Saturday, 27 December 2008

Goodbye to a colour wizard

Braulio Salazar died yesterday. He was a well known painter from my city, Valencia. As a child I saw him a few times at some artistic events I went to with my parents. Maestro Salazar had a great charisma, not just artistic skills. Because he was allergic to chemical painting, he had to develop natural colours, so he made them out of Venezuela's soils and plants.

I spent a lot of time at the exhibitions of the Ateneo de Valencia and his work was often there. I enjoyed very much the power of his magic with colours. Those images are part of my childhood.

Friday, 26 December 2008

La desilusione

Here you can read in Spanish the story of two Italian film makers with socialist credentials who went to Venezuela in love with Chavismo and who are now deeply disappointed.

Here some clips and articles about the film (in Italian and Spanish).

A couple of details: after they decided not to follow the Chavez officials only but to film on their own their telephones were tapped and their emails read. They could only get the film out of Venezuela via the Italian embassy.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas عيد ميلاد مجيد Feliz Navidad С Рождеством

¡Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo!

For those who don't know the hallacas: you HAVE to try them one day. It won't be easy if you live outside Venezuela, specially if you don't know big Venezuelan communities in your area, but one day you have to try them. And then you will want to try them once more and more and more and more. Every population has its national dish and almost everyone is 'proud' of the national dish (well, as if we had invented a national dish ourselves), but hallacas are considered delicious by almost anyone.

Let's hope Venezuela and the World have a better 2009 and let's work for it, no matter what with recessions and the like.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela and more lies

According to the Venezuela (i.e. Chávez's) state radio, over 50% of Venezuelans abroad have signed to support Chávez's new attempt to introduce indefinite reelections in our very strong presidential system (a system that is very different from the parliamentarian systems where there may be no limit to reelections but where prime ministers have just a fraction of Chávez's powers).

That number is a blatant lie.
If you check out the voting patterns for Venezuelans abroad you will see we are by far against Hugo Chávez. No, most of us are not "white plantation owners", as some in the extreme left want to portray us, but mostly professionals from every sector of society who got fed up of violent crime and political mobbing in Venezuela.

In 2006, Chávez got 24.47% of votes abroad whereas he got 62.84% in Venezuela.
Are now Venezuelans abroad suddenly more Chavistas than in Venezuela? Why did we decide to go out in the first place as Venezuelan emigration is rather a recent phenomenom?

We all abroad should put pressure on our embassies to make them present the numbers for each country. If lies like this start now, let's see what these people have in petto for the referendum proper.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Do you want to help Venezuela?

This is for a cool project we are organizing.

If you want to help, please, send me a couple of emails of English/German/Spanish/Dutch/French media outlets to desarrollo dot sostenible dot venezuela at gmail dot com in this format (in the body of the email only): = Press Corporation

We are collecting emails ourselves, but we have limited time. Just this: the project has to do with education.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Off topic: Haiti

Alice Smeet is a young Belgian photographer who has produced some amazing pictures.

Here you can see one that won the UNESCO Photo of the Year 2008 Award.

Venezuela should give more support to such countries as Haiti or use the money for Venezuela's poor, not for Argentina or for political propaganda around the Caribbean.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Death in the Caribbean

Updated: I added some months before December 2006, so you can see there the tendency: there is always a peak in December and that peak is always higher in Venezuela.

As I have reported before, Carabobo is one of the most dangerous states in an already very dangerous country. Here I present some statistics on murder per month since January 2007 showing the share for each municipio.

Most murders in the municipality of Valencia take place in the South, where half a million people (half of its population) live. There is no general hospital there, only a big maternity centre. There are some small health centres, one tiny public library, bad electricity, worse sewage and a even worse garbage collection service there. Forget about the police going there.

Some other details:

The municipalities Diego Ibarra and San Diego have about the same amount of inhabitants, but check out the amount of murders for each one: Diego Ibarra had 107 murders, San Diego 25 for 2008.

There is a national police, a state police and a police for each municipality and they do not work together.

Below you have the statistics on population per municipality for 2005 and 2010. Take the current figure to be closer to 2010 than to 2005.

As I said earlier, there will be more than 220 murders for the state of Carabobo in December of 2008 if the state does not do anything effective.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Chavismo (and Venezuelan politics) in a picture

Here you can see very clearly the development of Chavismo plotted against yearly OPEC oil prices. In red at the end you can see the current (week) average price of OPEC oil.

For those who don't know much about Venezuela: 90% of its foreign income derives from oil exports controlled by the state (it has always been like that). Around 50% of the national tax revenues comes directly from oil and a lot of the taxes that make up the rest are produced by commercial activities largely supported by the oil income itself (like taxes on whiskey or imported cars)

UPDATE: some Chavista supporters came up to tell me the chart proofs Chávez wins most of the elections when prices are low. This shows again their understanding of charts. Apart from Chávez's first elections, when he was new, when he was "the new promise", all other elections he has won have been with prices higher than before. The moment of great distress for him, when he was outsted, was at a time when prices seemed to drop a bit. Of course, now Venezuela has been able to save some money, but it is much less than what Chavismo needs. When Chávez allowed, under international pressure, to have a referendum (one year after it was asked), the government was for a couple of months already giving away for free red bags full of food and a big "NO" (not to the referendum) on them. In 2004 oil prices (and thus, governmental revenues) were much higher than at any given time for many years. But of course, for Chavismo now prices are low if they are not over $100 per corrupt has Venezuela become.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Education in Venezuela

I had mentioned the article in a previous post, but I just want to put it here again as I think it is an eye-popper.

Oppenheimer on Latin American's state of denial on education (thanks to Hans and Ow).

A subscription-only article from The Economist of 9th May 2002 shows some facts about education in Latin America. They talk, among other things, about an evaluation test carried out by UNESCO in different Latin American countries in 1998. Those countries were the following:

  • Cuba
  • Chile
  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Mexico
  • Paraguay
  • Venezuela
  • Ecuador
  • Peru
  • Bolivia
  • Honduras
  • Dominican Republic.

Venezuela was very close to the average in literacy in that UNESCO test...average for Latin American standards, that is, which is already very bad if we consider how Latin American participants score in the PISA evaluation scheme. Cuba scored by far the best, followed by Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.

Venezuela was the absolute worst in maths. It was really bad. I mean BAD. Cuban children were again the best by far, followed by Argentines , Brazilians, Chileans, Colombians, Mexicans, Paraguayans, Bolivians, Dominicans, Hondurans, Peruvians and Ecuadorans. Venezuelan children came last after Ecuadorans and there was some distance between them.

Since Chávez is in power Venezuela has pulled out of open evaluation schemes of education We know the situation has worsened, in spite of all the certificates of educations and in spite of Chavismo's claim of having eliminated illiteracy. It seems that Chávez has not even learnt from one of the good things Cubans still have: an education system that was already the best in Latin America before Castro arrived in power (at least for non-graduate studies).

Has any any politician in Venezuela given some thoughts to this problem? I mean: is there any politician who has taken the time to ponder about solutions that go beyond sputtering the words "more money for education", "more schools"? In fact: is there any Venezuelan who cares? Where?


Saturday, 13 December 2008

Where do Venezuelans come from?

When I was at school we used to hear the story: Venezuelans are a mixture primarily of Indians, Europeans and Africans. I would hear that at home as well and I could see that also in the variety within my own family. One of the observations I hear from many European friends who visit Venezuela is how varied the population is. Since I am Europe I have become more aware of that. At school I learnt Venezuelan nationality is based on jus soli and there was no big deal about that. More interestingly is that most families are very mixed and I don't mean "Irish" with "Scottish" or "Northwest Africa with West-Africa", I mean mixed big time.

Europe, like other regions, is currently receiving more and more immigrants from outside and even within Europe there are more and more marriages between people from different countries. This brings possibilities but also tensions. Still, it is different from Venezuela, where the kaleidoscope is so old.

There is a lot of racism in Venezuela, no doubt about it. And the issue is being misused increasingly by some politicians and it is downplayed by others. It goes from every group, as often the case. Still, my impression and that of many others is racism in Venezuela is not as bad as in the neighbouring countries and definitely less so than in Europe, Asia, North America, Asia and Africa. It may have to do with the fast clash and fusion of ethnic groups from the very start and general mobility Still, racism is always bad and I think we should not avoid the issue, we should be able to discuss it openly and fight against it in a cool way.

Some time ago I decided to take part in the Genographic Project and find out about my haplogroups, which show the long-term ancestry on either the far paternal or maternal sides. Scientists can find out about this because there is a series of markers that are only passed from father to sons and another set that i s only pass from mother to any child. My genealogy information disappears somewhere in the XIX Century. In my case I had no clue what I was going to get (I mean I imagine my paternal grand-grand-grandfather in 1498 could have been in Europe, Africa or the Americas), as the mixing is so great. I got my results for my paternal side already and it turned out to be J2, probably Spaniards who on their turn descended from Phoenician/Roman/Greek/Jew/Arab people or from others who arrived there earlier, during the Neolithic expansion, but anyway coming from the Fertile Crescent, where J2 appeared sometime after BC9000. And now I am waiting for my maternal side and I am also expecting anything.

While I was waiting for the results on my mom's side I decided to see if I could find more about genetic studies on how Venezuela became to be. There are few things available on the Net. From two abstracts from a genetic congress I managed to do the following graphics.

The studies were carried on a very limited sample, around 86 individuals from different regions of Venezuela. Still, I reckon it very much reflect what scientists and others thought. It represents the genetic background of the average Venezuelan. He has most frequently an European/Old World on the paternal side AND at the same time a Native American background on the maternal side. H e also could have a Sub-Saharan component but that is less frequent. Any of the people who are "café con leche" (coffee colour) may have primarily European ancestors from the paternal side and Indian or African ones from the other...but also many of those who are paler or darker. And it goes for almost anyone but for the groups whose ancestors just arrived one or two generations ago and a few other exceptions.

Statistically speaking, my maternal line could very well turn out to be Indian, but also anything else (well, almost, I don't think there was much Tibetan influx or from Madagascar). That is Venezuela.

There are some studies about specific haplogroups but I leave that to another time.

* I placed "European", but in reality it is more "markers brought by Europeans". A lot of Venezuelans trace a lot of their ancestors from the Canary Islands and that region shows a lot of genetic evidence linking them with Berbers and the same is the case for continental Spain through the Moors. In my case, J2 is a minority haplogroup in Spain, but it comes from the Middle East way before the Spanish Conquista of the Americas.
** I considered which names to use for the main "groups", I decided to stick to the Venezuelan naming, I could have put European-Native-American-Sub-Saharan, but then I am Venezuelan and in Venezuela those names are used by many people whichever main "colour" that person may have on their skins.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Chávez, the Stalker

What to do when he does not understand a "no"? Avoid him? And if that is not enough? Call the police? And if the police is under his total control? What if several times a week when you are watching some political programme or news or sports event on TV his image suddenly appears on the screen and no matter what TV channel you switch to, you just get his face and his voice (that unless you have cable TV as only 29% of Venezuelans have). Don't bother turning on the radio, unless you want to listen to short wave.

Well, Chávez has long become a stalker of Venezuelans. His face is plastered in zillions of government-payed posters all around the country and the forced transmissions of his messages are becoming a daily experience. We have a personality cult of Turkmenistan proportions. In fact, we have a personality cult of our own now.

Chávez is again trying to secure the possibility of being reelected after his term finishes in 2013. His proposal, sandwitched in a constitutional reform proposal in 2007, was narrowly rejected. He said back then he would propose again the reform in ways the people could understand it better. He is mostly obsessed with staying in power so now now he will focus on the reelection issue only. Remember Venezuela is a strongly presidential system, so it is not like a prime minister getting reelected. The curious thing is he is behaving like a real, very sick stalker: he keeps repeating his people in his Sunday show Aló Presidente that if the law is not changed, he would have to go in 2013. Yesterday he did it again, but now in a rather very obsessive way:

"If the change to the constitution is not aproved, my days are counted: 2009,2010,2011,2012 and in 2013 I would go, I don't know where". He is trying to convince people to vote fin the referendum in February or March for a constitutional change that would allow him indefinite reelections. Chávez became popular after the biggest oil boom in Venezuela for decades allow ed him to go on an incredible spending spree without any plan for sustainable development. Now oil prices have dropped since their records in June-July of 2008, but still they are 3 times higher than they were in 1998 in a country where 90% of revenues is generated by oil. Chávez wants his reform as soon as possible.

When I first arrived in Europe sometimes people would ask me about the state of democracy in Venezuela and if we had "another of those dictatorships". It was kind of annoying to be explaining those things: no, we had the longest democracy in South America, it was very corrupt, inefficient, too dependent on oil, but things were progressing with education and so on.
But then Venezuela has something special: a lot of oil combined with a fixation for the times when Venezuelans led the independence movements in South America, something I would call the Bolivar complex. We are indeed very dependent on oil and we have become more so year after year. A long period of low oil prices coupled with populism, the evils of the petrostate and a population with a mediocre education have engendered this Latin American gollum called Chavismo. It is not a dictatorship, it is not a normal, healthy democracy.
What can we do? These are the facts:

1) We can vote against such reform and we have good chances of winning BUT
2) There are still many Venezuelans in love with Chávez due to his social spending (even if contrains are approaching, Chávez will go on spending as long as he can now to keep popularity to pass the vote)
3) a lot of Venezuelans still don't see the long-term effects of Chávez's policies
4) Many Venezuelans who dislike Chávez do not have a plan for after him
5) The vast majority of Venezuelans - whether pro or against Chávez - think one way or the other the wrong thing is this or that president, but Venezuela is "a very rich country". Even if we have so much oil, if you do the maths you will notice there is no way we can become a prosperous country if we don't diversify fairly quickly.
This could lead to a vicious circle of Chavez-like-figures-to-transition-governments-to-Chavez-like-figures.
6) Social inequalities have only risen and this will increase extremism of every kind
7) Latin Americans in general and Venezuelans in particular are in complete denial of the faults in their educational system and do not see where and what they need to improve there. Venezuelans are particularly guilty there and have been behaving like the new rich, ignorant kid on the street since they stroke black gold.

So: what can we do? Only when he can solve those issues will we get rid of Chávez and similar figures. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

BBC on Venezuela

Little time now.
I just got a link to an old BBC programme.

Part I
Part II

and so on...
It is from the end of 2007, shortly before the referendum, but it still has some interesting parts for those interested in Venezuela's sociopolitical situation.

I hope to post soon something away from politics.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Guardian on Chávez's family

Nothing new for Venezuelans, but if you want to read about Chávez's clan in Barinas, his home state, read Carroll's article here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Chavez's criminality

And today we got the new, very sad figures on murder in Carabobo. 187 people were killed in a region of about 2 million inhabitants.

Salas Feo, the governor elected, has a very difficult task ahead as his powers to improve this will be extremely limited. Hugo Chávez is taking over almost all the powers from the regions (just one tiny example here, in Spanish).
Expect anyway a rise to over 230 murders for next month. It is Christmas time.

I will analyse the trends per municipality in a couple of weeks and try to determine patterns and reasons for all this mess and I will try to propose possible solutions.

For now just this: the distribution of those 187 per municipio within Carabobo can be seen below. Valencia is a huge municipio, with around half of the total population of the state. Although it registers the highest amount of murders, the ratio is lower. Most murders in Valencia take place in the poor South.

The most lethal region in Carabobo seems to be Libertador. The municipio Libertador has a population that is well below that of Municipio San Diego (not rich but rather middle to poor area controlled by the opposition) and yet you can see the difference.

It is a pity: the municipio that carries the name of the ideolized title of Simón Bolívar has the highest murder rate. It is also a municipio with an environmental disaster in the making: the huge rubbish deport of Cuásima. Almost everything people want to throw away in Carabob is placed there and just burnt, the rest sickers to the underground and to the underwater system of the region.

Number of people murdered per municipality in November 2008 in Carabobo (CICP, Notitarde):

Miguel Pena in Valencia and the Northeastern part of Libertador are the places with particularly high concentrations of murders. Los Guayos, the most densely populated area in Carabobo, also has a very high rate. All in all, Carabobo is one of the most dangerous places in Latin America, together with Caracas and...well, and the rest of Venezuela. Mexico is very dangerous. Colombia as well. Brazil too. But the rise hast been higher in Venezuela.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Update on Chávez's wet dream

Hugo Chávez has just announced (in Spanish) he wants the process for calling signatures for the referendum and all that for January. He says he does not want people to be discussing that too long. What does that mean? Obviously, Chávez is starting to realise that unless the oil price rises again dramatically, he will start to get out of money at that time. As Miguel and others have pointed out, it is extremely difficult to know how much money the Venezuelan goverment has in its reserves as there is no accountability anymore (there was never a lot of that in Venezuela, but there was some)

For foreigners:

Venezuela does NOT a parliamentarian system. It has a very extreme case of presidential system and Chávez forced 26 laws last year that allow him basically to completely circumvent any local authority he wants. Besides: he as the head of the petrodollar state, is the one that distributes every single cent of the oil revenues.

Update: and he just said here (Spanish), joking, that he would ask the Chavista governor of Aragua to keep an office for him as the opposition is trying - according to Chávez - to control all of Caracas. This reminds me very strongly: do you know who else had a love for ruling from Aragua? This one
And I told you so here.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Chavez proposes once again the indefinite reelection

Chavez just declared he would "accept" his party's proposal for a referendum that would allow him to stand for the presidency after 2012. He said he would be president until 2021 if God gives him enough health for that. BBC on that here. Afterposten on that here (they seem to think Zulia is particularly prosperous because of its oil, even if the central government is the one distributing all the money).

Just as a reminder:

  • Venezuela has a presidential system, a very presidential system since 1999, when Chávez introduced his new constitution. Before 1999 presidents could be elected for five years and then they had to go away at least for five years. After 1999 the president can be reelected twice and the term lasts for 7 years.
  • Chávez was elected as president of Venezuela when the oil price had been at an all-time low of $12 per barrel and the price started to climb from 2002.
  • Now the price is dropping.
  • Chávez says he is needed to protect the people from the opposition
Here some petro-high and lowlights together with the price of the oil barrel at that moment:

  • December 1988: Pérez was elected president after people thought he could bring back the times when he first ruled in the seventies (first oil boom for Venezuela)
  • February 1989: Big riots took place and many people are shot down by the military
  • February 1992: Chávez carried out his bloody coup and failed. He is put in prison
  • November 1992: Chávez's military friends tried a bloodier coup and failed as well. All will be release beforehand by president Caldera later on.
  • December 1998: Chávez was elected for the first time $12.28
  • February 1999: Chávez started his first term $17.48
  • December 1999: Chávez proposed a constitution (inclusive renaming the country), strengthens the already strong presidential powers, the constitution is elected $17.48
  • April 2002: Big protests took place and right-winged Carmona ruled for less than two days. Chávez came back to power. $24.36
  • December 2003: Venezuelans signed calling for a referendum to make Chávez step down. Thousands of people were sacked afterwards for doing that. The pro-Chávez National Electoral System created new norms for accepting signatures, postponed several times the decision about recognizing the signatures, makes hundreds of thousands of people go to sign again (Chavismo used the time to demand state employees to draw back their signatures) $28.1
  • August 2004: The referendum took place and the proposal was rejected $36.06
  • December 2004: Local elections took place, with the opposition in disarray. It lost most regions $36.05
  • December 2005: There were elections for the National Assembly and these were boycotted by the opposition, which did not consider the elections would be fair $50.64
  • December 2006: New presidential elections took place, Chávez won again $61.08
  • December 2007: Chávez's referendum for indefinite reelection and more power for him is rejected $69.08
  • November 2008: Local elections took place. Mixed results: the opposition lost many municipios, but recovers the most densely populated states $99.62

The question is now: how fast can the red-very-red National Electoral System organize the new referendum?
Mind: the oil price I wrote here is the average per year. It is more interesting to look at the price per month. The oil price has been dropping from an all-time high in July 2008 (when the OPEC price was $131.22). Also remember: prices of today are about payments in a couple of months.

Opec oil prices: here.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Three matresses and a washing machine

We got 5 states out of 22. That is less than we wanted but far more than what Chavismo had said we would get (1).

I should have followed my gut feeling and just had dropped the Llanero states I had - with a lot of doubt, as I wrote - put on the side of the opposition: Barinas, Guárico and Cojedes. I will go back to what happened there later. The cool thing is we got Miranda back and the Alcaldía Mayor. The opposition is now in charge of the state governments of a little bit over 40% of the population.

I want you to listen to this from The Guardian's excellent journalist Rory Carroll. He talks specially about Petare, Venezuela's biggest slum, now anti-Chavez. Now on the background, very low, at the end, you can listen to a lady who still supports Chavez to the end. It is a poor woman from that slum as well and what you hear is "three mattresses, a washing machine". Those are the things she got from the government to secure her vote. I can understand her in her conditions even though I know what she loses is more: to have a country where tolerance and transparency, sustainable development and better education are the norm.

Expect Chavez to start closing the money tap to those regions from now on, as he already have threatened. Expect that to be much more than when El Pollo (opposition) was governor in Carabobo in 2000-2004. More so now that the oil barrel is below $50

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Chavismo denounces cheating!

And if you think this is weird, you should read this (Spanish): Adan Chávez, candidate for the officiadom in Barinas state, is also declarying people are getting a different thing in their paper trail than what they voted for electronically.

For those who don't know the basics:

Hugo Chávez was born in Barinas (a state in the Llanos, the Venezuelan pampas). His dad is the current governor of Barinas. As he has been governor for 8 years and that is the maximum allowed so far, the Chávez family decided to have Hugo's big brother, Adan Chávez, running for that state.

Now, Hugo's brother has little chances of winning there as the whole family has become notorious for their corruption in Barinas.

So both the opposition and Chavismo are saying the machines are not working properly.

How Chavismo works

The vote in Venezuela is now electronic. As a software developer I know binaries are basically a black box, no matter what sociologists working with the Carter Centre think and how many time they "test" them. The Dutch have stopped using their own electronic system because it was not deemed secure enough, even if there was no proof of fraud.

As long as you are not the one who compiled the executable files, there is no way for you to be sure what is going to happen with the stuff (unless you really manage to reverse engineer the whole thing and get back the source code).

What news are we getting? Well, in Venezuela there is a paper trail apart from the electronic vote: you vote on a computer and get a printed voucher of what you voted for and then you put it in a box. That is supposed to make things better.
Now, about 51% of the boxes are supposed to be audited afterward. That was not done in December's referendum: Chavez's National Electoral Council left 10% of the votes out and unaccounted for. They said the trend was already clear, even if the difference was 1% for us. I said at that time: it is a shame for the opposition parties who did not insist in auditing everything. That would come to haunt us.

Well, now El Carabobeno and friends of mine are reporting that people are going to vote, press the button for the opposition, the machine seems to be registering "Salas Feo" (the opposition candidate for Carabobo) but they get a piece of paper (what is going to be audited) that is for Mario Silva, the PSUV candidate. You can still see the link today here (mind: the link is provisional).

El Universal is reporting how the government is doing propaganda even now, on election day, which is forbidden, they are using caravans to call up people to vote and they are taking people from the slums to vote (I wonder if they are now threatening some of them with a false "we know the vote intention", as they know more and more people from the slums are turning their back to Chavismo).

My Venezuelan mitochondria

So I sent my DNA sample to the Genographic project yesterday morning.

Basically now they will test the DNA located in my mitochondria and in that way find out about my maternal haplogroup. The mitochondria is inherited from our mothers. My mitochondria are just like those of my mother's mother's mother's mother. Scientists will more concretely check the nucleotids found in the hypervariable region (HVR 1 and 2, blue in the first picture), a.k.a. "control region" or "D-loop". The DNA molecule mutates faster in that spot and that has enabled science to trace back when the maternal lines have split over the time around the globe.

When I did my Y-test I was expecting any haplogroup (which is about the same using man's Y chrosome), as Venezuela is so mixed and most of our family lines get so blurred in the XIX century. I thought some major European group or Berber or sub-Saharan was going to be the one I have.

I turned out to be J2, which may come from a Southern Spaniard who, on his turn, was the descendant of a Phoenician/Greek/Roman soldier/Northern Arab or anyone else whose ancestors came from the Fertile Crescent some 9000 years ago.

What about my maternal line? As I wrote before, chances are big that it is Indian. Latin America is a very varied region, but Venezuela is particularly so and that within most families. Native American tribes make up just less than 2% of the total Venezuelan population, but a lot of the rest have one way or the other Indian blood, mostly from the mother's side: European Conquistadores were the ones invading, the ones occupying the land. Fewer Spanish women came in, at least in the first centuries. But then the line can be European as well...or sub-Saharan or about anything. Let's 8 weeks.

I think more Latinos, Jews, Arabs and Chinese and Europeans and everybody should take this test and get a better understanding of how we all are very closely linked AND not exactly according to some literal interpretation of any script.

Saturday, 22 November 2008


Hoatzins ( Opisthocomus hoazin) live in the Orinoco Basin and the Amazon jungle, in Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil.
They are weird birds. Among other things, when they are young they have well-developed claws they use to climb up trees. They lose those claws when they grow up and learn to fly.
David Attenborough says in his wonderful The Life of Birds perhaps they show us a bit how Archaeopterix were, how they used their claws.

The DNA of hoatzins have made biologists scratch their head for a long time. They have classified the animal into its own family and order.

The Guardian on Venezuela

An interesting article in The Guardian can be read here.


Reliable little birds told me the following:

  • Chavistas will try to block roads from places they expect a lot of opposition people to prevent them voting (they have done this before to prevent people going to marches against Chavez)
  • Chavistas have told some people not to park their cars close to the schools as some shooting may take place (hello? I am wondering: do they just want people to be scared and stay at home or what?)
  • The government is spending big time offering lots of unemployed short-term "jobs"...until January
  • Well, this is not so "secret", as even Chavistas officers talk about this as a new project: they are giving away washing machines, mixers and a lot of other gadgets.
  • The heads of voting centres in many place, people who are supposed to be "randomly selected", are close relatives to Chavista candidates

Please, still: go to vote! There is no other way around this.

Friday, 21 November 2008

My bet:

As everyone (see here and here) is producing his forecasts about Venezuela's regional elections, here you have my guess for the governor's elections. Bolivar, state number 6, the largest state, will be lost to Chavismo simply because of the incredible stupidity of two opposition groups: neither Primero de Justicia nor Andrés Velázquez want to give up. They prefer Chavismo to win the state than for them to agree on who steps down. That is a pity. Cojedes (number 8) is not so sure for us as Chavismo has all logistics and resources in their favour.

On the other side, we can achieve big wins in Carabobo and Barinas, Chávez's home state.
Guárico is not sure at all, but it could probably turn to the opposition.
In general, it seems like some progress for it. Unfortunately, the road ahead becomes harder. Chavez has already threatened to cut off the money flow to those states that fall for the opposition (something completely illegal). He has done that already, although in a more subtle way: by slowing down incredibly payments due to the regions an other similar stratagemes.
Most worryingly: the opposition still has no real plan for government - not that the government, which is in power since 1999, had anything more than a fuzzy wish list framed within some pseudo-ideology.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Imagine a European government showing its phone eavesdropping on state TV

Would it not be weird? Imagine this: the party in power in Spain/Germany/Great Britain/Norway is campaigning and it uses the state television to show it "knows" of some bad practices by the opposition. The "bad practices" may be just normal things as talking about usual political tactics ("we have to form a coalition") or they may be - much less often - supposed or real corruption
affairs. Imagine the way the government shows on state TV about what the opposition people are talking is by letting their citizens listen to illegal tapping of phone conversations. Imagine this is a customary thing: the government wants to say the opposition is planning something bad and it plays a record of what it was tapping: some conversation between a journalist and a politician, two politicians. Imagine most of the "shameful things" the government shows about the opposition do not have anything to do with a violation of the law but just things they consider "shameful" from the opposition. Yes, imagine your EU government showing how it eavesdrops on the opposition leaders it dislikes, with no judge order or anything.

Well, you would feel outraged, right?

In Venezuela that is now the norm: the Chavez regime plays time after time its eavesdropping on national (state) TV.

Here the news in Reuters, but there are lots of videos of the state channel doing that.

A government of thugs, nothing less.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Busy for the moment

Off topic: when will Tibetans in Tibet use Tibetan all way through secondary school?

Monday, 10 November 2008

Ain't he cute?

As Reuters informs (there are lots of other sources, but mostly in Spanish), Hugo Chávez announced this weekend that if "the oligarchy wins in Carabobo" (one of the key states in Venezuela), he may consider sending the tanks to the streets to protect "the people". He did not say "if they claim to win". He has already said previously that if they win, he would not send money to the region, violating the law.

Now, he is telling us "the oligarchy" would attack the same people who elected them and he needs to defend "the people". That is strange. Yeah, I know someone from the extreme left may say "they (always they) have always forgotten the people" and stuff like that, but:

1) what Chavez calls oligarchy is simple anyone who opposes him
2) apart from some big families of the Ancien Regime, most well-off now are collaborating with the regime and a lot are members of Chavez's ministries.
3) Chavez has ruled Venezuela since 4th February 1999 (elected in 1999)
4) How is the scenario that Chavez is thinking? He said IF the opposition wins, he may send tanks to the streets to defend the people. So: if most people vote against him, he will send tanks to the streets to defend them. Or is he implying that the electoral process, controlled by his military, is not secure? I doubt it.

So: people, beware! If you vote against Chavez's very unpopular candidate, he could send to the streets the following to protect you!

Or again: does he mean by "people" this?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Do you need a washing machine, a new mattress or another reason to vote?

Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reports about the way often used by Chavismo to retain power when using more or less legal methods: José Vicente Rangel Ávalos, major of Sucre, a capital district, is distributing washing machines, mattresses and kitchen equipment to people in the framework of a so-called "social programme". Anybody ever heard of sustainable development?

The country's economy is bursting on its seams as oil prices are going down again. and mismanagement gets to higher levels. Venezuelans are addict to ever higher oil prices as drug addicts depend on ever higher doses of their drugs...and yet the only solution Chavismo sees (to stay in power) is to distribute the last crumbles from the money windfall. Plan to fight crime? Negating it. Plan for education? Distributing certificates that qualify for nothing.

What will happen then?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

I am J2

Well, I got Genographics' results about my paternal (Y-Chromosome) haplogroup.
I am J2 and I am surprised. I expected a more common group, either R1b (Western European) or Northwestern African (Berbers?) or perhaps a black ancestor. Only 10% of Spaniards have that group (from where part of my family came over 150 years or more ago). Lots of Greeks, perhaps descendants of Phoenicians and some Turks, lots of Jews and populations of the Fertile Crescent. That haplogroup originated in the Fertile Crescent around 10000 years ago.

From Wikipedia:

Haplogroup J2 is found mainly in the Fertile Crescent, the Mediterranean (including Southern Europe and North Africa), the Iranian plateau and Central Asia[1]. More specifically it is found in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, Greece, Italy and the eastern coasts of the Iberian Peninsula[8], and more frequently in Iraqis 29.7% (Sanchez et al. 2005), Lebanese 29.7% (wells et al. 2001), Syrians 29%, Sephardic Jews 29%, Kurds 28.4% , Province of Kurdistan (28.4% of the population)[1], Saudi Arabia (18.9% of the northern and central-north region)[citation needed], in South Arabia (Oman, Yemen, UAE) 9.7%[9], in Jordan, in Israel[1], in Turkey [2], and in the southern Caucasus region [10]. According to Semino et al and the National Geographic Genographic Project, the frequency of haplogroup J2 generally declines as one moves away from the Northern fertile crescent. Haplogroup J2 is carried by 6% of Europeans and its frequency drops dramatically as one moves northward away from the Mediterranean.
This suggests that, if the occurrence of Haplogroup J among modern populations of Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia does reflect Neolithic demic diffusion from the Middle East, the source population is more likely to have originated from Anatolia, the Levant or northern Mesopotamia than from regions further south.
Haplogroup J2a-M410 in India is largely confined to the upper castes with little occurrence in the middle and lower castes and is completely absent from south Indian tribes and middle and lower castes."

Cool...I want to find out about my mother's side.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Obama wins, Chávez is worried

On the 4th of October we could see a great example of how democracy works. Obama became the president of the United States of America and McCain conceded in an excellent speech. As Miguel, I am also happy Obama won. There are several reasons why I think Obama is better for the United States, but here I want to talk about why he is good for Venezuela.

  • Chávez thrives on insulting Bush. He needed badly someone as unpopular as Bush. Obama will probably enjoy more respect than Bush and it will be more difficult for Chávez to find a "devil" to blame for every evil on Earth
  • Obama knows how to deal with the Venezuelan autocrat: he can very well express his understanding and concern for different nations and expose at the same time the ways in which Chávez tries to manipulate people and misuse democracy.
  • A change of power in the United States, in spite of all the discussions and mud thrown ing during election time, is done in a fairly respectful manner for Venezuelan standards. That is something Venezuelans can see and hope for in Venezuela. I'd rather have Venezuelans see more of how other democracies work, like those - also very imperfect - in Westen and Northern Europe, but the United States is closer and good enough.
When Chávez was defeated in 2007's referendum, the parties of the extreme Left in Europe shamefully said Chávez had shown statemanship by conceding defeat the first day. They did not say Chávez soon ordered all TV and radio stations to broadcast his message (as he does for hours every week) where he claimed the opposition's victory was a pyrhic victory and a "shitty, shitty, shitty victory" and where he further announced he would not change anything from his proposal but propose it later. He claimed people had just not understood and listened to the opposition's media manipulation. Perhaps some lefties abroad still think Venezuela's media is mainly opposed to Chávez. In reality, only the TV channel Globovisión can be seen via open signal in Caracas. RCTV and Globovisión have to be received via cable or satellite and less than 30% of Venezuela's population have satellite or cable.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Spanish blog

I have been very busy so I haven't been able to update my Spanish blog, but I will do so
next weekend with some updates about the elections plus some personal ideas about what to do to get Venezuela on the road towards sustainable development.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The murders under Chavismo

From time to time I talk about how crime, specially violent crime, has increased dramatically under Chavismo. The murder rate in Venezuela has tripled since Hugo Chávez is the president of Venezuela and his ministers keep repeating time after time how they are succeeding in the fight against crime. They keep mentioning crime has dropped 40%, 50%, 75% since they are in power, which is just shameless lies (we have had about 9 ministers of Interior and Justice since February 1999, since Chávez started to work as a president). They sometimes pick up a week where crime drops and consider that a proof of a definite drop or they compare chosen isolated weeks from two years (just those where there is an occassional drop within a general increase).
Nobody can ask ministers difficult questions about where they get their statistics, about how those statistics compare to the "big successes" of their other Chavista predecessors. The farce goes on and thousands of Venezuelans get murdered every month.

This is the latest update. In my region, Carabobo, a state with 2 million people, around 1634 people have been murdered from January to October. If the pattern goes on like this, next month there will be over 182 people killed in that state only and in December we will have over 220. There are similar murder rates in many other parts of Venezuela...even those regions that were relatively safe some years ago, like Mérida or Margarita, are incredibly dangerous now.

I am snatching this from Alpha, who has a great Dutch blog about Venezuela. This is an advertisement for special transport between Maiquetías Airport and Caracas, in an armoured vehicle, for businessmen and other people afraid of going through what normal Venezuelans have to go through day after day.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The European Union cannot see Venezuelan prisoners

El Nacional and El Universal reported today the European deputies who wanted to visit the political prisoners Iván Simonovis, Henry Vivas y Lázaro Forero in Venezuela were stopped before they could see them.

The European deputies got a treatment of what Venezuelan journalists and opposition leaders are getting for some time now: their passports were photocopied and the Venezuelan (Chavez's) agents took photographs of them.

The European deputides who are visiting Venezuela are Philip Dimitrov, former prime minister of Bulgaria, Jan Ruml, (site in Czech) former minister of Inner Affairs of the Czech Republic and member of the Velvet Revolution and Eduard Kukan, former minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia. They got a taste of the Robolution and could be remembered of many things they remember from before the Iron Curtain fell.

When are the Social democrats in Europe going to act together with the "right" and the centre and just anyone of good will and speak openly about what is happening in Venezuela?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Chávez goes on wasting Venezuelans' money

Bolivia will export $200 million of textiles to Venezuela. That is good for the Bolivians, but: what about Venezuelans? Well, Venezuelans had to pay to the Chinese hundreds of millions of dollars because Chavez wanted a "Bolivarian satellite", which is nothing more than a satellite manufactured and maintained by the Chinese. Venezuela will have to pay through the nose every single year to keep that satellite for Chávez's aims.

Hugo Chávez has spent billions of dollars in weapons from the Russians. He has used hundreds of millions to pay Belorussians for them to build houses in Venezuela which Venezuelan engineers could have built. He has further financed many foreign companies in the form of direct help, subventions or the very overvalued Bolivar.

Meanwhile, our industry is going to pot. The only companies florishing in Venezuela are those engaged in importing all kinds of products. How long will this last?

Going back to the Bolivian deal: what is Chávez doing this for? We know he needs to keep feeding Evo to have support from this. But: what can he exactly get from that? Votes at the Organization of American States in the future when he becomes more isolated? A haven when he has to run away from justice? Or is there something else?

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

My Venezuelan DNA Part I

Last month I ordered a genetic kit of the Genographic Project from National Geographic. I got my kit in less than two weeks together. The package included a video about genetic research on human expansion and migration. You can use the kit to order either a test on your paternal ancestry or your maternal one. I chose to check out first thing the paternal part because I thought that could give more details.

I scrapped slightly in my mouth with two buccal swabs and sent them back to the Genographic project. On their site I can see the samples have been analysed and they are now being re-checked by two analylists. In a couple of weeks I hope to get basically the haplogroup as indicated in my Y-chromosome.

I would probably not have done this test if I were not Venezuelan: I am the average mixed person. I know who the parents of my grandparents were, but most of the rest in the past is difficult to find out. I know some came to Venezuela from the Canary Islands. I know one probably came from Northern Spain. I know another one was perhaps Central European. I certainly know my grandmother on my mother's side had Indian blood as she looked very Indian, as my sister. Perhaps her ancestors were the Indians that populated the Tacarigua Lake, from where a lot of my people came. Unfortunately, records in Venezuela have been mostly destroyed. I know one of my ancestors from my dad's side was called a "zambo", a mixture of a Black with an Indian. I just don't know where the maternal or paternal ancestors came from.
My guess is that the paternal line will turn out to be West European and the maternal one Native American, but it could be anything: African and African, African and West European, etc.
That is why this test will bring me something really new.

I was thinking it would be very interesting if National Geographic or other groups could carry out a comprehensive research among Venezuelan Indians. We know some things about the Indian migrations that took place in what would become Venezuela, but nothing very sure. We know more or less where the Arawacs were and how the Carib groups were expanding when the Spanish invasion arrived. It would be interesting to find out the genetic distance between Arawaks as still represented by the Wayúu and a couple of other minor groups and the Caribs, as still represented by the Pemones and the Yeq'wana. It would be very interesting to find out how related Warao Indians - with a language considered an isolate - are with the other groups still present in Venezuela. But then: scientists hav had difficulties getting permission from Indian groups, who were afraid - with good reason - of being cheated again. Now, with a government that sees everything coming from the United States and Europe as "evil", such a project would be less likely to happen. It is a pity. We could find out interesting information about how our history.

After I am done with the paternal ancestry, I will check out the maternal one. Did I come from I? J? X? Something else?

Monday, 27 October 2008

News on Venezuela

The European Union approved a resolution condemning the Venezuelan government for the inhabilitaciones, the trick it used to prevent mostly opposition candidates from taking part in the 23 November elections.

Here you can se the resolution. Only one person opposed the resolution, one from the extreme left. The social democrats abstained. It is a real shame they did not have the courage to go for it. Why is it that the right and the left always need double amount of violations of human rights to act against a regime that claims to be "on their side"? OK, I am being too naif. Still, the European socialists should start acting a little bit faster. It was fine that the French Socialists condemn last year the Chavez plan to reform the constitution, it was fine mostly socialists decided, as I reported earlier, to sign a resolution in the Council of Europe to condemn the situation of human rights in Venezuela right now, but: was it so much for them now to also get involved in this resolution? They will be sorry very soon.

Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez declared opposition leader Rosales is a gangster who wants to kill him. Chávez has denounced plots against him every month or so, but now the cries about the wolf are accelerating. Why? As Quico wrote in Caracas Chronicles, it is the paranoia of power.

It is a pity European deputies have not heard Chávez's last words on the elections: he won't send the money due by law to those regions where the opposition wins. Amazing, isn't it?

Someone should put subtitles for such videos as this.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What if Cuba does not need Venezuelan oil anymore?

I just stumbled upon this piece of news on The Guardian. Apparently, the recent discovery,

"if confirmed, puts Cuba's reserves on par with those of the US and into the world's top 20. Drilling is expected to start next year by Cuba's state oil company Cubapetroleo, or Cupet."

If this were true, what are your bets?

- Hugo Chávez would feel less need to spend Venezuela's money supporting the Castro regime and he would be able to use it for good or bad in Venezuela.

- The Castro regime would get more leverage in Latin America

- United States would feel compelled to easy down the embargo.

Your bets?

Sustainable development, a hint:

More lurkers than I thought have been writing me about my request for helping help Venezuela. I cannot reveal yet all to those I know nothing about.

Here so far: we have a very concrete proposal for improving a bit the situation of education in Venezuela, something we want to bring about to all sectors of society. If you are interested in hearing about the idea off the blog and via email, let us know a little bit about you. We do not need your ID. We just need to trust you a bit: what are you and what you think of Venezuela's problems now in a couple of sentences.

The reason is simple: even though everyone in public agrees the idea is good, we are afraid some will try to torpedo it because it does not suit them politically, whether they are, like us, opposed to Chavez, or they are still supporting him. We have good reason to be afraid of that.

This is a very basic, simple but concrete proposal that needs people of good faith. Tell us if you are interested in hearing about it and we (a couple of expats and me) will send you an email.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Randomly checking journalists' passports

Today Baudelio Medrano, head of ONIDEX, the institution in charge of identification in Venezuela, declared the extra security checks some regime critical journalists have to do through when they arrive in Venezuela are completely "random".

When I was studying the basics of computer science, I got another definition of randomness. For us, a random process meant it did not show predictability, that could not be described in a deterministic way.

Mr Medrano said the extra checks where journalists' passports were taken away to be photopied were "a randomly done security measure carried out only for verifying some details in the passport that we cannot check out at the moment because if we did, we would take two hours".

I wonder what details Chavez-critical journalists have in their passports that merit that. I wonder why some people in Venezuela are more randomly searched than others.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Help Venezuela - Venezuela helfen - Ayudar a Venezuela

Do you want to take part in a project that could be useful for all Venezuelans, specially future generations?
Contact me at desarrollo.sostenible.venezuela at gmail...
It won't require much of your time. A couple of clicks and spreading the idea would do the trick.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Chávez and the Gollum

The people from the Patria para Todos and the Venezuelan Communist Party were accused by Chávez to be anti-revolutionaries, he told them they would disappear from the map if they did not submit 100% to him (I wrote something in German in my previous post). This is not the first time he criticizes his former friends.

At the start I thought this was some kind of pathological battered-masochist-wife-sadistic-husband relationship (Albornoz/Figuera vis-a-vis Chavez: "please, hit me, hit me", "no, I won't hit you" "ooh"), but then I realised: these blokes are just begging for their crumbles, for their bolívares fuertes, while Chávez just needs people who adore him and submit to him 100% and he was using his Sunday programme to define that relationship. The discussion has been going on for a year now: he was asking all the parties that were in his alliance to join the PSUV. Only those two parties were still "together but not as one".

I think his mental health was very bad from early on. It is not just "a gossip" he cut off the head of a dead donkey and placed it in front of the door of a girl who had rejected him back in Barinas when he was a young man.

But his desire for recognition is growing by the day. Like Séagol when he found the ring, Chávez is mutating from a minor autocrat who at times could say "he was not indispensable" (as he said in 1998) into a complete egomaniac Gollum.

We can see that clearly in his language. The use of "Chavez" to refer to himself, or some other times "we" for the same reason is much more present now than a few years earlier. Chávez's statements that the so-called "revolution" is him come more often than ever. In the case of Hugo Chávez, "my precious" is the presidency.

More on this later...

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Die Kommunistische Partei Venezuelas und der Führer

Hier sagt Hugo Chavez, dass er mit Patria Para Todos und der Kommunistischen Partei (KPV) nicht mehr zusammen arbeiten wird, wenn sie ihn nicht als "Führer" anerkennen. Er sagt, dass wenn die PPT und die KPV sich ihm nicht unterordnen, diese Parteien verschwinden werden. Die PSUV - Chávez Partei - würde Chávez zufolge bei 40% in den Umfragen liegen, während sie weniger als 1% hätten.

Der Vorsitzende der PPT, José Albornoz, zeigt seine Angst: (4:09) "Präsident, hier in der PPT gibt es keinen Chavismus ohne Chávez". Er behauptet, Chávez sei schlecht informiert und dass seine Partei völlig hinter ihm steht (hinter oder unter?).

Der Vorsitzende der KPV, Oscar Figuera, zeigt, wie unterwerferisch seine Partei sein kann:"Unsere Partei existiert auch ohne Kandidaturen für Bundesstaaten oder Gemeinden". Er sagt aber auch, dass er mit der Chávez-Allianz (d.h. mit der PSUV und PPT) über mögliche Kandidaturen sprechen will.

Am Dienstag werden PPT und KPV weiter mit der PSUV diskutieren, inwieweit sie weiter "den Führer" unterstützen wollen.

Woran denken nun die extreme Linke in Europa? Wollen sie auch "den venezolanischen Führer" so unterstützen? Wie lange? So wie sie Mugabe unterstützt haben?

FOX: US Venezolana de Televisión? Rumblings on US-Venezuela

No, it is not that bad, but it is pretty bad.
Look at this:
FOX just selecting the non-critical part

The Youtuber here is right: FOX, as usual, is just showing what fits their wee world.

I found The Economist's edition of 4th October 2008 one of the best reviews I have seen about the US campaign so far. It would be nice if both Republicans and Democrats could sit down and read aloud from those articles.

Whatever I say will be seen as a reason for Conservatives to vote for the candidate they wanted to vote already, but I will say it for the Europeans and Venezuelans out there: I believe, now more than ever, as other Venezuelan opposition bloggers, that Obama will respond on a more firm way than McCain. I am sure Chávez would be be happy to get a McCain and specially a Palin as his counterparts in the US. Obama will help the US get back more of the admiration and respect it used to have. McCain and Palin would divide more and keep the US in this "crusade attitude" towards the world.

Do you know what the extreme Conservatives are using against Obama? This
apart from other accusations he is a "Muslim, a friend of terrorists" and the like. As The Economist stated, the Republicans are now so sure they cannot win on serious topics, they have to use mud-throwing. Obama has stated there and later in a very clear way what his position is. He has later being much more specific about Chávez's regime and condemn it in a much more clear way than McCain. But beyond that, he has shown more respect and insight when treating the rest of the world and that is an asset for the US as well.

There are still things I do not like of Obama's proposals, but in general I would say: he is better for the US and he would be better for promoting democracy in Latin America.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Council of Europe worried about Venezuela

22 members of the Council of Europe signed a declaration declaring their worries about the way the Venezuelan comptroller excluded against the law the participation of several opposition leaders in the elections of 23 November 2008. They also condemned the attacks by the Chávez government to critical figures and the expulsion without any lawful procedure of the director of Human Rights Watch, Vivanco.

The interesting thing I see here is how the list is including more and more people who belong to SOCIAL DEMOCRATS, like Christoph Strässer (German SPD) and Gerd Höfer (also German SPD)
and Arcadio Díaz Tejera (PSC/PSOE), as well as those who had taken a more critical stance towards the current government earlier like people from the Spanish PP, like Pedro Agramunt Font de Mora.

The Council of Europe is not the EU. Still, I wonder in view of this the following:
- Will there be EU observers in Venezuela for the elections on 23 November? I doubt it: no one is moving a finger for that.
- What new ways will the extreme left find to defend Chávez?
- When will Rodríguez Zapatero be more firm in condemning the Chávez government? Under which circumstances?

The EU took a long time to recognise how Mugabe's regime was damaging the people of Zimbabwe. Let's hope it won't take so long to recognise the full extent of what is happening in Venezuela.

Monday, 6 October 2008

What the international community is missing from Venezuela

Hugo Chávez is known outside Venezuela for his controversial speeches. They go from the folksy to the simply insulting. I am not precisely a fan of George W. Bush, but I found, as almost everybody, the speech of Chávez at United Nations a tasteless way of looking for attention, while some in the Left found that "funny" (thanks God not all the left and the truth be said, the right has similar clowns and people who applaud the clowns). But what most people abroad do not know is the caliber of most speeches Chávez makes in Venezuela, speeches where he very explicitly says how he is going to break the law and violate the most basic principles of democracy.

Take the last speech Hugo Chávez held in the central state of Carabobo. In that speech Chávez simply declared he was not going to send money to Carabobo if the governor elected iin November s from the opposition. Never mind the national government has by law to transfer a part of the budget to the governors and mayors of all regions. Chávez also said - again - Carabobo is a "nest of traitors since Venezuela's independence." He frankly declared "I won't be sending money to those places where there are counter-revolutionary governors and mayors. What for? For them to steal them or plan a conspiracy against me?"

Carabobo is a state that has been known for being independent for a long time. It has been one of the places where the opposition has scored best. Unlike what some very badly informed foreign "socialists" say, it is not because it is a "province of mostly white people who do not want to share their wealth". First of all, Venezuela is not Bolivia and the European-Indian divide Bolivians have is not present. I come from that region and my very average African and Indian and European background can testify for it. Secondly, Carabobo is a big urban centre and has an important university, with lots of students who have not been brainwashed yet. Then there are relatively more people with access to regime critical media (critical mass, critical TV can only reach Venezuelans via cable or satellite but for Caracas and most people do not have cable or satellite).

The region rejected Chávez's referendum with a higher percentage than other regions. That hurts Chávez more than most think. It also has a couple of mayors who belong already to the opposition.

Chávez is desperate because he knows his candidate, Mario Silva, has little chances if the election is clean. Mario Silva is a TV presenter at the state channel who uses ilegally state TV to promote his candidacy (I will come in future posts to this issue about illegal use of state funds). He can be so low that even most people who still support the regime do not like him. He wants to be governor of a state where he had no previous link whatsoever (he changed his registration to vote in Carabobo just a month ago).

It would be very interesting to know what people like French minister of Foreign affairs, Bernard Kourchner, has to say about this. Would he finally speak out or is he afraid of losing too many dollars of business deals? And would Zapatero just shut up? We know already what Lula would say, Brazil is profiting too much from the shambles Venezuela is in right now.
What is the EU going to do about those elections? And specially: what is it going to do about the aftermatch?

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Chávez's slaughter house

Venezuela has become a slaughter house: the country is now one of the most dangerous regions on Earth whereas it was just an "average dangerous Latin American country" 10 years ago, when Chavismo came to power. The increase in the murder rate is unprecedented. Not even Mexico with all its horrible drug problems and murdered women at the border, not even Colombia with its civil war show such murder rates and such general trends for so many years in a row. In fact, in cases such as Colombia we see falling rates, in most other countries in Latin America but for small ones like Jamaica we see stable rates for many years now.

Here you can see the updated numbers of murdered people in Carabobo, my state since I have them, since 2004. It is a pity I do not have the rates for before, but in general terms, the big hike happened from the moment Chávez started "governing". Caracas is even worse, but I am using the statistics of Carabobo because I know that state particularly well.

As usual, the Venezuelan regime blames it on "past government", "social injustice" (sure there is social injustice, in the year 9 of Chavismo more than ever). and "Bush". Chavista officials, starting with the Comandante himself, claim time after time the numbers are "going down" because they compare one isolated week or month in a region to another one that suits them or just like that, without bothering to use any senseless pseudo-statistics.

And when something big hits the news and there is a new outcry, they claim the opposition is "manipulating the suffering of the people, oh, how vile they can be". What is one supposed to do with such development? In 9 years Chávez has changed the minister of "Justice" ten times, in 2002 the Venezuelan government stopped sending the number of murdered people to United Nation's body on crime research when the trend became so clear: they had lost control of crime.
It did not help they have tried to redefine what a murder is. No, it is not they are taking out violent deaths that do not belong to murder, like car crash victims. No, it is they try to redefine each case when the perpetrators are not completely evident, have been caught or the like.

It is a pity Venezuelan media does not know what to do with such numbers. They tell of the total number of murdered people per day, per week, per month, but always in an isolated fashion, without reference to previous years, without reference to the outside world.

Chávez's officials have avoided all the time to debate the issue on a public debate. Such are the levels where Chavismo is.

The main reference I use here for Carabobo is Notitarde, which uses official numbers from the police. They go into gruesome details about the murders, the names of the victims and so on, it is not a "lie of the imperialist press". If you doubt, you just need to go to Venezuela's mortuaries.