful 2010!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Ideas for Venezuela: adopt a Wikipedia topic

Most of us know how useful Wikipedia has become. We also know the many problems it faces. In spite of those problems a lot of people use it as one of their main general references online.

I have a wee proposal: let's help improve the information there is there about Venezuela. I am talking about collaborating on Wikipedia articles to

  1. help create awareness about Venezuela's regions among Venezuelans and foreigners alike
  2. inform about Venezuela's scientists and artists, who should be more our role models than they have been so far (we need to stop the obsession with military figures)
  3. make it easier for Venezuelans and non-Venezuelans to have a better overview of Venezuela's history (beyond the War of Independence or the last 20 years)
Point 1) is about planting some seeds for future tourism in Venezuela and about helping Venezuelans know what areas beyond the main cities have or still are lacking. Are there public libraries or hospitals in Venezuelan Parapara as they are in tiny German or British towns? Do they have museums? Environmental problems?.

I have been helping a little bit over the years with articles in Spanish and other languages on some regions of Venezuela, on native American languages and on Venezuelan scientists, but there is a lot to do compared to other regions. You can take a look at the articles about Carabobo (Spanish), Carabobo (German), Los Guayos (Spanish, but also in German or Russian) and Acuario de Valencia (German) and compare them with other regions in Venezuela.

This is what I propose:

  1. Select a region outside the capital or the main urban centres (a state or municipality or otherwise from Los Llanos or elsewhere) and try to improve it little by little with reliable information on history, geography, infrastructure or whatever you think may be useful (doing a quick search on place + "biblioteca", place + hospital helps). A minute or two a week or a month could mean a lot
  2. Select a topic like Venezuelan scientists or ecology issues about Venezuela and try to expand the information on that
  3. Translate articles about forgotten regions into English, German, Dutch or other languages
Venezuela is a country with terrific weather, wonderful, very varied nature and welcoming people, but it lacks a tourist infrastructure. Tourism is chaotic, the industry is mostly in the hands of adventurers. and it tends to be rather expensive. Some of the tourist operators are so-called ecourist organizations with no ecology in mind, people who settle down in national parks without permits and without contributing to the region and rip off tourists. Some regions have a lot to offer but nobody knows about them.

Take a look at the pages on states, villages and scientists from the German (like Aichach) or English Wikipedia. They are not perfect but they tend to be better documented than similar regions in Venezuela. Venezuelans don't seem to put much information about public libraries or hospitals, for instance. Those libraries and hospitals are some of the most forgotten places in the Americas. We know they have hardly the resources people have in Europe. Still, we can help to make people think they are there or they should be there and are not yet.

I will adopt state Delta Amacuro.

Ps. we should always keep in mind Wikipedia's principles about neutrality, documenting sources and good editing practices

The military infatuation or how Venezuelans are manipulated by the military

I was born in a Venezuela economists used to call "Venezuela saudita", a third world country awashed in petrodollars. It was a democracy, even if it was highly dysfunctional. Back then and well into the years of increasing economic decline I used to think that even if Venezuela was very corrupt, dependent on oil and on a path to a crisis, we were rather inmune of the worst ills of other Latin American countries: military dictatorships and civil wars.

There were many people who came from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and other countries to Venezuela to escape from dictatorship. In my classroom from kindergarten through primary and secondary school there were at least a dozen sons or daughters of Spaniards, Portuguese or of Eastern European origin escaping from the dictatorships of their respective countries or from South American countries living under dictatorships. One of my best friends at high school was from Chile, another one was from Uruguay. I knew about Venezuela's past dictatorships because of what my parents would tell me: about how life was under Pérez Jiménez, the right-winged dictator Hugo Chávez admires, or about how my grandparents suffered during the Gómez dictatorship. It was only after the caracazo and specially in 1991 that I started to see the real military threat. People were fed up of the corrupt democracy we had got. Already at the end of 1991 I remember how a good friend of mine and I were discussing when the coup was coming. We were sure it would come on the first quarter of 1992. We did not have relationship with the military. We were just reading on the wall. And we were right: on 4 February there was the first bloody coup in many decades, led by our current president.

Still, I did not realise to what extend we, Venezuelans, always had been prisoners of our long-standing infatuation with the military and I did not know how we were bound to repeat history because of the general ignorance about it.

I always knew the Bolívar cult was over the top, but it was something I found rather kitsch and nothing more. I appreciated the good things Bolívar did do and thought the cult was something that did not really hurt, like some non-extremist religion. Every visitor to Venezuela has seen it: the omnipresent cult to Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan who played a key role in the Independence war in South America. The highest peak, the largest state, the main avenues and squares in every city or town, countless institutions, the main airport and the currency are just some of the things called after him. Bolívar's name is everywhere. The admiration for Bolívar is not only in Venezuela, but in Bolívar's country the name is so often used that it can get confusing.

There was a hat called "Bolívar" in Europe in the XIX century, a hat liberals would wear. Bolívar was definitely admired everywhere in the Americas and Europe and the many places - towns, streets, squares - called after him are a proof of this. People saw not just his opposition against the Spanish imperialism, but against slavery, against oppression of the Native Americans. It helped a lot that Bolívar died still in his forties.

Still, the cult for Bolívar's has been above all a Venezuelan diseases. Already Bolívar, although rejecting the title of a king promoted the idea of a president for life. Already he declared he only aspired to have the title "Liberator of Venezuela", as if Venezuela's independence would have been inconceivable without him. I won't get into the dark parts of Bolívar's role here, but will go more into the instrumentalization of his memory and that of the other military of his time in Venezuela's history.

Once the country became independent, the military who fought in the wars claimed special rights for themselves, as "próceres", as the ones who had fought with the Libertador. One of our first presidents, who was not a military, physician Vargas, had to resign after much pressure from the military demanding more power. Most of Venezuela's heads of states after that and until 1958 were military or the puppets of military.

Almost every single president since the Independence declared himself a "Bolivarian", whatever that would mean. As historial Manual Caballero said in his "Por qué no soy Bolivariano" (Why I am not a Bolivarian), caudillo Monagas declared himself a "revolutionary", promoted special rights for the military (something the current president has done as well in indirect ways), claimed to revive the Gran Colombia and placed many relatives on top positions in the government, just as our current president. And he was thrown out of the presidential palace in 1858 by people shouting "Death to the thieves". Several dictators were particularly active in cultivating the Bolívar cult but two used this new religion with particular zeal: Guzmán Blanco and Juan Vicente Gómez. Bolívar became an almost perfect figure and anyone associating himself with Bolívar became protected by this divinity.

Gómez in 1934

History books around the world always tended to glorify the national past or at least a part of it. Still, those in Venezuela have been particularly focused on the Independence time. It hasn't helped that many of them (Fonbona's etc) were written mostly by people who were anything but professional historians. It did not help that Venezuelans for many reasons always tended to have an abysmal knowledge of history.

Humboldt was on a related topic when he wrote:

"Native Americans kept their language, their national dress and their national character...[but] through the introduction of christianity and other circumstances I analyse elsewhere, historical and religious heritage progressively became lost. On the other side the settler of European origin looks down upon anything that refers to the dominated nations. He sees himself in the middle between the ancient history of the motherland and the one of his birth country and he is as indifferent to one as to the other; in a climate where the small difference between seasons makes the passing of the years almost unnoticeable he only dedicates himself with enjoying the present and he seldom looks back to past times"

Der Eingeborene hat seine Sprache, seine Tracht und seinen Volkscharakter behalten..durch die Einführung des Christentums und andere Umstände, die ich anderswo auseinander gesetzt, sind die geschichtlichen und religiösen Ueberlieferungen allmählich untergegangen. Andererseits sieht der Ansiedler von europäischer Abkunft verächtlich auf alles herab, was sich auf die unterworfenen Völker bezieht. Er sieht sich in die Mitte gestellt zwischen die frühere Geschichte des Mutterlandes und die seines Geburtslandes, und die eine ist ihm so gleichgültig wie die andere; in einem Klima, wo bei dem geringen Unterschied der Jahreszeiten der Ablauf der Jahre fast unmerklich wird, überläßt er sich ganz dem Genusses der Gegenwart und wirft selten einen Blick in Vergangene Zeiten.

The native American, the European and the African slave all merged into the average Venezuelan of today, but we still show either a complete disdain for history or love for one part of it, the part we identify ourselves most with. You will find most Venezuelans with some e ducation know Bolivar's birthday and death anniversary. Most of them would not know in what century the Europeans arrived in Venezuela or what reactionary tendencies Bolívar had.

And it is in that framework that Venezuelans have evolved. As the economic situation of a nation highly addicted to petrodollars deteriorated, a group of military pretending (and sometimes really believing) to defend some nebulous Bolívar heritage prepared the bloody coups of 1992.

Hugo Chávez has taken the Bolívar cult to new heights. He needs that. He single-handedly renamed Venezuela in 1999 by adding the "Bolivarian" (in spite of the fact that the approved constitutional draft had taken away that proposal of his).

That is why the current president can say Indians were almost socialists and all were equal and most of his followers believe that or that we are mostly a native American and African-American nation (the European part being mostly that of the opposition).

Now take a look at these maps. In the first one you see Venezuela's states. The largest state , in cyan, is called Bolívar. The states in red have been called after military from the times of the Independence movement.

The following map shows the municipalities Venezuela has. Municipalities in cyan are called Bolívar or Simón Bolívar. Municipalities in dark blue are called Libertador (referring, of course, to Bolívar). Those in red are called after military who fought in the Independence war. The ones in yellow are called after other military.

In future posts I will go further into the way Venezuelans process their history.

Municipalities named after Venezuelan military caudillos. In cyan those named 'Simón Bolívar' or 'Bolívar', in dark blue those named 'Libertador' (i.e. Bolívar), in red those named after other military men of the Independence time, in yellow those named after military men of post-independence times.

President Time in power remark Profession
Cristóbal Mendoza, Juan Escalona and Baltasar Padrón 1811-1812
Abogado / Militar/ Hacendista * Respectivamente
Francisco de Miranda 1812
General Militar
Simón Bolívar 1813-1814
General Militar
José Antonio Páez 1830- 1835
General Militar
Andrés Narvarte 1835-1835
Abogado / Político
José María Vargas 1835-1836
Médico, Científico, Cirujano y Catedrático
Andrés Narvarte 1836-1837
Abogado / Político
José María Carreño 1837-1837
General Militar
Carlos Soublette 1837-1839
General Militar
José Antonio Páez 1839-1843
General Militar
Carlos Soublette 1843-1847
General Militar
José Tadeo Monagas 1847-1851
General Militar
José Gregorio Monagas 1851-1855
General Militar
José Tadeo Monagas 1855-1858
General Militar
Pedro Gual Escandon 1858-1858
Abogado / Político
Julián Castro 1858-1859 coup General Militar
Pedro Gual Escandon 1859-1859
Abogado / Político
Manuel Felipe Tovar 1859-1861 coup Político
Pedro Gual Escandon 1861-1861
Abogado / Político
José Antonio Páez 1861-1863
General Militar
Juan Crisóstomo Falcón 1863 - 1868 war General Militar
Manuel Ezequiel Bruzual 1868-1868
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1868-1869
Abogado y Militar
José Ruperto Monagas 1869-1870 war General Militar
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1870-1870
Abogado y Militar
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1870-1877 war Abogado / General Militar
Francisco Linares Alcántara 1877-1878
General Militar
José Gregorio Varela 1878-1879
Militar / Político
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1879-1884
Abogado / General Militar
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo 1884-1886
General Militar
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1886-1887
Abogado / General Militar
Hermógenes López 1887 - 1888
General Militar
Juan Pablo Rojas Paúl 1888 - 1890
Raimundo Andueza Palacio 1890-1892
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1892-1892
Abogado y Militar
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo 1892-1894 war General Militar
Ignacio Andrade 1898-1899
Cipriano Castro Ruiz 1899-1908 coup General Militar
Juan Vicente Gómez 1908-1914 coup General Militar
Jose Gil Fortoul (Gomez puppet) 1914-1915
Victorino Márquez Bustillos (Gómez puppet) 1915-1922
Abogado / Político
Juan Vicente Gómez 1922-1929
General Militar
Juan Bautista Pérez (Gómez puppet) 30 de mayo de 1929 -
13 de junio de 1931

Abogado / Magistrado
Juan Vicente Gómez 13 de junio de 1931 -
17 de diciembre de 1935

General Militar
Eleazar López Contreras 17 de diciembre de 1935 -
5 de mayo de 1941

General Militar
Isaías Medina Angarita 5 de mayo de 1941 -
18 de octubre de 1945

General Militar
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello 18 de octubre de 1945 -
17 de febrero de 1948
coup Político
Rómulo Gallegos Freire 17 de febrero de 1948 -
24 de noviembre de 1948

Escritor / Novelistas
Carlos Delgado Chalbaud 24 de noviembre de 1948 -
27 de noviembre de 1950
coup Militar
Germán Suárez Flamerich 27 de noviembre de 1950 -
2 de diciembre de 1952
transition by coupsters Abogado
Marcos Pérez Jiménez 2 de diciembre de 1952 -
23 de enero de 1958
coup Militar/Ingeniero
Wolfgang Larrazábal 23 de enero de 1958 -
14 de noviembre de 1958
coup Almirante (Militar)
Edgar Sanabria 14 de noviembre de 1958 -
13 de febrero de 1959

Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello 13 de febrero de 1959 -
13 de marzo de 1964

Raúl Leoni Otero 13 de marzo de 1964 -
11 de marzo de 1969

Rafael Caldera Rodríguez 11 de marzo de 1969 -
12 de marzo de 1974

Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez 12 de marzo de 1974 -
12 de marzo de 1979

Luis Herrera Campins 12 de marzo de 1979 -
2 de febrero de 1984

Jaime Lusinchi 2 de febrero de 1984 -
2 de febrero de 1989

Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez 2 de febrero de 1989 -
21 de mayo de 1993

Octavio Lepage 21 de mayo de 1993 -
5 de junio de 1993

Ramón José Velásquez 5 de junio de 1993 -
2 de febrero de 1994

Rafael Caldera Rodríguez 2 de febrero de 1994 -
2 de febrero de 1999

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías 2 de febrero de 1999 -
10 de enero de 2001
(elected, but former coupster) Militar
(Teniente coronel)
Pedro Carmona Estanga 12 de abril de 2002-
13 de abril de 2002
(2 días)
coup Economista
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías 13 de abril de 2002 - 10 de enero de 2013

*Por qué no soy bolivariano: ISBN 10: 9803541994

Friday, 25 December 2009

Humboldt, Lateinamerika, Venezuela

Es tut mir leid, dass ich dies nicht mitgeteilt habe: heute gab es den ersten Teil des ARD-Zweiteilers Expedition Humboldt. Diesmal ging es um Humboldts Zeit in Venezuela und Kuba, sein Einfluß da und was mit diesen Regionen jetzt geschehen ist. Wenn Ihr könnt, solltet Ihr Teil 2 morgen 26.12.09 um 19:30 sehen!

Leider geht es im Teil 2 nicht mehr um Venezuela, sondern um die Zeit in Kolumbien, Ecuador und Mexiko. Im ersten Teil konnte man u.a. folgendes sehen: die Höhle der Guacharovögel, ein Gespräch mit chaimas-Indianer, die politischen Gegensätze im heutigen Venezuela, den Orinokofluss, die Orinoko-Indianer und den Einfluss - immer noch - der US-Evangeliker, der New Tribes.

Ich hoffe, dass man irgendwann diese Sendung in Venezuela auf Spanisch sehen kann.

Ich hoffe auch, dass man irgendwann in Venezuela eine offene Diskussion führen kann über das, was südlich vom Orinoko passiert und dass Venezolaner endlich mal an die Interesse der Ur-Amerikaner denken.

Ich schreibe seit einigen Wochen über Humboldts Reise in Venezuela und zwar in meinem anderen Blog hier (auf Spanisch). Wenn Ihr wollt, könnt Ihr Humboldts Werk hier oder besser das ganze Buch der Reise kaufen und ganz gemütlich lesen.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Feliz Navidad

I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

I would like to remind people how they are having it in occupied territories, where Palestinians, who are mostly descendants of the Jews who remained there and converted to other religions, are second class citizens in their own land since 1968 and the occupying forces (the ones arriving in 1968) claim to be now the "true" and only descendants/owners of Judea/Palestine.

Here some historical reference.
Here some more.
And here how those shepherds live now.

This is a traditional Venezuelan song for Christmas: if Mary were a woman from the Andes and Joseph a man from the Llanos:

Monday, 21 December 2009

A sweet sloth

The Brown-throated sloth is another mammal that lives in Central and South American countries. I saw it in Venezuela (unfortunately only once).

It sleeps around 20 hours a day, 30% of its weight is muscle (very little for most mammals, but then this is a real sloth) and females attrack males by making sounds like a screaming woman (which I only know from reading it in Wikipedia).

Venezuela-Mali-Europe: the cocaine connection, 2 part

Some background here

The Journal du Mali is reporting right now more news about the Boeing 727 that was crashed in Northern Mali after downloading up to 10 tonnes of cocaine and that would have come from Venezuela. As we know, United Nations and Interpol are investigating.

This is what they seem to know now:

  • the plane was coming from Venezuela (they don't say what further evidence they have, see below)
  • the drug was taken away in 5 4x4 vehicles
  • the vehicles may have taken the route to Niger
  • the plane was registered in Guinea-Bisseau
  • since last November Guinea-Bisseau had requested several West African countries to prohibit the entry of said plane as it was not respecting the flying routes
  • the plane had no more rights to fly from 31 October
  • the crew had decided to falsify papers as it could no longer fly like that and it had produced papers coming from Saudi Arabia
  • the transponder shows the flight started in Panama, went on to Colombia, the trace disappeared for several days (???????), then the plane popped up in Cape Verde, continued to Guinea-Bisseau and ended in Mali.
  • Several people from neighbouring countries seem to be involved in this issue and "heads may roll very soon"
  • the men trying to dismantle the plane were poor inhabitants of the region (something that reminded me of a scene in Lord of War)
Now I want to know why a transponder can show first something and then nothing and then something. I also want to know what further proofs they have about Venezuela.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Evil Dutch against Venezuela

Gemene Hollanders, wat zijn jullie van plan?

Onze leider zegt hier dat jullie ons samen met de gringo's
willen aanvallen!*

Sorry, guys, it is either Spanish or Danish here:

evil Hollanders, what are you concocting? Our leader says you, together with the gringoes, want to attack us!

Here an arti
cle from Volkskrant (in Dutch) on the presidential family in Barinas.

National Assembly's new violation of the constitution, speeding up towards total control


The National Assembly decided in the now normal chavista fashion - in a Blitz-session, at night - to approve on the first round a law that had been slummering for years and that was previously rejected by the people (as opposed to The People) in a national referendum.

Aristóbulo Istúriz, Vice-president of the PSUV and one of the two heirs apparent to Hugo of Sabaneta, said at the Assembly two days earlier that chavismo has to dismantle the powers of governors and mayors (they hardly have any now) and that Venezuela has to go to the next step on the path to socialism (don't ask me what steps he has in mind, I am still trying to find out what manual he is using).

The National Assembly decided to obey as soon as possible and approved the Organic Law of Popular Participation and Power.

Among other things, this law states that:

  • the communes, community councils and communal cities will come into force (still very vague)
  • the government of the people shall be carried out through communal councils under a model of socialist society (these blokes never heard of pluralism)
  • the councils shall take part in the planning and management of the territory
  • the government shall plan, manage and coordinate the comunes in order to keep "coherence" with the politicies of national character
  • the state has the prerogative of managing the means of production to satisfy esencial human needs (they did not state what they are)
  • the Commission of Central Planning shall be responsible for reaching the objectives of the National Plan for Economic and Social Development of the Nation
  • the Council of Communal Planning shall be in charge of planning the geographic and population distribution of a commune and of the communal development. It shall be constituted by 7 persons (don't ask me why seven, seven is a prime, seven is the sacred number of the Bible), two of which will belong to the commune

The communist councils (i.e. soviets) salute!

Ignorance is bliss. Journalists have sometimes asked the chavista Nomenklatura what they intend to do differently from the Soviets. They repeat over and over again that they are going to give power to the councils. "Soviet" is the Russian word for council and that is not just of linguistic interest. Those Soviets or councils were just a simple way of getting the power to the Party. Anyone going against the Soviets (i.e. the guys leading them) was a traitor. Here we go again. No specifics about how they will avoid the same errors.

I will analyse in future posts how these councils will be used to impose the power of the few in the context of the Venezuelan mentality. Let me be clear: this is not so much about socialism evil bad or good but about banana republic chavismo using old communist tactics.

I had already written that a huge amount of gerrymandering is planned for the next elections. The government has already reduced the budget of elected regional powers (governors and mayors) and is giving money to regions only through presidential institutions or some other institution that is "with the process". But what we will have next are a series of important transformations, more power to Hugo and his Nomenklatura and more fear for people at the moment of saying things in those councils.

This law is also a complete violation of the will of the people, who rejected a similar proposal in the Referendum of 2007. Many polls have later shown Venezuelans do not want state socialism or socialism, for that matter. Most want a pluralistic state with social democracy (which is a pretty vague concept in general but more so in Venezuela), some prefer capitalism and some socialism. But this is chavista socialism 100%. This is not so much about communism as about more power to Hugo and his high ranking officials.

Ps 1: Some information on Wikipedia German over "Soviets". The information in English is rather incomplete.

Ps 2: This is not a joke, I wrote about this some time ago. This poster is found in an Aporrea site and that muscled man is supposed to be our Líder Supremo:

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Venezuela's future

The Economist published an interesting article about the new IEA forecasts on oil production. Although we are still making guesses on oil peaking, we know it is coming. The question is when if it is not here already. Some people - economists and politicians firstly - still seem to think oil price can solve everything and there will not be a real peak, as if oil were labor and not a finite commodity. Still, most people - geologists and other scientists first but now even economists - accept there will be oil peaking. There is only so much oil under the soil and you can only prolong oil extraction for so long. In any case, most foresee oil peaking before 2030, definitely before 2050.

Even though Venezuela has a lot, an awful lot of oil, this oil is very heavy and thus more expensive to process than what you find in Saudi Arabia or Iraq. In any case, the chances I see for Venezuela with regards to oil are roughly speaking what you see below:

Things can keep like they are now for a couple of decades and that would mean Venezuelans would get every year less and less petrodollars, but that is all. Then, sometime before the second half of this century, the world will have shifted away from oil and Venezuela will have to find something else to live off from.

If prices keep going up faster, the shift would also arrive much faster. If Venezuela does get a new really big oil boom thanks to its large heavy and sand oil reserves, it could get a lot of money for some years but the energy shift would take place much faster. Most countries won't be interested in depending so heavily on one or two countries. It is enough with the system they see now.

Venezuela is right now risking a lot. It is not Norway. There is no plan for tomorrow. There is no Government Pension Fund of Venezuela as there is in Norway. Venezuela's fund Fonden is a piggy bank for the current president to buy votes. Venezuela's population is also much large than Norway's. The end of the oil era will be more dramatic.

On the graph below you can see Venezuela's population projections until 2050. The ugly pink points are the moments when a presidential election takes place unless the president dies of indigestion.

Some important ideas I keep reminding people of (my mantras):

  • Venezuela's pupils are the worst in Latin America. They were by far the worst in mathematics for 13 Latin American countries that took part in a Unesco test in 1998. See here for more details. They were the worst of 41 countries on a test on reading and comprehension carried out by IEA the same year. The chavista government opted for avoiding any open evaluation tests. That is why chavismo rejects our proposal to bring about transparency and accountability to Venezuela's education
  • 85% of Venezuelans live in the urban conglomerates along the coast and their urbanizations are spreading across the last best agricultural areas for many plants (did you know we used to produce wheat in the XIX century?)

  • Venezuela is chock-a-block with weapons
  • Venezuelans are less productive than their neighbours due to missing skills and decades living mostly of petrodollars
Venezuelans are sitting on a pressure cooker. They know it is getting warm, but they don't really know how bad it will get unless they do something. They could, if they wake up fast, avert the worst. They could, if they planned, transform all those boiling cookers in the world into something good. But a radical shift towards accountability and transparency, lots of sacrifices and hard thinking is what they will need.

People's Ombudsman in Venezuela

Gabriela Ramírez is Venezuela's main People's Ombudsperson. Her work is to defend the People.
She has been doing that work since December 2007. She declared yesterday that protester Brito, who has been on a hunger strike because of what the state has done to him, is suffering from mental problems and that is why the government took him away from the OAS building to a military hospital to force-feed him. Already Miguel has written about the Brito case here. Dutch Alpha (in Dutch!) wrote a lot here. I wonder how many other persons will get mental problems in Venezuela these days.

Gabriela Ramírez was the one who also said during people's (not People's) protests about violent crime in Venezuela that "it is just a sensation created by the media". So, the highest murder rate in South America is just a sensation. The government rejects any open debate about that or any issue because they are not on the same league as us, the people.

Gabriela Ramírez is the same person who said in August of this year that she supported Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz in her proposal to introduce the Law Against Media Crimes (the outcry was so big that they had to dish it away).

That is the People's Ombudsman in Venezuela.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Our parents used to eat this

The Common Opossum (Latin Didelphis marsupialis), Venezuelan Spanish Rabipelado (Naked Ass) is one of the most common mammals you will see in Venezuela. This marsupial is a relative of the Virginia Opposum, but this is the Latino version, as you can see from the map.

These animals are as ugly as the night and look like a mutant rat but my dad used to eat them as a child, as most rural people did in Venezuela (and the US with the V. Oppossum) some decades ago. My aunt tells me they did not taste that bad, but I have to say the times I saw these animals in the wild I was not hungry at all.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Hugo wants 30 years for Eligio Cedeño's judge

Quico wrote some months ago about the Eligio Cedeño case. You should really go to that article first if you haven't read it, before continuing.

Cedeño was a wealthy Venezuelan banker. As Wikipedia says, he was "arrested in a crack down by Venezuelan officials on individuals circumventing government currency rules to gain US dollars". As you may know, Venezuelans cannot freely buy foreign currency: there are quotas for normal citizens, there are quotas for importers and bankers. This has lead to a huge amount of (extra) corruption in the system, well-connected people have made fortunes. Blogger Miguel (Devil's Excrement) has written a lot about this.

In any case, the banker was detained and put in prison (in El Helicoide) without charges, as Quico's informant some months ago said.

El Helicoide

He may be guilty, but the whole process was completely un-kosher. There hasn't been any concrete charges for over 2 years. Judge Jury López, who was in charge of the case, fled to the US from Venezuela and got a refugee status after claiming she was first put under pressure and then threatened. Above you have a video of hers in Spanish only, here a shorter part with subtitles.


Quico wrote Boliburgueses (like Arné Chacón) are now living under the shadow of Cedeño. Now Arné and some other Bolivarian bankers are in prison but last Thursday 10 December the newspapers announced judge María Lourdes Afiuni had liberated Cedeño. She ordered him (wishful thinking at best) to remain in the country and report every 15 days. The same day the Venezuelan Intelligence Police went to look for him in his appartment and elsewhere.

On Friday 11 Hugo of Sabaneta asked for the judge to get 30 years prison for letting the banker run away. I know nothing of law but to me it is strange a president can publicly ask for that punishment (the maximum amount of years anyone can be in prison in Venezuela) because a judge liberated a man who may have stolen money.

In any case, today the judge was detained and was brought to the Palace of Justice.

There have been several rumours about why Eligio got such a harsh treatment (at least so early), while others were left so freely. Some point to Hugo's daughter.

Venezuela plays

Good article by Rory Carrol, from the Guardian, about our Sistema.

Actually, "this thing with music" predates the Sistema, even if it has undoubtedly helped a lot. Already Alexander von Humboldt noticed on his visit to Venezuela a marked predilection for music, which is greatly cultivated, and which (as always results from a taste for the fine arts) brings the different classes of society nearer to each other.

One of the things I miss of Venezuela is the spontaneity and casualness in which classical music is enjoyed. Listening to Brahms or Rossi, Bassano or Jean-Marie Leclair is not just something for some posh elite or for the elderly. It is for people from every group of society. That is the only way it should be.

A difference I always noticed between concerts in Venezuela and Europe (apart from the way people dress): Venezuelans will really applaud according to how they liked it, not more and not less. We have no mercy in that respect...but it is because we love music.

I also wrote something further about El Sistema and science in Spanish here. That is something we have develop now.

Thursday, 10 December 2009






Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Barbie at revolutionary prices

Our dear minister of Popular Power for Commerce and Trade, Eduardo Salmán, just announced the government imported 124000 toys from such brands as Mattel and Fisher Price "to satistfy the demand of the population".

I remember how I wrote in 1996 to El Nacional complaining that the AD governor of Aragua state was giving as prize to good pupils trips to Walt Disney in Florida, instead of giving them lots of cool books and/or less expensive trips in beautiful Venezuela. Things haven't improved in the XXI century "socialism" one single bit.

The government of a Third World
country is spending 1.4 million dollars in subsidies for the US industry...and promises local toy production will increase twofold for next year...and we will be at year 11 of the so-called revolution. It is not like they haven't had the time to invest in Venezuela in an efficient, open way.

Well, at least the Barbies are less expensive than the Russian tanks and other defence toys Hugo bought this year. All those toys are worth 1 T-72 tank (and we got almost a hundred of those big Russian toys). Still, with a little bit of planning and intelligence we could have generated our own toys, and not just marbles:

Well, my
congrats to Mattel Inc. and Fisher Price Inc. I am sorry for the petrodollars we won't be able to use in sustainable development. I had a couple of ideas for schools in Barinas or in Delta Amacuro.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Venezuela, Land of Grace

Two Venezuelans, Austrian-born Gerry Weil and Venezuelan-born Hector di Donna, composed this song in honour of the Pemón. Enjoy sound and image.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Venezuelans in Europe: 1

The following map shows the number of Venezuelans who were "normal registered voters" at Venezuelan embassies in Europe in February 2009. There are no numbers for countries without diplomatic representations (Belarus data is still missing). I put numbers for the Netherlands with the Antilles in brackets.

Embassies always add a list of additional voters who are supposed to be employees and the like, people close to chavismo who are supposed to "have just arrived", so the actual number of real voters grows a bit. For Belgium there were about 22 extra voters (apart from the 189 you see above), a very large number considering there are also embassy employees in the main list.

Registered voters are just a small fraction of the Venezuelans living in Europe. There are many who are not registered for many reasons. The main reasons are:

  1. lack of Venezuelan ID: the Venezuelan government does not want to give IDs abroad, it oly gives passports. Venezuelans can only vote using the ID, not their passports. They need to go back to Venezuela to get the normal ID and this is not always easy (specially as getting an ID in Venezuela is like a lotery: sometimes difficult, sometimes impossible, sometimes easy)
  2. lack of interest
  3. belief their votes won't be counted
  4. illegal residence: some are living illegally and cannot register as they have no legal address in Europe. My guess is there are not so many Venezuelans in that situation in Europe, as opposed to the US, but that is my guess.
  5. magic wand: quite some Venezuelans have found out at the very last minute their registration was moved from, say, Berlin to Tucupita. It is not easy to beam yourself like that to Tucupita or elsewhere on election day.
There are hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are EU nationals (mostly Spaniards, Italians and Portuguese, but also from all other European countries). Still, it is very hard to know how many are living in Europe now and how many in Venezuela.

It is even harder to calculate the amount of Venezuelans who could possible vote and are living in Europe right now. There are at least 600 Venezuelans living in Belgium and at least half of them could vote (and only 89+22 registered). In Norway there are at least 150 families living in Western Norway alone (most oil engineers who were sacked from PDVSA and went with their families to work in the Norwegian oil industry), there are some more in Oslo as well (although less). There are many more than just 9000 Venezuelans in Spain right now.

I know many more Venezuelans who are not registered than those who are.

Last time the Venezuelan government really counted Venezuelan votes abroad (really as opposed to on sports) was in 2006. As the average Venezuelan abroad tends to oppose Hugo more than the average Venezuelan in Venezuela, Hugo got only 24.47% of the votes against 75.37% for Rosales (yeah, the guy who is "in exile", but probably also corrupt) . It is much more difficult to cheat abroad, specially as the counting is manual, as people tend to be better-organized (most Venezuelans in Europe are professionals) and as there are no Venezuelan soldiers mobbing Venezuelan voters.

In early 2009, Minister of Affairs Maduro declared more than half the registered voters abroad signed a petition in support of Hugo's referendum, which is completely false and absolutely irreconcilable with the previous votes and with our exit polls and just common sense.

From 2007 onwards the regime decided to discourage more exile Venezuelans abroadfrom voting by not publishing results from embassies any further. Results are still "counted'": Venezuelans go to the embassies, they get the counting going on after hefty discussions with the embassy employees and they see results in the place and get the "actas", the official declaration of results, but they know the government won't publish those results. You can see here where the results for the 2009 should be by now.

The Venezuelan opposition has repeatedly demanded (with registered letters and all) the publication of results for the embassies and consulates. The red-very red National Electoral council has just ignored them. Although we know 50000+ votes more (Europe + Americas + Asia + Africa ) do not have change things radically, we know 1) those results would encourage more Venezuelans abroad to register and 2) results would have shown Maduro has been a criminal by lying about more than half of the registered voters abroad signing a petition in support of Hugo's referendum.

Today, Hugo is celebrating the 11 years of his reality show Aló Presidente and telling people he intends to do them at least 11 years more. That is what I call a robbolution.

Venezuelans abroad need to denounce to the international media about all the shenanigans with their votes. They also need to carry out a massive campaign to encourage all Venezuelan grownups to register to vote. There could easily be more than 200000 voters abroad and their voices could count...if they worked on that.

Are you a Venezuelan living in Europe? What has been your experience? Do you know of other Venezuelans who are living legally in Europe but are not registered?