Thursday, 30 June 2011

Chávez hat tatsächlich Krebs - und noch mehr

Es war, wie die meisten Leser (und ich) dachten: der venezolanische Caudillo hat Krebs. Ich werde heute abend schreiben, was die verschiedenen Szenarien sein könnten.

Hier könnt Ihr Daniels Meinung (auf englisch) lesen.

Die Rede ist sehr seltsam. Dder Caudillo versucht penibel, jedes postvokale s als /s/ auszusprechen, während die meisten Venezolaner ausserhalb der Anden diesen Laut wie /h/artikulieren würden und er umso mehr.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wine waterfall

The Cascada del Vino is a waterall in the beautiful national park Dinira, between the states Lara, Trujillo and Portuguesa. This park is really gorgeous, but it is under heavy pressure from humans: there is an increasing amount of squatters in the area, too many tourists and no proper control of what they do as there is hardly any trained staff and few other resources.

One of the things a future Venezuela government needs to undertake, apart from providing for more resources for national parks proper, is to make sure that all urbanizations in the country have more green areas. Right now people in a lot of areas in Venezuela have either cement and pavement or national parks. The latter end up getting too many visitors.

Alles in Butter mit Chávez?

Ein erster Gipfel der im Jahr 2010 ins Leben gerufenen Gemeinschaft der Lateinamerikanischen und Karibischen Staaten (CELAC) wurde kurzerhand abgesagt. Der Gipfel hätte am 5. und  6. Juli auf der venezolanischen Insel Margarita stattfinden müssen. Mehrere Staatsoberhäupter hatten schon ihre Teilnahme bestätigt. Der Grund: der venezolanische Caudillo ist zu krank.

Kurz davor hatte der regierungstreue Sender Venezolana de Televisión ein Video gezeigt, das beweisen sollte, alles sei in Butter mit Chávez.

Was soll all dies heissen?

Ohne den Caudillo geht nichts in der Tierra de Gracia, nada. Wenn man eine richtige Demokratie hätte, würde der Vizepräsident die Aufgaben des Präsidenten übernehmen und Venezuela auf diesem Gipfel vertreten. Der vicepresidente bolivariano Elías Jaua ist aber lediglich ein Diener des Caudillos, nicht ein Beamter, der die Interessen aller Venezolaner vertritt. Er kann und will und darf den Gipfel nicht eröffnen.

Dies heisst nicht, dass Chávez nicht am 5.7 in Caracas für den Unabhängigkeitstag sein könnte. Es ist nur weniger wahrscheinlich jetzt.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The pathetic "revolution"

Military man Diosdado Cabello, from the Eastern Llanos, is one of the most notorious Chavistas. Even among most Chávez supporters he is profoundly rejected...and yet he is one of the key people keeping up Chávez's regime.

You know this regime has nothing to do with a real revolution and is yet another military dictatorship when you read stuff like his tweets.

"Venezuelan, Bolivarian (only people who have no idea about history can say that), revolutionary and Chavista, on the struggle to build Socialism"

"Today we must be more united than ever around the leadership of our commandant. With Chávez everything, without him nothing".

What does this mean? My bet is he wants to show the main caudillo that he is more loyal than the others, so he needs to get some special goodies for that when Chávez returns to Venezuela.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Chávez Bruder und der Einsatz von Gewalt

Gestern hat Adán Chávez, Gouverneur vom Bundesstaat Barinas und Bruder des venezolanischen Caudillos, folgendes gesagt (ab Minute 2:05):

"Im Rahmen der strategischen Planung gibt es die Wahltaktik, aber auch, als Teil der ideologischen Bildung, sollte es uns klar sein, dass der Wahlweg nicht der einzige Weg ist und dass wir darum unter bestimmten Umständen andere Kampfmöglichkeiten auf unserem historischen Weg nicht ausser Acht lassen sollten. Der Che Guevara hat es gut erklärt, als er in einer Schrift von 1961 betonte, dass die echte Fähigkeit eines Revolutionärs darin besteht...die geeigneten revolutionären Taktiken je nach Lage zu finden...und diese Taktiken so gut wie möglich zu erforschen...unser Bolivarischer Prozess fing beim Wahlgang an...und wir wollen weiter auf diesen Weg gehen, durch eine friedliche Art und Weise, die den Bau des bolivarischen Sozialismus vorantreibt. Wir müssen uns aber der Gefahren bewusst sein...sicher sein, dass der Feind nicht ausruht, wir können, als echte Revolutionäre, andere Kampfmethoden nicht wäre unverzichtbar, wenn wir uns auf den Wahlweg beschränken würden und die anderen Methoden, selbst den bewaffneten Kampf nicht berücksichtigen wü an die Macht zu kommen...denn wenn wir nicht an die Macht kommen - in unserem Fall, um an der Macht zu bleiben und diese Macht zu verstärken - werden alle anderen Eroberungen auf wackligen Beinen stehen."

Das sagte ein Bonze, der die Interessen seines Clans verteidigen will - gegen das Volk, gegen die Demokratie, gegen die Menschenrechte.

If someone still thinks Venezuela is a democracy

If someone still thinks Venezuela is a democracy, he should listen to Adán Chávez Frías, the president's brother and current governor of Barinas, the state were Chávez was born:

From minute 2:05
"within that strategic planning there is the electoral tactic, but also and as part of the ideological formation, it should be clear that the electoral path is not the only path and therefore we should not forget other possibilities of struggle according to the circumstances that mark our historical path. Che Guevara expressed that well when he stressed in a writing in 1961 that the real capacity of a to find find the adequate revolutionary tactics according to every change of situation...and to explore those tactics the best he or she can...our Bolivarian process started through the electoral path...and we want to go through there, through a pacific way that allows to build Bolivarian socialism (sic), but aware of the dangers that threaten us, sure (sic) that the enemy does not rest, we cannot forget, as authentic revolutionaries, other methods of would be unforgivable to limit oneself to the electoral path and not see the other methods, even the armed get to power...because if we don't get the power - and we need to say if we don't keep the power and strengthen the power...all the other conquests are unstable".

Sure, Chávez's clan and the Bolibourgeoisie would not be able to use Venezuela as their kingdom if they were to lose the elections.

This guy should go to trial. Unfortunately, Venezuelan judges are just puppets for Chávez and his clan.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


I have to say this is a little bit weird, but it has to be a coincidence. The following were Chávez supporters. They have died in the last 11 months:

  • Luis Tascón, former Chávez deputy and later rejected by Chávez, died on 12 August 2010 (cancer)

  • William Lara, governor of Guárico, died on 10 September 2010 (car accident, drown in river)
  • Luis Ceballos Lobo, an elected deputy to the Latin American Parliament, died on 11 September 2010
  • Lina Ron, a notorious Chávez supporter and gang leader, died on 5 March 2011 (heart attack or intoxication)

Barinas city

Barinas is a city in the Western Llanos.

In Colonial times this was one of the top areas for tobacco exports to Europe. Usually, Spanish colonizers living in Merida, in the Venezuelan Andes, would get control of some area in the Barinas region, get an encomienda and in that way use the native Americans as forced labour for agriculture. Times went by and big owners changed. 

Barinas city is rather recent: it was founded at the end of the XVIII century.  It is not precisely a beautiful city, unlike other cities in the areas such as Altamira de Cáceres.

After the Independence military men took over most the lands...and that hasn't changed a little bit since then.
The Chávez clan controls Barinas very tightly: Hugo Chávez's older brother, Adan, is the governor of the Barinas state and usually lives in Barinas city. He was before the city's mayor. Now the mayor is still a PSUV man.  It would be almost inconceivable that it can get a mayor from another party as long as Chávez reigns. 

51.36% of the population in that municipality is supposed to have voted for PSUV candidates in 2010's election. The unified opposition got 46.46%. Only 4.45% of the total (thus, around 10% of the 46.46%) went to new parties Primero Justicia, 1.75% of the total went to Podemos and 1.59% went to UNT. Paleolithic party AD got 8.89% of the total. There are 201.914 voters in that map, so this is not a rural area, it is a city. In the 2008 elections for mayor, Chavismo got 45.02% of the votes. It is obvious that if the alternative forces really want to bring change to Venezuela, they will have to mind these places.

To do that national leaders of such parties as PJ and UNT have to go there. They cannot leave it just to some local caudillo. Unfortunately, the alternative forces are not aware of what efforts they need to undertake to do this. They are, admittedly, short of cash. They have to deal with Chávez's thugs attacking them any time they go to such areas. Traveling in Venezuela is not easy. Still: they need to make an extra effort and organise things in a better way so that they can, after all, get to those  areas, listen to the local interests, think about those items and come back with a national project that includes them.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hat Chávez Krebs?

Das ist, was einige Bloggers gehört haben: der venezolanische Caudillo soll Prostatakrebs haben. Er soll seit einigen Wochen eine Operation hinter sich gebracht haben. Die Tests hätten schlechte Ergebnisse gegeben. Gegen Empfehlungen der Ärzte hätte Chávez darauf bestanden, Blitzreisen nach Ecuador und Brasilien zu machen - vor allem, um seine Krankheit zu vertuschen -. Er hätte aber dann eine postoperative Infektion gehabt. Die Infektion soll nun unter Kontrolle sein, Chávez müsste sich nun aber einer Radiotherapie unterziehen.

Was ich denke? Keine Ahnung. Alles ist möglich. Vielleicht hat er gar nichts. Vielleicht ist er kerngesund. Vielleicht schon. Man muss einfach warten. Diese Gerüchte sollten uns darüber nicht hinwegtäuschen, dass sich Venezuela - mit oder ohne den Caudillo - in einer explosiven Situation befindet. Die sozialen Spannungen sind grösser denn je.

Ich denke aber wieder wie Daniel Duquenal: ein baldiger Tod des Caudillos wäre worst case scenario für Venezuela. Es gibt nichts Schlimmeres, als einen Pseudomartyr zu haben, jemand, der stirbt, bevor er zur Rechenschaft gezogen wird. Als Mensch kann ich ihn gute Besserung wünschen. Als Venezolaner wünsche ich darüber hinaus, dass meine Landsleute besonnen bleiben und sich auf die Entminung des Landes konzentrieren, ob Chávez sehr krank ist oder nicht.

Am 5.7 feiern wir das 200. Jahrestag der Unabhängigkeitserklärung Venezuelas. Chávez ist immer noch in Cuba. Man fragt sich, ob der Militärmensch an dem Tag in Venezuela sein kann. Ich bin sicher, dass Chávez alles unternehmen wird, um dabei zu sein. Warten wir mal ab.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Industriestaaten und Öl, Öl, Öl

Spiegel berichtet, wie die Industriestaaten den Markt mit Öl 'fluten', um den Preis zu drücken. 60 Millionen werden nun verkauft.

Was wird passieren? Wie wird dies in Venezuela wirken?

Meiner Meinung nach wird dies die Preise mittelfristig kaum beeinflussen.

Verzeihung, aber ich habe keine Zeit mehr, um das heut all das zu erklären!

PDVSA needs more money

In a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, you can read how Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, is flirting with TNK-BP, a Russian oil company.

The Venezuelan company is offering TNK-BP 40% of PetroMongas's share from today's 17%. But here you have the catch: it all depends on how the ongoing litigation with ExxonMobil goes and on the share price.

The Russians think this would mean about 150,000 to 200,000 barrels a day. Setty's verdict: PDVSA is short of more time.

And you can also read in El Universal how PDVSA wants to open up the 2022 bonds for 1.5 billion dollars.  By Toutatis, this is in the middle of Venezuela's longest and largest oil boom.

This picture does NOT show the Venezuelan government. I repeat: it does not show the Venezuelan goverment. It is a representation of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud

Is Hugo Chávez Chernenkoing us?

I remember when I was a child going through the Soviet press - yes, I was a nerd - and trying to make sense of what was going on with Chernenko, the 5th Secretary of the Communist Party. That was between 1984 and early 85. There was almost nothing in those Pravdas and Izvestia that explicitly referred to Chernenko's health, but one could read between the lines, infer and above all combine that information from the rumours that went along. What I took was that the Siberian, who had taken over the USSR's leadership after Andropov's very short time in office, was himself in very bad shape.  And indeed he was to rule the world's largest country for just about a year before dying. At the end I was like: why did they have to keep the whole show like this? But that was the way they did it.

The Bolivarian press very often sounds like the Soviet one, although it is much more agressive and frequently rather more vulgar when it comes to insulting the others. It also has the same level of transparency the Soviet press had. And that is the way it is behaving with Chávez's health.

Adan Chávez, the governor of Barinas and the president's eldest brother, just declared the president is "recovering in a satisfactory manner". The Bolivarian press said "in this way, the regional governor and brother of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, confronted the intended (sic) and evil speculations that some publish in different media outlets about the head of state's health".

Venezuelan bloggers, like anyone else in Little Venice, have been wondering about what's going on. You can read Daniel's view here, Miguel's take here and Juan's brief reference about this soap opera here.

The situation is definitely not normal. Chávez has been outside the country for a much longer period of time than allowed according to the constitution without getting the National Assembly's approval. Vice-president Jaua should have taken the presidency for quite some time now because that is what the constitution says. He hasn't done that, which is a shameless violation of the rule of law -just another shameless violation in a million-. 

I more or less agree with Daniel Duquenal's bet. Chávez must be very sick but it is not fatal. He still needs to remain in Cuba, as he does not trust Venezuela's health system for several reasons. Chávez will come sooner than later and his honchos will organise some big event. They will talk about how the opposition could not get rid of him. The most likely scenario is that he will come back with a little bit more energy than in the last few months - which is not hard, he was in very bad shape-, perhaps with some drugs that can keep him functioning a little bit better. 

If he were to become too ill again to fully carry out a presidential campaign - something I doubt-, he will use, as Daniel said, a puppet to be presidente interino until election time while Chávez focuses on the campaign. Another possibility - worst case scenario for Chávez - would be that he remains in such a bad shape still in 2012 that he is forced to look for a puppet not for now but for the actual presidential term of 2012 onwards, just like Juan Vicente Gómez did on a couple of occassions over 70 years ago. That is much less likely.

One possibility for that extreme puppet role would be one of his daughters, Infanta María Gabriela, with whom he has been traveling quite a lot in the last year. Another could be Jaua himself, who would be also the first choice for this term. I don't believe Diosdado would do as he is hated even among large chunks of the Chávez fans' club.

In any case: Chávez's return, whenever it happens, will be orchestrated as if this were a victory for "Bolvarian Socialism" against the evil opposition, lakeys of the Empire.
Paraphrasing Remarque: nothing new in the Southern Front.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Venezuela's Comptroller died. Who will disqualify the opposition candidates now?

Yesterday minister for the Popular Power of Information, Andrés Izarra, aka The Jackal, (as usual, he is from a military clan, even if he is not a military himself)  tweeted about Clodosbaldo Russian's death. Russian was the General Comptroller and he was very notorious for the way he "legally" disqualified Chávez's enemies with some potential from taking part in political activities. Russian was 72 years old at the time he died (in Cuba, as Venezuelans do not seem to have the right hospitals). 

Russian was well-known, among many other things, for being the only Venezuelan citizen who could get a pension for his work as professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and at the same time a salary for his work as General Comptroller. This was only possible through a special law passed by the red-ver-red Supreme Tribunal. He was also known for declaring that capitalism was the cause of corruption. This means Venezuela is the most capitalist country in America.
Corruption Perception Index

Who is going to follow him and keep on disqualifying opponents? Expect another of Chávez's puppets, no matter what.
Democracy Index from The Economist

Monday, 20 June 2011

I was a devil

When I was a child I also was a devil

And it was so cool! My mask was red and white and blue (more white and red than the mask shown here). Back then red had no bad connotation, it was just devilishly red and it was fun.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Venezuelas Gefängnisse im 12. Jahr der "Revolution"

El Rodeo I und II sind venezolanische Gefängnisse etwas östlich von Caracas, im Bundesstaat Miranda. Zur Zeit gibt es da etwa 4000 Gefangenen, viel mehr als geplant. Die Sicherheit wird mal von der berüchtigten Polizei, mal von der ebenfalls berüchtigten Guardia Nacional (GN) gewährleistet. Manche Mitglieder der GN liefern Waffen und Drogen an solche Gefangene, die das nötige Geld zur Verfügung haben. Hier könnt Ihr ein Video vom Monat Mai sehen, wo die Insassen in Los Morros, in Los Llanos, mit ihren Waffen protzen.

Am 12 Juni um 16:30, als die Besucher El Rodeo verlassen mussten, begann eine Schiesserei zwischen zwei Bänden. Zuerst gab es Berichte über 19 Tote und 22 Verwundete. Die Gefangenen nahmen mehrere Gebäude unter ihrer Kontrolle.

Am 15 Juni meldete die Chávez-Regierung, dass sie ein neues Ministerium einrichten würde: das Ministerium der Volksmacht für die integrale Verwaltung der Gefängnisse. Es gibt schon ein Ministerium für Justiz. Dieses neue Ministerium soll aber die Lage der Gefängnisse besser behandeln. Chávez liebt die Erfindung neuer Ministerien. So hatte er schon vor einiger Zeit ein Ministerium der Volksmacht für die elektrische Energie erschaffen, um die häufigen Stromprobleme zu bewältigen...ohne Erfolg.
Am selben Tag berichtete Tal Cual, dass es nicht 19, sondern zumindest 30 Tote gab.

Am 17 Juni wurden 5000 GN Mitglieder nach El Rodeo geschickt, um "die Situation unter Kontrolle zu bringen".

Hier könnt Ihr ein altes Video der GN sehen und selbst ein bisschen schätzen, wie diese Organisation die Lage eines vorigen Aufstands behandelt. Bei Minute 2:25 kann man folgendes hören: "Ihr werdet alle sterben, Ihr Ratten".

Die Lage in den Gefängnissen war schon ein grosses Problem, als Alexander von Humboldt Venezuela besuchte.

Da der Rechtsgang hier zu Lande solangsam ist, daß die Verhafteten, von denen die Gefängnissewimmeln, sieben, acht Jahre auf ihr Urtheil warten müssen,so hörten wir wenige Tage nach unserer Abreise von Cumana nicht ohne Befriedigung, der Zambo sey aus dem SchlosseSan Antonio entsprungen

Hier könnt Ihr ein Video von 1994 sehen, wo eine bekannte Journalistin  mit den Gefangenen sprach:

Schon damals waren die Gefängnisse eine Schande. Schon damals waren die Journalisten ein Dorn im Auge der Regierung. Die Politiker sagten aber nicht, dass diese Journalisten CIA-Agenten oder Putschisten waren. Anders verhält es sich mit der Militärregierung des Hugo Chávez Frías.

Die Chávez-Regierung hat dank viel höherer Erdölpreise über 300% mehr Geld zur Verfügung gehabt als die Regierungen in den 13 Jahren vor 1999. Dennoch haben die selbsternannten Revolutionäre seit 1999 nur ein echtes neues Gefängnis für 870 Menschen  gebaut. Jetzt gibt es aber 14000 mehr Gefangenen als 1999.

Ref. Observatorio  Venezolano de Prisiones -> (auf spanisch)

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Hoy celebramos nuestro idioma

Hoy celebramos el día del español. Es el idioma materno de unos cuatrocientos millones de personas. Es uno de los lazos que nos unen con el resto de América Latina y con Europa. Venezuela es el sexto país en número de hablantes nativos, después de Argentina y antes del Perú.

Miguel de Cervantes

José Antonio Ramos Sucre
Jorge Luis Borges
Carlos Fuentes

Cold beauty

The Espeletia schultzii is a species from the Asteraceae family of the sunflowers. It lives in the Venezuelan and Colombian Andes and you can find it up to 4300 metres over sea level. It blossoms from October to January. It is under threat because of humans wanting to take them away for commercial purposes.

Why are the alternative forces still so weak in "rural" areas?

That was a question someone asked at another blog.

Here I just edit a bit what I wrote there:

Why? Because

1) the “national leaders" of alternative parties -I don’t mean the candidate for president but, say, any of the top 10 leaders of every party- don’t go there. They don’t go even to small cities, but for some exceptions. When you say “rural” most people from the three big cities, Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia, think of Calabozo, which is actually a small city but a city nonetheless.
2) the alternative forces are represented in those areas by a dinosaur from old parties AD or COPEI or by some big landowner with no connection to the people.
3) although those areas have got only crumbles from the government, those crumbles – at $110 an oil barrel – are more than what they got in the nineties and the vast majority of those  living there don’t fully know how much money the country is getting now. They get Mercal – which matters more for them than for you or me-, they get better schools than what they got in the nineties even if those schools are crap and getting crappier by the day
4) the people from Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo who do visit those areas do not feel at ease, they know nothing about those areas, about their particularities, about the regional and actually national histories , so even a very badly informed person as Chávez can impress those people with “local knowledge”.
The city of Acarigua is considered "rural" for most people in Caracas. It has more than one hundred thousand voters. 58.04% voted for Chávez candidates in 2010, 35.63% for the candidate led by old dinosaur party AD
Guanare, close by, has almost 100 thousand voters as well. The military got 56.1% of the votes, AD 38.75% and PPT 2.40%.

5) because 70% of Venezuelans do not have Internet, cannot watch cable, do not read much  and the alternative forces think they can tweet Chávez away.
6) because alternative forces are short of money and they do not share logistics, they only agree on a unique candidate if need be, so they are like 50 parties duplicating lots of efforts, something unique to Venezuela and Somalia.
Those are some of the reasons.

So: people in those areas voting for the alternative forces are doing so in spite of the leaders of those alternative forces.
Something more: the alternative forces have got demographics completely wrong. Most people in Venezuela live in secondary cities. And we are still not going there. The Mesa de la Unidad and PPT got 52% of the votes in last year's elections. Still, if they want to have a chance for 2012 they really need to take a different approach. They should avoid wasting a single minute of campaign in Chacao, in Baruta, in Northern Valencia, in the posh areas of Maacaibo and they should spend all the time and effort in reaching out other places.
Municipalities that have the most voters (in red: those with 30% of all voters, red-pink: where 50% of all voters are)

Monday, 13 June 2011

Die da sollen Venezuela schützen!

Roter Bulle

Wir lesen in Tal Cual, dass die venezolanische Polizei vor Chávez 83% der Fälle löste und nun weniger als 10%. Das überrascht nicht, wenn man den CICPC unter der Lupe nimmt. Der CICPC tut - bzw müsste das tun-, was in Deutschland Bundeskriminalamt zusammen mit allen Polizeiuntersuchungsgruppen tun. Die venezolanische Organisation hat dafür aber nur 4200 Beamten. Diese Beamten müssen alle kriminalistischen Untersuchungen in einem Land mit 30 Millionen Menschen durchführen - es müssten zumindest 25000 sein. Diese Beamten haben nicht mal eine Lebensversicherung! Während die Chávez-Regierung jede Menge Geld für die völlige Automatisierung der Wahlen vergeudet -im Gegensatz zur Niederlande, zu Skandinavien oder Deutschland-, hat Venezuela weder ein automatisiertes Fingerabdruckidentifizierungssystem noch ein automatisiertes Waffenidentifizierungstem.

Was der CICPC schon reichlich hat, sind Chávez-Anhänger. Die sind nicht bloss überrepräsentiert, sie sind übermegarepräsentiert: über 80% aller CICP-Beamten sind Parteigenossen der PSUV.

Kein Wunder, dass Venezuela die höchste Mordrate Südamerikas hat.

Seltsames Land...das soll Sozialismus des 21. Jahrhunderts sein.

More on environment destruction in the Land of Grace

You must read this interesting article on BBC now. I will later post more details on that.

Let me just tell you something: land use in Venezuela is a complete mess. Nobody really knows who owns what. Most documents are to be found in isolated registries, getting dust. 

Huge extensions are owned by a few, many of which are military honchos. Only the others face expropriations. A lot "state-owned" spaces are run by the military as hunting ground for themselves and their friends. Most farmers have no clue about environment issues. There is no sense of sustainable environment in the country. Environmental laws - in principle very stringent - are only decoration for books.

The Crocodylus intermedius: when Humboldt came to Venezuela, they were abundant. Now they are on the verge of extinction

Saturday, 11 June 2011

When even the Chinese complain


Some days ago the Chinese in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto marched to protest the lack of security in the city. They had been the target of numerous kidnappings and other crimes for quite some years now but the murder of Jian Kong Zhen, a young entrepreneur, was the last straw.

Those Chinese are usually people who do not find their way in places such as Shanghai or Guandong and look for opportunities abroad, whether it is in Lesotho, in Venezuela, in Spain or Sweden. The Chinese government usually keeps a low profile when it comes to its citizens abroad. Chinese expats tend to build upon very close networks and solve their issues without too much publicity. It really has to be pretty bad for them to protest in a foreign country. We are talking not about Venezuelan citizens of Chinese origin but mostly Chinese people who have been just some years in the country. Even they got fed up and decided to protest.

And now notorious minister for tourism, Alejandro Fleming, says there is an international campaign to create a negative image for tourism in Venezuela. In his "Bolivarian-military" logic, the fact US citizens are among the most frequent foreign tourists to Venezuela is paradoxical.

A Chávez honcho does not seem to understand the US is the most populated country in America, its population has a high income level and it is absolutely normal then that it would represent one of the main sources for tourism in any American country. What Alejandro Fleming does not seem to grasp is that US tourists - or German tourists or tourists from most of the world - are less likely to visit Venezuela than almost any other South American country. 

It seems Alejandro Fleming hasn't taken a normal bus after 8pm in Venezuela. Actually: I don't think he ever took a bus in safe Europe, where he was driven in a nice Mercedes while he stayed there as ambassador for Venezuela.

If Mr Fleming took a bus in Venezuela after 8pm or if he really were to walk around after 8pm without his bodyguards he would know why even the Chinese are protesting in Venezuela.

How to destroy the Land of Grace

I was there. The place really feels like some sort of Paradise, some part of the First Time. No wonder it inspired Doyle's Lost World. Once I was taking some water from a river, the Paují river, and a wonderfully blue humming bird started to fly closer and closer to me. I had to move my head rapidly for it to fly away. It had apparently never seen a human being before. If you have met humming birds before you know how generally shy they are.

This place is close to the Equator, and yet it is not as warm as the surrounding Amazon forest. The reason is that it is located on a huge plateau, the Guyana shield.

This is one of the regions with the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth. If you ever manage to ge to that region, you will soon realise it has some of the most impressive landscapes on Earth.

Well: that place is being destroyed right now. El Paují is a small town to the west of Santa Elena de Wairén, close to the Brazilian border. Pemon Indians and criollos live there. Whereas some people live from tourism, from honey production and from subsistance agriculture, more and more  work in gold extraction. To get the gold they drill holes in the jungle, they change the curse of rivers and they pollute the whole river basins with mercury and other very poisonous chemicals. Because most of them have little education, they sometimes  believe they are doing no harm or if they do believe there is some harm, they think it is only to themselves. They don't see how the mercury destroys life on a long term. They don't have time to follow up the consequences of isolated actions on an ecosystem few really understand. And even if they do realise what they are doing: what else can they do?

Right now there are about 12 "washing machines" along the Paují River.  Each one of those machines gets at least 100 grams of gold a day. 380 Bolívares are paid for every gram right now. Right now nobody wants to work for anything in El Paují but for gold. They are also eager to buy anything visitors bring. And the military, who have several posts around that area, pretend to keep an eye on security and environment protection when in reality they just play along.

If you speak Spanish, you should read Morelia's post on that.
El Pauji google map

Friday, 10 June 2011

Latest from the Captaincy General of Venezuela

If there is one thing that astonishes me is the way how history is so present in Venezuela. I mean: history is present everywhere, but in Venezuela old habits die really really hard. We have the iPhones, we have the jeans, we have the music that ever listens to. We deal in a more relaxed way with regards to ethnic issues than other people. Still: socio-politically speaking we are still repeating almost the same patterns we showed in our past.

Three opposition governors - those of Miranda, Lara and Zulia - were meeting to "plan a strategy" to get the resources that by law are due to their administrations. Why do they need to do that?

The current national caudillo, military strongman Chávez, is awashed with petrodollars. That  money belongs to the nation, but as a military caudillo, Chávez does not see any difference between the State, the government, the nation and himself. There are very specific laws about how oil revenues must be distributed: some money must go to the national government, some to the regional governments and so on. The budgets are calculated according to expected oil revenues, or so the law says. If oil prices rise, they have to be re-adjusted. This is a matter of law, it should not be subject to the national caudillo's whims. The Chávez government did adjust the budgets when oil prices went down, a couple of years ago, taking away a lot of money from the local governments and thus from some of the opposition forces. Still, oil prices went up and up, they reached the previous levels and kept climbing and now they are over 100% the prices to which the budgets were calculated and yet the national government does not want to give the money to the regions. It wants to use it all to make Chavismo stay  in power forever. Venezuela's inflation is still the highest in America. Local administrations from the alternative forces have more and more trouble trying to provide for services when the Chávez government is taking away resources for them.

Fortunately now some of those local forces are trying to work together. Still: how can they  do that effectively if they represent local parties? 

Take a look at this: Miranda's governor is from Primero Justicia. Lara's governor is from Patria Para Todos. Zulia's governor is from Un Nuevo Tiempo. We are talking about parties that only have the majority in one small region of Venezuela.

Those governors talk about working together but they do not really share much of logistics and they represent very local interests, whether they like it or not.

The only difference with the past is that now the Western Llanos has a much larger influence...what formerly was the Provincia de Barinas is home to Chávez and his power and most of his governors are military men from the Llanos.

Venezuela is a weird country. The military have a much higher rolle than anywhere else in Latin America. They make themselves as the true representatives of some heroic but not very historical past. Their only caudillo is now Chávez. 

The opponents are local civilian caudillos who are still struggling to create parties that are more than personal groups and represent concrete ideas and projects.

The saddest part is that most of these people don't even realise how they are repeating the same evils that have plagued Venezuela for centuries.

We have the same caudillo-driven spirit we had in Venezuela since it was called Venezuela.

Philipp von Hutten, like Georg von Speyer, Nikolaus Federmann and Juan de Carvajal worked above all for himself, not even for a commercial house and much less for any  nation
Or should I have used rather this painting to represent what still haunts Venezuela?
Lope de Aguirre

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bolivarian numbers and the opposition's impotence

The Chávez government has had since 1999 several times the amount of petrodollars the governments between 1987 and 1998 had at their disposal. Still, it has proven to be a complete failure when it comes to social housing. Rory Carroll from The Guardian wrote an excellent article on that.

Now Chávez realises this can become an issue for his next re-election in 2012. The military caudillo is thus promising a new housing programme that will deliver what the IV Republic/the Spaniards/the Welser was suppose to provide. 

Below you can see the houses the government has built on Q1 of this year and how many houses it has to build in the next quarters and years in order to fulfill its plan. As you see, it really has to speed up.

Chavista deputies at the National Assembly are saying  Venezuela would need more than $150 for each oil barrel in order to "solve its problems" (not "to develop", this seems to be a very complex concept). Because the oil barrel is "only" at $110 they are going to make Venezuela incur into more debt. The repercussions will only be felt after 2016, of course.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Unglaublich aber wahr: die vorigen Regierungen werden immer schuld sein

Francisco Sesto, Minister für den Wiederaufbau des Groß-Caracas-RaumsChavezMark sagte am vorigen Samstag, was die Opposition seit Jahren geäussert hat: es fehlen mindestens 2 Millionen Wohnungen in Venezuela. Anscheinend hat die Militärregierung das erst jetzt herausgefunden.

Sesto meinte, es handelt sich um ein historisches Defizit.

Der Einwohner dieser armseligen Hütte denkt, die Schuld seiner Eleng ist in der Vergangenheit zu suchen
"Es ist eine unglaubliche Zahl. Es zeigt, wie schlecht das Volk jahrelang von den vorigen Regierungen gehandelt wurde." Anscheinend regiert Chávez nicht seit Anfang 1999, sondern seit gestern.

"Ich habe mit dem Präsidenten Chávez telephonisch gesprochen und ich sagte ihm: Herr Präsident, die Zahl wird bei weitem die 2 Millionen überschreiten, vielleicht wird sie fast 3 Millionen sein." Der Präsident sagte: "es macht nichts. Auch wenn es sich um 4 Millionen handelt [jemand weiss nicht, ob es sich um Wohnungen oder Menschen handelt]: wir werden ihnen das Problem lösen und wir werden ihre Wohnungen bauen. Je grösser die Herausforderung, desto besser wird unser Wille und desto schöner wird die Arbeit sein."

Das ist Venezuela. Unglaublich, oder?