Friday, 30 November 2007

Do you know what Venezuelans will be voting for this Sunday?

So, what is it about Venezuela's reform?

Well, they will be voting for 64 proposals introduced by Hugo Chávez and a National Assembly where there is no opposition. The proposals were finalized on the 3rd of November of this year and people will have to vote about them on the 2nd of December. Chávez declared these proposals are needed less the "revolution" collapses. The proposals would change a lot of the constitution he himself had introduced in 1999, a constitution he declared at that time to be "the most perfect constitution in the world."

Below you can see the board people will have in front of them on Sunday. Do you think most people, specially those with very basic education, know really what this is all about? Which number is what? Do they know much about 18? About article 300? 301?

Basically, one of the blocks is made up of Chávez's proposals and the other block of those proposals the Chavez National Assembly decided to add.

Did you know the Chavez regime REFUSED to have an open debate on the reform with the opposition, saying their "popular debates" were good enough (Spanish link)?

Just for the record: those "popular debates" did not have any record of who talked and opposition representatives were excluded or expelled and sometimes beaten up.

If you doubt that is the card voters will have in front of them, take a look at the original,

People in developed nations take a long time to discuss one or two reforms to a constitution. Here a semi-literate population will have to decide after having 30 days from the day they got the definite text of the proposal and less since the set of proposals were divided into two blocks . Further: the first draft had been made public only a couple of months earlier and had been changed many times after that.

Basically, Chavez has said that whoever votes against the reform even if it is someone who likes him in general, is voting against him and is a traitor. Thus: either you are with ME or you are with the terrorists.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Venezuela and The Guardian, Eva Golinger and CIA reports in Spanish

The Guardian, a traditionally liberal-left newspaper, published today an article about the situation in Venezuela.

As The Guardian's correspondent Rory Carroll said," President Hugo Chávez is encountering unexpectedly strong opposition to a referendum on constitutional reform which would cement his rule in Venezuela, with violent clashes between rival demonstrations and security forces feeding a mood that the country is at a turning point."

He mentions the polls predicting either a win of the No vote or a tie, but he also points out to the fact that polls have a record of underestimating his support. He mentions the possibility the supreme court may accept a petition to postpone the vote. Carroll says that although the petition was lodged by the opposition when it thought it would lose, such a ruling would now be a gift to the government. I very much doubt it: simply said, the government has shown it has gone as far (politically speaking) as the enormous revenues from oil exports can take it. Unless there is a dramatic increase in oil prices, it won't be able to keep its popularity like that. The economy is showing strain, the Venezuelan currency's devaluation is looming, basic products are scarcer by the day and criminality keeps on growing while the government keeps on denying it. Chavez has to risk it this Sunday and he will possibly use every conceivable method. Here we come to one of them:

Chavez supporters are circulating a memo they say they "intercepted" from CIA agents inside the US embassy. Curiously, the memo is in Spanish. Why did they not show it also in English? Out of respect for those who do not speak English? But why is there no sign, not a single link of such a document in English? Lack of space to add the link? Hello? Might it be the CIA uses now Spanish as a lingua franca among its agents? Have we Latinos advanced so far in the USA that they communicate among each other in Spanish at the CIA? I suspect it is a fake paper. Perhaps the Chavistas can put their act together and ask some extreme-left US citizen to translate the paper for them.

Oh...I see, Eva Golinger is translating it into the "original language" here. Well, she is translating at least the key facts.

What I think is the original (in Spanish) is here:

Aporrea (a pro-Chavez site, "Aporrea" means "hit")

But Eva writes: "The original document in English will be available in the public sphere soon for viewing and authenticating purposes. And it also contains more information than has been revealed here."

Soon? Soon? "For viewing and authenticating purposes"? What a cheek! It will be available in English soon. How credible can that be?

More info on Eva Gollinger (in Spanish) at Tal Cuál


Hugo Chávez declared in his last official speech before the referendum that indeed, there is a "US conspiracy" called "Tenaza". In his discourse (check out a summary of it in Spanish in the very government page) he said he was going to win with AT LEAST over 15%. This is more than bluffing, if you care to read the whole Spanish link you will see the whole tone he is using.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The EU discusses about Venezuela

Today the EU discussed about Venezuela. It won't be the last time this year.

The Venezuelan ambassador in Brussels already declared the Chavez regime would see it as an interference by the EU if it were to approve a resolution about Venezuela (of course, unless the resolution says how wonderful Hugo Chávez is).

Italian Giusto Catania and Spanish Willy Meyer, euro-deputies from the extreme left, already declared their support for the regime and mentioned anything the EU would declare would be intervention... the usual stuff we hear from the extreme left about human rights in Belarus, Burma and so on.

Just a couple of hours to go for the real discussion...

These eurocrats work until late. At 23:45 they started to discuss about Venezuela. There were a handful of them plus the interpreters. 5 deputies talked very negatively about the current government and said they should start asking for forgiveness to the Venezuelan people for the way the EU has cooperated with Chávez. Marios Matsakis talked about the growing inequality, about Chavez portraying himself as saviour of the country, about the fact that when Fidel is dying the world is seeing a new Fidel appearing.

Jose Millan Mons was very negative towards the Chavez regime, he mentioned RCTV, Baduel, the insecurity, the fact that Chavez is insulting everyone and destabilizing the region, that he is a danger.

Alojz Peterle said Venezuela is getting away from the values of democracy and human rights

and that Chavez is a threat for the relationships between Europe and Venezuela and within Latin America and that Chavez is just promoting more power for one person, himself.

Jose Ribeiro Castro talked about the disasters of the socialism of Lenin and others in the XX

century and he asked himself if we would see another disaster now with the Socialism of the XXI Century, he talked about the violence against the students, the attacks against journalists, the closing of RCTV. He talked about the lack of social justice and the fact that when politicians start to talk about "popular power", they were usually actually dealing away with it.
He referred to the increase of violence in general, to the Colombian/Venezuelan conflict.

Marios Matsakis mentioned that in spite of the oil revenues, poverty as prevailing and social justice was worse, that when Fidel was dying in Cuba, the EU was witnessing a new Fidel being born in Venezuela, that the EU should ask itself if it should not ask for forgiveness to the Venezuelan people for having helped the Chavez regime through all those commissions and committees and he finally said the EU should say how sorry it was for Venezuela.

Luis Yáñez-Barnuevo García (moderate Socialist, PSOE) said the EU should not use words to provoke, that Chavez was reelected three times without any doubt (from his part, I suppose) and that Venezuela is not a dictatorship.
He said dialog was necessary and big reforms could not be passed by a simple majority but by something like 70%. He mentioned that he is worried when he sees the increasing concentration of power, the deterioration of human rights and a phenomenon Europeans do not know: the so-called cadenas where people are forced to watch Chavez or his people talking not for minutes but for hours and where most of the population could not read (thus, I assume, "have to watch TV"). He said the EU should promote the dialog.

Now Chavez's people:

Alain Lipietz, left from the Green (there are "red" and "blue" versions of Green)
said when he was in 3 to 4 star hotels during his visits to Venezuela, the upper middle class
was talking there that there was no democracy, but he had "no right to see the public TV", that the generals who took part in the coup of 2002 were still free and Chavez had not put them in prison, that Venezuela was the country that solved things in the most pacific way. He said he was no fan of the new reforms proposed by Chafvez but that it was the Venezuelan people who have to do the choice and that if the EU had to say sorry, it should only be for not condemning the coup of 2002.

I wonder if that guy remembers the bloody coups of February and November of 2002.

There was also (not in this order) one of the most useful helpers of Chavez: Spanish Willy Meyer Pleiter. He said the right in EU should stop messing up with Venezuela, that the EU should not

act before the events, that elections have been clean so far and that the EU should not intervene.

I will add more to this tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Chávez and the EU

Do you want to know how the EU discusses about Venezuela?
You need to take a look at this discussion about the closing...sorry, the non-renovation
of RCTV's licence.

From that discussion came a resolution against the Chávez regime.
You can read about it here.
The basic part is this: "MEPs were divided over some aspects of this issue, with rival resolutions coming from the EPP-ED, ALDE and UEN groups on the one hand, and the PES, Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL on the other. The former was adopted by 43 votes to 22 with 0 abstentions."

The Venezuelan government cried foul and said the vote had taken place when few deputies were present. Still, the vote was perfectly legal: the discussion had been placed on the agenda well in advance, so if less people attended, it was because they did not want to attend. The reason is clear for somebody in Europe: the European Parliament meets part of the time in Brussels and part of it in Strassbourg (I know, it is absolutely crazy and a waste of money). Most eurocrats reside in Brussels, though. The voting had been planned for a Friday morning and at that moment most eurodeputies were already flying home.

If the voting had taken place another day, though, chances would have been that there would be much more support for the resolution than what it got, so the protest by the Chavista diplomats was just noise. They were lucky they got so "many" votes.

Check out who supported (and still support) Chávez here:

Giusto Catania - (GUE/NGL)
Manuel Medina Ortega - PSE Group: it is quite shocking that there are still some people from the PSOE who support the Chávez regime. I will write more on that later.
Sahra Wagenknecht - GUE/NGL Group: There is more on her in the German Wikipedia. I will write about her also later. She is from the extreme left. She joined the SED, the German Communist Party, just shortly before Eastern Germany was falling apart. The SED became the PDS and the PDS became the Linke.
SED in German means Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands or Socialist Unified Party of Germany. Does it sound familiar to you?
Georgios Toussas - GUE/NGL, a member of the Greek Communist party.

Most Venezuelans will feel shocked by reading what those people wrote. I will post later some comments here for Europeans to understand what those EU deputies mentioned above are so wrong.

Unlike in December 2006, we will not have this time EU observers to check out the elections. Still, I will be commenting here about the EU's reaction to what is happening in Venezuela and what the different actors in the EU's political spectrum do about it.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Chavez's "Most Perfect Constitution in the World" and his reform of it

Chávez has proposed a series of reforms for his constitution of 1999, a constitution he declared at the moment of its approval as the best constitution in the world.

If you want to see what Venezuelans will vote on, physically speaking, you can take a look here at the instructions from the CNE, the Electoral Commission.
It looks impressive, doesn't it? All changes proposed by Chávez were discussed in less than 3 months by the National Assembly and new proposals were added all the time. The text only became stable in October. Now Venezuelans are supposed to vote on all that.

The reforms will, among other things
  • enable the president to go to indefinite reelections. Before Chávez came to power, presidents in Venezuela could only rule for 5 consecutive years and anyone seeking to become president again had to wait 5 more years before being able to become a candidate. Chávez introduced in 1999 the possibility of one reelection and extended the presidential term to 6 years.
  • extend the presidential period to 7 years (on top of the indefinite reelections)
  • declare Venezuela a "Socialist State", where socialism must be the form of government instead of one possibility among many competing ideas
  • enable the president to use the Central bank's money at will
  • create so-called Communal Councils that are sold to the Venezuela population as "more democracy", when in reality many decisions at communal level will have to be done without any secret voting and where the opposition to Chavez can be excluded
  • enable the president to change at will administrative regions and thus gerrymander at will
  • allow the president to name vice-presidents for many "special topics" that would circumvent the authorities of any local authorities and would be subject to Hugo Chávez only

Chávez is sweetening all that by also adding some things like:

  • adding the missions, the social programmes financed by the oil bonanza, as a constitutional right
  • establishing a 6-hour working day as part of the constitution
  • declaring some "popular councils" will give more power to the people.

In reality, he could go on with those missions without declaring them "part of the constitution". The same goes for the 6-hour working day: other countries regulate working hours by special laws, not by constitution.

With respect to the 6-hour working day we need to add: this will make Venezuela still less competitive than it already is. But then: everything is valid for Chávez in order to get the possibility to rule indefinitely and get more power.

How the Chavez government is misusing power

The national government uses the state media to show its view of the country without allowing the opposition access to it.

The national government is forcing countless hours of "cadenas", in which national broadcasters are forced to simultaneously retransmit the president’s speeches and other government messages every week. See a report from Reporters without Borders here

The government systematically obstructs the access to Caracas when there are opposition protests planned: military controls stop buses and cars carrying opposition people, they "suddenly" make special "security controls", block roads for construction just at the right moment and so on.

The national government forces public employees who have nothing to do with politics to go to political marches and to military training.

Chavez and Belarus

Hugo Chávez has kept close relationships with Lukashenko, Europe's last dictator.

Venezuela is paying half of Belarus' gas bill to Russia. Belarus will in exchange export tractors and some other material to Venezuela.
Belarus and Venezuela are also negotiating the export of Belorussian weapons to Venezuela.

Belarus sent in October 2007 oil engineers to Venezuelan oil fields.
The Belorussian government is trying to become less dependent on Russian oil and for that it is trying to explore getting more of its energy from Iran and Venezuela. It has a hard time there: Belarus is landlocked and Venezuela is very far from it, making transport costs and permits extremely difficult.

The Chávez regime has been trying for a long time to control inflation. It has introduced several price controls on many products. Producers and retailers have to sell products such as milk and sugar at established prices that are not profitable. Price controls and a very inefficient currency control have led to continuous shortages.

You can find some information on the milk shortages at Caracas Chronicles blog
In Venezuela you can easily find these days caviar or whiskey in many more supermarkets than in many places in Europe, but you will have a hard time trying to find milk or sugar.
Now Belarus will be exporting milk to Venezuela
As the Belorussian opposition says, the issue is not easy as Belarus itself is having problems of milk shortages. There is some information on that in the Belorussian site Charter 97 (the article is in Russian)

Some initial facts

Venezuela has been since the beginning of the XX century a country heavily dependent on oil.

When oil prices have gone up, the government's popularity has increased, when they have gone down, it has collapsed.

The Venezuelan opposition is not a bunch of "rich white people who want Venezuela to go back to what it was before Chavez. The Venezuelan opposition is composed of many views, like in any other country.

Hugo Chávez Frías accuses the opposition of being coup mongers. Hugo Chávez Frías is a military who only became known due to his bloody coup d'etat of 1992.