Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Caught red-faced

That's the only way you can catch it: red-faced. The Ateles Paniscus, Red-Faced Spider monkey or mono araña negro is a threatened South American species. It lives in the Amazonas jungle and can be found also in the jungles of Southern Venezuela, close to the Río Negro.

The one in the picture speaks Brazilian Portuguese, but it is basically the same.

While the World is reading Wikileaks

I find most of the Wikileaks so far non-news. You could have inferred most from reading some alternatives sources in English plus non-English, non-Latin language press. It is just very telling so many people in the West are impressed by the "revelations". There are some concrete issues that particular organisations have to deal with. The German Liberal Party (FDP) now knows a young member of their negotiation team with the CDU is giving confidential information to the U.S. Americans. Everybody knows now that Khadaffi's blond nurse is Ukrainian. We also know now Prince Andrew was quite rude particularly during a certain visit to Central Asia. The unkosher-unhalal-un-Catholic ways of putting pressure on foreign countries? The request for DNA material, details that would allow spying on UN and all the rest? Nothing new. If you want to read a good analysis on the Wikileaks about the Middle East, read Fisk.

Some of the world events I found most interesting and which escaped the attention of most are these:

  • Haiti's elections became an absolute farce. If you speak German or even if you don't, watch this (from 16:31, Wahl stürzt Haiti ins nächste Chaos). Lots of countries and organisations are profiting from pretending to help Haiti. Some of them even believe they are helping. Few actually do something effective, like Oxfam or Doctors without Borders. Carroll wrote a good article about aid agencies in Haiti (see here).
  • Egypt's elections became a farce as well. Read again Fisk for that one here.
  • Two nuclear technology specialists in Iran were killed. Iran says they were killed by Israel (Mossad someone?). Others say they were killed by the Iranians themselves in their internal struggles.
  • I wonder how China's government will be so interested in the Koreas becoming reunified, as the US employees think. I am not so sure that is the case. If North Korea joined South Korea, China would have a pluralistic country much closer to Beijing. This could set out dynamics not so wanted by the PCP.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Libros como medida de desarrollo - Books as measure of development

Hoy leo en el periódico El Carabobeño que en Valencia se clausuró la VI Feria Internacional del Libro de Venezuela. En esa feria no solo se podían comprar libros, sino también escuchar conciertos, presenciar obras de teatro y comprar artesanía.

Today I read in newspaper El Carabobeño that the 7th International Book Fair of Venezuela just came to an end. At the Fair you could not only buy books, but also go to concerts, attend a theatre piece and buy some handicrafts.

El diario nos dice que hubo "más de 4000 visitantes". Son menos de cinco mil.

The newspaper tells us there were "more than 4000 visitors". That is less than 5 thousand.

Por otra parte, leo que en la Feria del Libro de Amberes hubo más de 184 mil visitantes. Amberes apenas tiene un tercio de la población de Gran Valencia. Es verdad que poca gente en Venezuela va a ir desde Caracas o Barquisimeto a Valencia en una visita de un día y en Bélgica la gente puede ir fácilmente en tren entre ciudades principales. Es verdad que Venezuela, pese al consumo per capita de whisky que tiene, es un país pobre. Aun así: el número de visitantes en la feria de Venezuela es irrisorio.

Somewhere else I read the International Book Fair of Antwerp had over 184000 visitors. Antwerp has just a third of the population Greater Valencia has. It is true few people in Venezuela will travel from Caracas or Barquisimeto to Valencia for a day whereas in Belgium people can easily travel between major cities. It is true Venezuela, in spite of its per capita whisky consumption, is a poor country. Even so: the number of visitors in Venezuela' fair is just laughable.

La Feria tuvo lugar en lo que fuera el Ateneo de Valencia, un centro cultural al que yo solía ir cuando era chico.

The Fair took place in the Ateneo de Valencia, a cultural centre I used to visit as a child.

El Ateneo fue tomado por el régimen chavista hace unos años y no ha vuelto a ser lo que era antes.

The Ateneo was taken over by the Chávez regime a few years ago and it isn't been what it used to be.

Hubo un concurso de lectura y los organizadores - funcionarios chavistas - dieron como premio un libro titulado "Las Mejores Cartas de Amor entre Manuela y Simón" (Bolívar).

There was a reading competition and the organizers - Chávez's functionaries - gave as prize a book with the title"the Best Love Letters between
Manuela and Simón (Bolívar)".

Supongo que los ganadores tienen que estar agradecidos por no haber recibido Cómo salir del laberinto, del militar Hugo Chávez.

I reckon the winners should be thankful they did not get "How to get out of the Labyrinth", by military Hugo Chávez.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Sustainable development: thinking ahead (revisited)

I wish the leaders of alternative forces in Venezuela read Jared Diamond's books. Yes, Venezuela is a poor, underdeveloped country. Yes, it is now ruled by a military junta that rejects any pluralism and thinks it is the representative of the Nation and Venezuelans still do not see an end to the regime.

Still, this and this book should be food for thought for them. Now. For a future Venezuela.

Setty asked me what relevance I see for Venezuela. Well, there are many points that I could treat for ages, but here I mention some of them:

1) We Venezuelans need to learn more about world's history -not so much about which ruler did what in what year but what ideas - and not just political ideas, but general ideas - appeared where and why.
2) We Venezuelans need to understand why technologies evolved where they did.
3) We Venezuelans need to understand our society is neither a product of "inferior" societies nor just the product of "others plundering us". We need to understand the greater scope. It is neither "just our genes" nor is it "somebody's fault."
4) We need to be prepared for the Peak Oil times. Whether it is just happening or it takes place just in 70 years, it is part of reality. Oil prices will probably skyrocket at some moment we cannot predict now, but sooner than later there will be a fuel shift. Venezuela would need to prepare decades ahead if it does not want to be poorer than El Salvador.
5) Venezuelans still have a Dona Barbara mentality where Venezuela is still a huge territory to be tamed, whereas it is more fragile than most think. Venezuelans have been destroying the best fertile areas all along the coast due to the centralized way in which things evolve. Forest are destroyed, huge amounts of inhuman population centres clustered around a couple of areas. This is a social time bomb by all means.
6) Venezuelans are still not paying attention to the destruction of the most beautiful jungles and how illegal mining is destroying the societies of native Americans living in those regions. The military are in control of most of the area and they just let things happen.
7) Venezuelans are building more and more buildings without using traditional Spanish or other Southern styles that use natural cooling processes but become real ovens because of very bad ventilation. They become more and more dependent on large amounts of electricity even for making it bearable to be in a school in the middle of nowhere.
8) Venezuelans are getting rid of XXI rubbish in landfills that use XI century technology to deal with waste. The pollution there is affecting the urban centres around.
9) Venezuelans are not aware about how dependent they are from foreign evolutions in general. We cannot go to autarchy, but we should be aware of what happens to a land without at least some overview of population movements, including immigration, without any idea about how to prepared itself if its exports become less profitable, etc.
10) Venezuelans are destroying most of the best coastlines they have, urbanizing them, filling them with rubbish, and so on. This is bad for the environment, this is bad for tourism and much more.

We could go on for ages.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Venezuela auf Deutsch. Stand der Dinge: November 2010

Whisky oder Wodka immer noch preisgünstiger als Bücher und leichter zu finden als Milch

Im Flughafen: VIT, hecho en socialismo. Angeblich werden Computer in Venezuela zum ersten Mal hergestellt. In Wirklichkeit werden sie wie seit Jahrzehnten zusammengebastelt. Die Chinesen und Boliburgueses kriegen aber dazu Finanzhilfe. Von nachhaltiger Entwicklung kann nicht die Rede sein

Ich habe diesen Blog angefangen, weil ich meinen Freunden in Europa erklären wollte, was in Venezuela passiert und ich die dazugehörenden Hintergrundinformationen nicht immer wieder wiederholen wollte. Meine Freunde wohnen ja ein bisschen überall.

Es ist nicht so einfach. In den europäischen Medien kriegt man nicht viel über Venezuela zu lesen oder zu sehen. Also muss ich vieles extra erklären. Es ist nicht "Hacienda-Besitzer gegen Indianer". Es ist nicht "Kuba auf dem Festland". Es handelt sich gar nicht um eine Revolution, wie man sie in Mexiko Anfang des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts erlebt hat. Südamerika ist doppelt so gross wie Europa. Es gibt vieles, was wir Lateinamerikaner gemeinsam haben. Die Entwicklungen unserer Länder und die Ressourcen oder gesellschaftliche Gegebenheiten varieren aber stark voneinander.

Venezuela heisst Erdöl und Erdöl - das weiss Otto Normalverbraucher kaum- ist nicht gleich Erdöl. Ganz vereinfacht gesagt: Erdöl im Jahre 1998 hiess 12 Dollar pro Fass. Erdöl im Jahre 2010 heisst über $80 pro Barrel. Venezuela heisst Präsidentialsystem in einem Land mit vielen mittelalterlichen Charakterzügen. So etwas wie "Präsidentialsystem" mit diesen Merkmalen hat sehr grosse Folgen für ein Land. Venezuela heisst Westen mit Uramerika mit Afrika mit dem ganzen Rest. Meine Familie ist wie ein Benetton-Foto, wie fast alle Familien Venezuelas. Venezuela heisst, mehr über Ungarn oder über die Mongolei oder über Deutschland in einer Lokalzeitung wie El Carabobeño lesen zu können als in der Washington Post, in The Guardian, ja in der FAZ oder in der SDZ. Venezuela ist aber auch ein Land, wo Bücher Mangelware sind und wo die sozialistischen Bonzen ihre Kinder nicht zu einer öffentlichen Schule schicken würden, denn das Niveau in den öffentlichen Schulen ist sehr aber auch sehr schlecht. Ich weiss das. Ich habe in einer öffentlichen Schule in einem armen Dorf gelernt und das war zu Zeiten, als die Lehrer mehr verdienten als jetzt.

Venezuela heisst Grosszügigkeit und Zivilkourage neben Korruption und Mangel an Verantwortungsgefühl für die eigene Gesellschaft. Venezuela heisst vor allem Varianz und Überraschung.

Venezuela ist ein armes Land, das sich für reich hält, nur weil es jede Menge Erdöl und eine sehr vielfältige Natur hat. Ohne gute Bildung für den Durschnittsmenschen verwandeln sich dieses Erdöl und diese Natur aber immer wieder in El Dorado. Venezuela heisst Humor, sich über alles aber auch alles lustig zu machen. Das ist unser Potential, aber auch eins unserer grössten Probleme.

Willkommen im Bundesstaat Mérida...nun sozialistisch

Was passiert nun, was steht dann vor?

  • Der Militärführer, den wir als Präsidenten haben, hat nun wieder die "Justiz" unter Druck gesetzt, damit sie gegen Globovision, den letzten regimekritischen Fernsehsender, was tut. Der Grund ist nicht, dass Globovision - eine Art "Fox News", die eher als Potenkinsches Dorf anzusehen ist - kritischer geworden wäre. Der Grund ist halt, dass einer der Besitzer , in den USA geflüchtet, Chávez nun als Diktator bezeichnet. Chávez bezeichnet sich selbst aber als Soldat. Da hat er recht: er ist ein Soldat...und Autokrat. Diktator ist er noch nicht. So wie Putin es auch nicht ist. Oder Lukaschenko. Als die Leute von Human Rights Watch einen negativen Bericht über Pressefreiheit in Venezuela verfassten, wurden sie des Landes sofort ausgewiesen, denn dieser Bericht war Chávez zufolge Lug und Trug, in Venezuela gibt es absolute Pressefreiheit, zu viel Pressefreiheit sogar.
  • In 6 Wochen (5.1.2011) werden 65 + 2 Abgeordneten der alternativen Kräfte ihre Arbeit bei der Asamblea Nacional starten. Ein paar tausend seit Jahren archivierte Dossiers zu Korruptionsfälle bei der Regierung warten auf sie... oder auch nicht: manche Leute befürchteten, die jetzigen Regierungsabgeordneten könnten diese Dossiers irgendwann zu Weihnachtszeit verschwinden lassen.
  • Es gibt eine viel stärkere Gerhinwäsche-Kampagne als je zuvor. 1984 lässt grüssen. Das Adjektiv "sozialistisch" wird zu jedem Substantiv mit einer positiven Konnotation zusammengefügt. Überall im Land kommen neue Plakatten, damit die Leute denken, dass die Militärjunta sozialistisch ist und dieser Sozialismus gut ist. Die Regierung hat auch sehr attraktive Journalistinnen bei VTV und anderen Staatssendern angeheuert. Sie weiss, wie die meisten Venezolaner das zu schätzen wissen. Die Regierung präsentiert nun immer mehr Zahlen, die angeblich unseren Fortschritt zeigen sollen. Chávez sagt, die Zahl der Ermordeten wäre um 40% gesunken. Er sagt aber nicht wann und wo. Hauptsache, es ist gut. Er sagt auch nicht, dass die Mordrate in Venezuela 1998 19 x 100000 Einwohner betrug und sie nun auf 70 Morde pro 100000 geklettert ist. Der Finanzminister interpretiert eine Rezesion in Venezuela als Beweis für den Erfolg des Chavismus und die Ruine des Kapitalismus.
  • Viel mehr Geld wird umgeleitet: die Militärjunta will die Finanzierung der regimekritischen Lokalregierungen weiter abdrosseln. Über 10 Milliarden Bsf werden umgeleitet und vor allem an regimetreue Lokalregierungen gegeben. Damit will die Militärjunta ihre Chancen für die Bundestaats- und Gemeindewahlen von 2012 "optimieren". Diese Wahlen werden mit der Präsidentenwahl zusammenfallen.
  • Es kommen weitere Enteignungen.
  • Leider verhalten sich viele Politiker der alternativen Kräfte wie Feudalherren, oder wie Möchte-gern-Feudalherren, die nur lokal denken und nicht mit anderen Parteien zusammenarbeiten wollen. Jeder hält sich für den neuen Bolívar. Es gibt einige gute Ausnahmen und das gibt ein bisschen Hoffnung.

Irgendwie erinnert mich dies an Sowjetzeiten. Der Traktor soll dank "iranischer Technologie" produziert werden. In Wirklichkeit ist diese iranische Traktorfirma ein richtiger Misserfolg. Mehr "Technologietransfer" hatte Venezuela selbst zu Zeiten, als die Gringo-Montagefirmen Glühbirnen, Schrauben und Drähten von Lokalfirmen kauften.

Mein Dank geht an Dan für die Bilder oben.

Schliesslich ein Bild aus La Patilla. Hier wirft ein venezolanischer Ordnungshüter einen Sitz gegen einen Mann zu. Damit will er gegen Unruhen am Ende eines Spiels vorgehen.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Caudillismo: a disease running amok in Venezuela

Ashurbanipal as High Priest. VII century BC. Middle East

Military coup monger Chávez in military fatigues, with red-clad Barquisimeto PSUV-mayor, XXI Century. Northern South America.

Caudillismo has been a disease in Venezuela since its very emergence as a nation. Caudillismo's origin could even be seen in the region's early recorded history.

The country was born out of a forgotten Spanish colony controlled through capitan generals. Military men settled the place and ruled as they please and controlled the flow of information into it. The region saw very little of the scarce Enlightment Spain experienced. More of the Middle Age mentality clung to Venezuela and stayed there.

Venezuela had a military independence leader obsessed with creating the myth of being "the" only Liberator. After he died, many other military strongmen reused the myth. Anything that was done in Venezuela was, according to them, thanks to their good will. When the civil governments came back in 1958, the caudillo image became weaker but still personality fixation remained strong. As the state controlled most oil revenues, the head of state played as much as oil prices permitted the role of big benefactor. When Venezuelans started to elect governors and mayors in 1988, the elected regional governments became mostly the platforms for a local caudillos. But it is only now, since the military took back control of Venezuela and oil prices more than tripled that the caudillismo started to run amok. These days, the image of the biggest caudillo has become more pervasive than images of Assyrian kings shortly before their fall.

The military junta and to a lesser but still great extent all local caudillos left and right have spent enormous resources telling people what they have is "thanks to the caudillo's work".

Like a zealous animal marking its territory with urine, Hugo Chávez and local caudillos waste people's resources in images stating only they can provide for the people as only they are "the people". Here you see military Chávez to the left - in battledress- and Mérida governor as well as local mayor to the right.

Every public work is considered now as "revolution's work". Nobody tells Venezuelans the difference between government and state.

When you arrive to Barinas, Chávez's home territory and his family's fiefdom, you are greeted by the caudillo even more often than elsewhere.

Above you see Chávez saluting in the only way he can, as a South American military caudillo. He is again to the left. To the right you see his brother and governor and then the local mayor. The brother inherited the governor position from Chávez's father.

Posters of Chávez are on every corner of the country, but in Barinas you see the images of the Chávez royal family more often than the image of Queen Elizabeth in a boring collection of British government stamps. Actually, there is a Chávez museum in the Casa de Chávez.

A wolf doing what Venezuelan caudillos do, but in nature. At least the wolf is using his own urine. Venezuelan caudillos use money from state resources to the same effect.

The caudillo's image can be seen on the walls of many shanty huts, particularly in the rural areas, where "national" party leaders of alternative forces from the urban centres almost never go.

The more the military junta strengthens its control over the country, the more shameless the personality cult will become. The alternative forces need to attack with intelligent educational efforts the caudillismo mentality. This won't be easy. Chávez is just the current caudillo máximo. Venezuelans' prejudices and education are the real origin of this disease. There is a little caudillo in most Venezuelans' heads.

My thanks go to Dan for the pictures and his observations about a recent trip he did throughout Venezuela.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

State of Obilivion revisited: First Nations dying


Many of Venezuela's First Nations are concentrated in the state of Amazonas. They are becoming a minority there due to legal and illegal immigration, due to the ecological impact from gold mining (one of the main reasons for that immigration) and due to the government's deglect.

Scientists from the Universidad de Carabobo (Northern Venezuela) went to the area and after three days of travel arrived to the Piaroa community of El Caño, in the Autana Municipality. They found native Americans there were suffering not only from turberculosis, but also from malnutrition. They also found a tiny "health centre" that has been under construction for the last 4 years...abandoned. I am sure resources used for one Aló Presidente in, say, Guárico, would be more than enough to build -actually to its real conclusion- a health centre with plenty of basic medical equipment.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little attention from politicians in the main urban centres. The area is mostly controlled by the military in Venezuela, it is of very difficult access and it is most of the time completely out of most urbanites' thoughts.

EFE had previously reported that Yanomamö have been dying by the dozens in Alto Orinoco Municipality. Malnutrition and all those other diseases are nothing new, but it is a tragedy that Venezuela's First Nations still have to go through all this in the XXI century.

Chauvinism as a way to improve popularity for Latin military

Nicaragua's regime is losing popularity. It is also causing a lot of trouble for Costa Rica as it is throwing the rubbish from dredging works of a river to the Costa Rican side (Costa Ricans say), its economic and political mess leads to a lot of illegal immigration to Costa Rica and criminals from Nicaragua keep crossing to Costa Rica for booty. Costa Rican authorities have been protesting and increased the amount of police forces at the border -Costa Rica has no military-. What does the Nicaraguan government do? It sends troops to occupy territory in Costa Rica (Isla Calero). The Organisation of American States held an emergency meeting. The vast majority of countries voted to ask Nicaragua to take away its troops. The Nicaraguan military who led his troops to occupy the Island Calcero blamed it on Google Maps, which did not show the proper border. You know...el imperio es culpa de todo.

Who voted for Costa Rica?

21 countries.

Who absteened? Ecuador, Guyana and Dominica (these last two get a lot of oil from Venezuela).

Bolivia did not even bother to vote.

Who rejected the proposal? Nicaragua and the envoys of Venezuela's military junta.

This is such a waste of resources for all Spanish Americans. It is simply stupid, stupid, stupid. You can bet the Venezuelan military will try to keep the conflict going, though.

Some background information in Spanish here and in English here.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Venezuela's future, its military junta and all the rest

Fellow bloggers and I have been recording Venezuela's path towards a total dictatorship. It took a long time and useful idiots kept clinging to the idea that elections -whether really fair or not is another matter- are all that counts to legitimize a government as democratic. Going against the rule of law and going against minorities, whether they were 2%, 10%, 20%, 48%? did not seem to matter to them. Repeating referenda on the same issue was a sign of lack of democracy in the EU, not in Venezuela. At this stage, though, there is no democrat on Earth, whether gullible or not, that may still think the government in Venezuela is a democratic one.

Yesterday Chávez forced all national radio and TV stations to broadcast his newest speech where he supported his military colleague Silva Rangel, the military honcho who had said the military would not recognise in 2012 a government lead by the opposition and the population, the military and the people would react, etc. Chávez also insulted Insulza, OAS's president and stated, as usual, that the Venezuelan military had been taken out of context.

If you want to read more on this, you can go to Miguel's, Juan's and Daniel's account of the issue. Or you can read the military junta's version on the state TV site here.

Now I will just go more into predictions, as I have done in the past. Nothing is sure, but things may evolve like this:

  • the military junta will try to escalte things through violence. They are the ones who keep saying "there will be a civil war", you won't hear that from the opposition leaders. They will infiltrate groups of the opposition, they will try to provoke violence.
  • the military junta will keep getting more support from the Chinese, the Belorussians, the Russians, the Iranians and Syrians. This support may be, among other things, like this:
  1. the Chinese will provide more support in the area of communications and spionage (finding patterns in social networks supporting the alternative forces, eavesdropping). Belorussians and Cubans may play also a role here (the latter not so much with the hardware).
  2. intelligence training from Belorussians and Cubans

  • the Venezuelan military junta will do anything, anything, to make the Colombian government hand them over Makled, the drug dealer who says he has a lot of incriminating material about the drug connections of the Venezuelan military. Expect more trade agreements favouring Colombians, threats we won't get to read about, new "liberation of kidnapped Colombian citizens".
  • some people will try to make disappear the thousands of dossiers on government corruption that the current National Assembly has kept "on hold"...or they will try to adultare them or else...that will happen before the new elected deputies come to work in January.
  • the military regime will keep expropiating, specially targeting the companies around Polar, but also others that may support the alternative forces.
  • the military regime will attack any alternative forces distributing flyers or holding meetings outside the main 4 cities.
  • the government will push for changing university laws in such a way that they can the universities with thugs - not real students - who take control of those universities.
  • the government will intimidate more people and use much more state money to influence elections in Amazonas, Guárico and Miranda.
  • the government will infiltrate more the local governments in the hand of the opposition.
  • the government will illegally divert more money from the areas where alternative forces are in governors and mayors into organisations completely managed by Chavista thugs
  • the government will keep up the soviets, the "councils", that will not tollerate pluralism and that will be controlled by PSUV members.
Dictator Lukashenko is bound to win the elections in Belarus this December. Unlike in Venezuela, the opposition does not seem to grow there. Lukashenko is a dictator, but he is definitely much more popular than Chávez in Venezuela. Pay attention to what Chávez wants to learn from there, even if things are so difficult to "translate"...Chávez will try to do it.

In the map above I drew a selection of key countries where the military junta is looking for alliances.

  1. In red you see those where there is a very close alliance at different levels. Those countries are very close because of ideological (or rather pseudo-ideological) and/or geopolitical reasons. They are mostly dictatorships or autocracies, with Ecuador and Bolivia the only ones with some democracy. Ecuador and Bolivia are heavely depending on the Chávez regime.
  2. The countries in dark yellow are a mixture of democratic countries and autocracies. They play along with Chávez primarily because that's good for their businesses. Argentina is a case I was not sure to classify as red or yellow, but as there is still a strong opposition there, I decided to put the main reason for its closeness to Chavismo on the benefits for the industries there.
  3. The countries in light yellow are countries that are flirting with Chavismo but are less close. That's the case of Spain, selling weapons and with a social democratic government that is a mixed of real social democrats and people with little sense of democracy, that is the case of Portugal, which is in a similar situation as Spain but has less money and that is the case of Mali, which is extremely poor and tries to get any help it can from somewhere. Still, the links of those governments to Chavismo are less strong than those in dark yellow or red. I forgot to add Zimbabwe, but right now relationships between Chávez and Mugabwe are rather symbolic. Some years ago Chávez was even trying to approach Birmania, but I suppose Burmese dictators did not understand Chávez's sense of "humour".

Stay tuned.

PS. Elio Di Rupo, the leader of the French-speaking Socialist Party of Belgium wrote to me and told me they were going to answer to my post How Far from Pluralism soon. I am looking forward to his response.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Fighting corruption in Venezuela

Venezuela, after Haiti the most corrupt nation in America

We have written a lot about corruption in Venezuela and how the situation is deteriorating day after day. If we read just a bit about the historical development of different nations we can see corruption trends can be detected already centuries or millenia earlier. Still, there is no doubt corruption (or honesty) levels can improve or worsen depending on the decisions people take at any given time and moment. Chile's and Ghana's records are proofs things can get better.

I won't invent the wheel. I will just go over some points discussed in - the horror, the horror - Wikipedia.

Take a look at this. Is there something we can learn from there for a better Venezuela? Are there things we can make more concrete, sort of fool-proof?

Two little ideas:

1) Make transparency and the effects of corruption the subject of a weekly lesson early on in school at least for one year. The best timing would be when pupils get universal history of that of Venezuela. Right now there are some subjects like 'civil rights' and stuff like that . What pupils in Venezuela do now mostly is to learn by heart about voting rights and what a president and the National Assembly are supposed to do. Pupils need a course where they don't learn by heart, but have to reason, justify, think about Venezuela and its honesty/corruption levels. They need a course where they can discuss the results of corruption indexes and the situation in other countries. We need a course where pupils can ask and answer to the whys. Right people in countries such as Congo, Russia or Venezuela just say "es que aquí somos así". Why? It's not in the genes. I have another idea on that: let pupils watch at least 2 videos of pupils from other regions of Venezuela discussing the same ideas.

2) Make compulsory that every state and every municipality publish their expenditures of the last year on Internet. The details should be presented according to a unified form and they should be presented at the latest 6 months after the start of the next year. Not publishing them should automatically lead to some strict punishment. I imagine this would be very interesting. I can imagine the governor of Delta Amacuro publishing all the details about how much money she got and how she spent it. I imagine people in Curiapo, Pedernales or Tucupita reading about that information and comparing it with that of other regions.

I will keep discussing some of the topics treated in that Wikipedia article later on.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Was ist denn das in Venezuela, wenn nicht eine Militärjunta?


Rangel Silva

Der seit 1998 amtierende Caudillo

Die Drohungen

General Henry Rangel Silva ist einer der wichtigsten Militären in Venezuela. Er ist auch jemand, der vom Finanzministerium der Vereinigten Staaten als FARC-Unterstützer und "drug kingpin" eingestufft wurde. Dementsprechend gibt es ein Haftbefehl gegen ihn. Er ist auch Leiter des venezolanischen Nachrichtendienstes. Gestern hat er wieder was ganz typisches für die Rhewolucionäre gesagt. Während eines Interviews mit der Últimas Noticias-Zeitung, behauptete Rangel Silva folgendes:

"Die Streitkräften haben keine halbgebackene Treue, sondern sind völlig den Menschen, einem Lebensprojekt und einem einzigen Oberbefehlshaber treu. Wir sind mit diesem Nationalprojekt verheiratet (sic)." "Im Fall einer hypothetischen Regierung der Opposition im Jahre 2012 und falls man den Militärsektor abbauen wollte, würden die Militärkräften und das Volk reagieren".

"Die Angriffe sind im Programm der Opposition. Die Militärkräften sind historisch gesehen benutzt worden, um Regierungen zu stürzen...die Hypothese ist schwer, aber [wenn sie an die Macht kämen], würden sie das Land verkaufen. Das werden weder die Bevölkerung noch die Streitkräften noch vor allem das Volk (sic) akzeptieren". Wahrscheinlich auch nicht die kubanische Diktatur, Lukaschenko, die Chinesen oder die russischen Waffenexporteure.

Venezuela ist seit 1999 von einem ehemaligen Putschist regiert. Er wurde demokratisch gewählt - wie viele anderen vor ihm - und hatte lange Zeit aufgrund des grössten Erdölbooms in Jahrzehnten die Mehrheit hinter sich. Dieser Putschist hatte 1992 einen blutigen Putschversuch gegen eine zwar korrupte aber demokratisch gewählte Regierung organisiert. Er sagte damals, sein Putsch sei gerechtfertigt, weil 3 Jahre davor der frei gewählte Präsident einen Militär- und Polizeieinsatz gegen Demonstranten angeordnet hatte und die Polizei und Militärs dabei Leute erschossen haben. Dass ein Hauptanteil derjenigen, die erschossen haben, Militärs waren, hat der Putschist nicht erwähnt. Er hat auch nicht erwähnt, dass jene Regierung sowieso nur noch ein paar Jahre Amtszeit vor sich hatte, denn damals durften Präsidenten nicht unmittelbar nach ihrer Periode wieder zur Wahl stehen. Seit 2009 gibt es in Venezuela ein Präsidentialsystem ohne Amtzeitbegrenzung, wie nur noch in Vietnam, Guyana und Weissrussland.

Die Militärkaste

Man sieht hier eine Karte mit den Bundesstaaten Venezuelas. Die Bundesstaaten, die jetzt von Militärs regiert werden, sind dunkelgrün. Die Bundesstaaten, die von Brüdern oder Töchtern von Militärs regiert werden, Barinas und Falcón, sind hellgrün. Es gibt drei Staaten, über deren gegenwärtigen Gouverneure ich gar keine Biographien finden konnte: Guárico, Trujillo und Sucre. Anzóategui -mit einem grünen G- wird von einem Zivilist regiert, der aber jahrelang während der demokratischen Periode vor 1998 bei der Guerrilla tätig war. Die Bundesstaaten in Gelb werden von der Opposition regiert, auch wenn der Caudillo fast alle Befugnisse der Bundesstaaten seit den 2008-Wahlen zu sich gerissen hat. Der Bundesstaat Lara hat eine besondere Stellung: der Gouverneur, Falcón, war auch ein Militär, auch ein Chávez-Mann, er ist aber seit 2009 im Klintsch mit dem Caudillo. Falcón sagte, er sei gegen die intolerante Art und Weise, wie die Nationalregierung alles lösen wollte.

Die Drogen

Chávez sagt nun, Kolumbiens neuer Präsident, Santos sei sein "neuer bester Freund". Die Kolumbianer werden jetzt Geschäftsleute nach Venezuela schicken, um wieder den Absatz ihrer Produkte zu sichern. Venezuela importiert vieles aus Kolumbien - von Fleisch und Klopapier bis zu Textilien-. Venezuela exportiert aber fast nur Erdöl, Gas und Elektrizität. Es gibt einen grossen Handelsbilanzüberschuss für Kolumbien und er wird wieder grösser werden. Dafür erwartet Chávez aber, dass die kolumbianische Regierung Makled nach Venezuela schickt. Makled ist ein Venezolaner libanesischer Herkunft, der sowohl von der venezolanischen Regierung wie auch von der US-Amerikanischen Justiz wegen Drogenhandeln gesucht und von den Kolumbianern festgenommen wurde. Wie Juan in Caracas Chronicles erzählte, hat Makled schon mehrmals behauptet, er kann Beweise für die Beziehungen der Militärs in Venezuela mit der FARC und mit dem Drogenhändlern vorlegen. Makled hat schon ganz konkrete Namen venezolanischer Militärs erwähnt. Früher hatte er viel Geld mit Geschäften gemacht, die erst durch seine Zusammenarbeit mit der Regierung möglicht waren.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Venezuela in America: before and after the "revolution"


1997 HDI

2002 HDI

2010 HDI

Here I plotted United Nations' Human Development Index values for countries in America according to the reports of the years 1997, 2002 and 2010.

I did not put the values in one chart because United Nations has been tweaking on the absolute values. I find it interesting, though, to take a look at the relative position of countries.

As you can see, the top is occupied by English/French American countries. Haiti has been at the bottom all the time. Venezuela's main export by far is and was oil. Oil prices in the nineties were a fraction of what they have been for several years now. Since the so-called "revolution" has been ruling Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Panama and Mexico have overtaken Venezuela in the HDI.

Now, I want to see for how long useful idiots will keep referring to the HDI when talking about the accomplishments of Venezuela's military regime and which years they will pick up next. Mind: since 1999 the Venezuelan government stopped taking part in open evaluations of its pupils' education levels - unlike Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Colombia and so most other American countries, which are, among other things, taking part in the painful but very helpful PISA programme. Venezuela's current government is simply delivering its side of the story to United Nations, like literacy figures based on self-assesment and the like. In spite of that Venezuela is lagging behind.

Cuba did not deliver the data for the latest HDI reports. Me pregunto porqué.

Lemmy sends us an interesting article about that porqué: Economía Cubana and the Human Development Index

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A nasty little insect

This is the Triatoma nigromaculata, a kind of chipo. It lives mostly in Venezuela but you find some in other places in South America. It is at home in tropical areas between 300 and 1700 m above sea level, which means almost everywhere in Venezuela but high mountains, islands and very coastal regions.

If you have enough contact with nature in Venezuela you become very aware of it and try to be cautious. It is one of the vectors of the Chagas disease. This creature, like other triatoma, feed on blood and then defecate in the wound. When people or animals scratch, they spread the little nasty trypanosoma cruzi and with that the disease.

Like other species of the Triatoma sub family, it hides in crevices and little corners of houses. It can camouflage by putting some pieces of dust or rubbish on its top (like: "I'm dust, I'm dust, I do no harm"). People have to fumigate (which causes health problems) and/or keep whole areas clear from too many insects/vegetation.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Isla, adios? Is Venezuela's state oil company so compromised?


The Isla oil refinery on lease to PDVSA for decades now may be no more...

Our contact in the Dutch Antilles tells us people in Curaçao think Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA may be forced to transfer its rights for the oil refinery Isla, which it had been leasing for decades now. They say PDVSA has no money for the costly maintenance of the refinery, a refinery that has been an ecological issue for many years now. PDVSA would be looking for groups to transfer the lease and other resources there. I also got a link to a Dutch article. The article confirms, among other things, that the civic group Movementu Solushon Isla (MSI) suspects PDVSA needs to get rid of that Isla Refinery soon.

The family company Arevenca has apparently proposed to buy the Curacao refinery for 800 million dollars and invest $2.5 billion in the construction of a new one at Bullenbaai. PDVSA - the MSI group says - could be tempted to accept the offer. Many people in Curaçao would not feel happy about that either because the new refinery would mean 400 hectares of better land would be occupied and the environmental problem would simply move there.

What this tells us regarding Venezuela is PDVSA could be having more and more trouble handling things on its own.

Independently from this I wonder about this Arevenca company, a company I never heard about before: how come Arevenca says- or at least the Curacao people who claim to report that- it has so much money for such a deal? I suppose they don't. So: what are the Arevenca people really up to? Their site is really bad for the standards of a little shop, but it is just inconceivable for a multimillion dollar company. And yet they claim to be a multinational company (I suppose because they are Venezuelans and go to the Dutch islands). Are the people in Curacao just naif to believe these guys could take the refinery over or do they just want to spread those news?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

How far from pluralism

Venezuela's shame

Last Sunday we got the usual Chávez ranting in the presidential Aló Presidente show. The president and 1992 coup monger announced the expropriation of yet another company, Venezuela's largest privately-owned steelmaker factory. The main stock holder of that company is the father of well-known opposition leader Corina Machado. The military caudillo then said he did not like the fact POLAR employees were protesting against his latest expropriations. Chávez said he does not want to expropriate POLAR "for now" but "no strike will overthrow [him]". "Don't challenge me, that is to challenge the people", he said. Chávez really thinks he is the people.

He then addressed POLAR's CEO, Lorenzo Mendoza: "You are going to end up losing it, Mendoza...don't mess with me, keep yourself to your things, your company and your family, which I respect a lot, but don't challenge me". He also recommended Mendoza to do as Cisneros, the biggest magnate in Venezuela. Capriles had decided to cooperate with the military caudillo, his Venevisión channel does not criticize the former coup monger anymore and now he is doing fine, very fine. "Follow Gustavo Cisnero's example...he decided not to mess up with me, he's intelligent...there it is, [his] Venevisión channel, it does not belong to the government, but it is there".

The caudillo also said that if the opposition were to win the 2012 elections, "they would try to expel anyone within the military forces that smells like Chávez". He declared: "if I were rich and I were living in Caracas' (posh) East, but I were not on the side of the opposition and I had a nice life from their point of view, I would keep Chávez or a revolutionary, because if those opposition bosses were to arrive to power, they would cause a broadside". Talking about revolution...just like the Ancien Regime, but more rapacious. In reality Chávez is not against the rich, but against the rich who oppose him. In reality he is not for the poor, but he will pretend to be for the poor who support him. A poor not supporting him would become another escuálido.

Europe's shame

The National Electoral Council, under Chávez's control, invited a group of left-winged politicians from abroad to be "independent observers of the process". The government is having a hard time finding EU politicians who are ready to do this, but they still can find some. One of them is Sfia Bouarfa, a politician from the Francophone Socialist Party of Belgium, PS. Ms Bouarfa has had trouble even within her party because of her extreme positions. You can take a look at her site, in French, here. There you can read what she had to say about Venezuela. She was "an international observer". She said the opposition -the opposition alone- tried not to respect the election rules. She did not get into much detail, but she definitely did not see the hundreds of state vehicles used to transport voters for Chávez, she did not see the way in which the military regime used state resources for propaganda purposes, she did not listen to Chávez's constant threats and she did not take a look at CNE's shameless and clearly illegal gerrymandering. Ms Bouarfa says the alternative parties "have as only programme to get rid of Chávez" and "stop the Bolivarian (sic) revolution"...no proposal but the ultraliberalism of Primero Justicia". Never mind I can show her several programmes that have more substance than the "wish list" the military regime finally presented as "plan for Venezuela" after 8 years in power.

Ms Bouarfa says "it is sad to see that certain parties claiming to be from the left like Podemos or MAS have joined the right or extreme right". I wonder what she is doing in the PS. Perhaps she should join the communist Worker's Party of Belgium. She should firstly find out what Podemos, MAS and even Causa R stand for. She also writes Chávez's party, the PSUV, got 95 representatives against 65 from the alternative forces. She does not say the PSUV got 48% and the alternative forces 51% of all votes. She finally complains about the "mainstream media" for criticizing the elections and Chávez. "They call themselves free and objectives. Each one will appreciate". Yes, Ms Bouarfa, everyone will appreciate.

Here I want to ask the French-speaking Socialist Party what their position is regarding the current situation of Venezuela and Ms Bouarfa's position.

You can ask them too, if you want. Please, write a polite letter to the PS and ask them what their position is:
Let's see what they say. Do they endorse Bouarfa's position? Do they think Chávez is automatically a democrat just by virtue of past elections and people should be quiet? Do they think he is not an authoritarian? Do they think he is not threatening with violence and civil war if he were to lose? Do they think he is not abusing of state resources to use as direct party propaganda?

Amnesty on Venezuela
Chávez: le peuple c'est moi

Should deputies or senates from the Belgian French-speaking Socialist Party support a regime like Chavismo? I am asking them and sending the question to the media as well.

PS in Brussels

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gegen die Wand IV: Enteignungen

Ich frage mich, ob Hugo sich ein Embargo wie gegen Kuba erhofft. Nur er könnte davon profitieren. Der Castro-Klan weiss, wie es geht.

Aus El Carabobeño kann man einen Überblick über Enteignungen während der Militarregierung haben. Ich kommentiere.


Mai: symbolische Übernahme der Erdölfelder des Orinokobeckens (sehr symbolisch).
Mai: die venezolanische Telekomfirma CANTV wird verstaatlicht. Der Staat erhöht seinen Anteil von Electricidad Caracas auf 92.98%. Die Qualität der Dienste geht in die Hose. Die Regierung behält die Kontrolle fast aller Kommunikationsmittel im Lande. Sie kann nun Internet und Telefonanrufe besser kontrollieren für den Fall aller Fälle oder sonst für einige Fälle.

Juni: ExxonMobil und ConocoPhilips lehnen ein Unternehmen mit der Regierung als Hauptaktionär ab. Ein Gerichtsverfahren wird gestartet. Er läuft immer noch.


Januar: 32 Erdölfelder im Orinokobecken werden offiziell verstaatlicht.
März: Lácteos Los Andes, ein Unternehmen für Milchproduktion und Milchprodukte, wird für die Ernährungssouveranität verstaatlicht.
April: Chávez sagt, er wird "die ganze Zementindustrie im Lande verstaatlichen".
April: Chávez befiehlt die Verstaatlichung des Stahlunternehmens Sidor und der italienisch-argentinischen Firma Ternium Techint.
Juli: Chávez erklärt, der Banco de Venezuela, Teil der Santander-Gruppe, wird verstaatlicht. Man tut es aber noch nicht. 2009 wird die Regierung dafür $1.050 Milliarden an die Spanier zahlen.
August: die Regierung kauft die Zementbetriebe der französischen Firma Lafarge und der schweizerischen Firma Holcim (für $552 und $267 Millionen je). Die Regierung verstaatlicht auch die Anlagen der mexikanischen Firma Cemex. Es gibt noch keine Vereinbarung.
August: die interne Förderung von Treibstoff, die bis dahin zu 49% vom Staat betrieben wird, wird völlig verstaatlicht.
November: die Goldmine Las Cristinas, die die Chávez-Regierung an eine kanadische Firma gemietet hatte, wird verstaatlicht. Die Regierung gibt die Kontrolle an die Russen.

¿Veis el patrón? Seht Ihr, wohin es hinläuft? Es handelt sich vorwiegend um US und venezolanische Firmen. Die Regierung versuchte auf jeden Fall den Spaniern gut zu zahlen, sie will Probleme mit der EU auf jeden Fall vermeiden.


Februar: die Regierung ordnet die Militärkontrolle der Betriebe für Reisverarbeitung an.
März: die Reisverarbeitungsanlagen der USA-Firma Cargill werden enteignet.
März: 1500 Hektar der irischen Firma Smurfit Kappa werden enteignet. Das ist nur ein Bruchteil von was einer der "Revolutionäre", Militär Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, besitzt. Seine Ländereien oder die anderer Militärs und Kollaborateurs werden nicht enteignet.
März: Die Häfen Maracaibos und Puerto Cabellos werden durch die Militärs besetzt. Häfen waren bis dahin von den Bundesstaaten verwaltet. Da die Bevölkerung Zulias und Carabobos einen Gouverneur der alternativen Parteien wählten und Häfen eine der Haupteinnahmequellen für die Regionen waren, wollte Chávez diese Häfen so schnell wie möglich unter seiner Kontrolle haben. Es gab auch andere Gründe, ich gehe aber nicht hinein.
März: die Regierung zwingt Coca Cola Femsa, eine grosse Halle in Caracas "friedlich" zu übergeben.
Mai: 60 Lieferanten für die Erdölindustrie in der Maracaibo-Region werden verstaatlicht. Es handelt sich um Firmen, die Bohrdienste, Reinigungsdienste oder sonstige technische Dienste für die Erdölgesellschaft PDVSA gaben. Damit verliert die Regierungen der Gemeinden in dieser Region - die vorwiegend von alternativen Kräften verwaltet werden - eine ihrer wichtigsten Einnahmequellen.
Mai: 10000 Hektar Land werden verstaatlicht.
Mai: Comsigua, Matesi, Orinoco Iron, Venprecar und eine internationale Firma für Rohrleitungen werden verstaatlicht.
Mai: Chávez enteignet die US-Firma Williams Companies Inc.
Oktober: Die Regierung übernimmt die Hilton Hotel-Kette auf der Insel Margarita.
Oktober: die Regierung besetzt zwei Zuckeranlagen, um sie zu enteignen.


Januar: die Asamblea Nacional verstaatlicht die Supermarktkette Exito sowie ein Einkaufszentrum in Caracas.
Februar: der Caudillo befiehlt die Enteignung einer Reihe von Gebäuden in der Innenstadt von Caracas "wegen historischer Bedeutung".
April: der Caudillo ordnet die Enteignung einer Reihe von Gebäuden von POLAR im Bundesstaat Lara an.
Mai: der Caudillo verstaatlicht die Universität Santa Inés in Barinas.
Mai: der Caudillo enteignet die Lebensmittelfirma Molinos Nacional, vorwiegend in den Händen der mexikanischen Gruppe Gruma.
Juni: die Regierung enteignet u.a. Internacional (Behälter), Aventuy (Behälter) und Industria Nacional de Artículos de Ferretería (Eisenwaren u.a.).
Juni: die Regierung enteignet 11 Rohrtürme der US-amerikanischen Firma Helmerich & Payne.
Oktober: die Regierung verstaatlich Agroisleña, die grösste Firma für Lebensmitteltransport und -lagerung. Mehrere Gewerkschaftler werden entlassen, weil sie dagegen protestieren.
Oktober: die Regierung enteignet die Tochterfirma von Owens Illinois in Venezuela, die 60% aller Behälter und Flaschen für Lebensmittel und Medikamente herstellt.
Oktober: die Regierung enteignet die Stahlfirma Turbio (Sidetur) sowie 6 Bauprojekte, die stagnierten.

Na? Fragen?

Portal Amerika, ein Portal der Linksextremisten, berichtet, die jetzige Regierung Venezuelas habe "eine deutliche Mehrheit" bekommen, mit 95 Abgeordneten für die Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas und die des Partido Comunista de Venezuela gegen 65 Abgeordnete für die Opposition (demokratische Sozialisten, Mitte, Rechts). Diese Leute sagen aber nicht, dass die Regierung diese 95 Abgeordneten mit nur 48% der Stimmen bekommen hat und dass Gerrymandering laut venezolanischer Verfassung und im Gegensatz zu der Gesetzgebung in den USA und Grossbritannien nicht zugelassen ist. Ich werde mal fragen, wie sie so ein "Detail" ausser Acht gelassen haben.