Sunday, 30 March 2008

One of Chavez's friends

There were elections in Zimbabwe. Now they are counting the votes.
Do you think Mugabe, one of Chávez's best friends, will have to relinquish power?

Friday, 28 March 2008

Where is my fish?

The Venezuelan government approved a new law on fishing. Among other things, it prohibits bottom trawling. The president of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commers (Fedecámaras), Mr González, protested saying it would mean there would be shortage of fresh fish in the national market, many thousands of jobs would be lost and the fisheries in general would be badly hit. He talk about 14 thousand jobs being lost. Mr González said the national fisheries' production had dropped from 545 tones in 2001 to 267 tones last year. All this sounds bad, doesn't it? Now: has there been a decent open discussion in Venezuela about why this law is introduced?

I will quote Charles Clover's The End of the Line: "Imagine what people would say if a band of hunters strung a mile of net between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged it at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage, like something from a Mad Max movie, would scoop up everything in its way: predators, such as lions and cheetahs...herbivores, such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest." He goes on describing the destruction of countless trees and bushes, modifying the very soil. Then the hunter-gatherers examine the tangled mess and take 2 thirds of it and let one third of it rotten because there is no market for it. That is exactly what trawling is.

Fishing is getting harder all around the world. More people want to eat more fish. More people want to eat some particular kinds of fish. As fishing stocks have been collapsing rich countries have been introducing some quotas in their seas. Many of those quotas are not strict enough and controls are feeble, so stocks in many places keep falling. In some areas, there are have been recoveries. What the fishing industry of rich countries have decided to do is to go to Third World countries and buy fishing rights there. Then they continue with the indiscriminate plundering of the Oceans. They buy fishing rights to some Somalia's warlords who could not care less about their seas, they buy fishing rights from Senegal, from Chile and so on. The West knows very little about what is happening there, how the local fishers in those countries find there are less and less fish for them and for their market.

Meanwhile, fishing companies keep lobbying to avoid further fishing restrictions and to overturn some quotas. They argue if they do not do that, jobs will be lost and people would not have fish. There are few debates carried out in the open. The whole discussions are made behind closed doors, the government made modifications to their rulings to please the fisheries. In general, not much is done for sustainability. Not many companies or politicians care about what is going to happen in 20 years time. In Venezuela the situation is worse than in other countries: there is much less desire to have an open discussion about these matters.

Here my questions to people involved:

  • Has there been a debate where all sides express their concerns?
  • Is there a written record of all that?
  • Has there been a study of sustainable development?
  • Is there a control about what foreign fleets catch in Venezuelan waters?
  • Who is doing the control?
  • How effective is it?
Unfortunatelly, in Venezuela lots of people from both opposition and Chavismo would not care a fig about finding what is best for the country as a whole in 10, 20, 50 years time.

I have to say this: I love fish. Some of my favorite receipts have to do with fish. But since I know what is happening in the oceans, I check what kind of fish I am taking to my plate. I wonder if we would be able to eat an empanada de cazón in 20 years time in Venezuela.

Here you have a couple of interesting links about the state of the oceans (but I highly recommend the book I mentioned at the beginning):

Fishery crisis

What you better eat and what you better don't

Below you can see how the fishing of shark crashed a couple of years ago. There have been worse crashes, I just did not have the time to look for diagrams representing them.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Chávez feels insecure

As EFE reported yesterday, Hugo Chávez declared again to his followers that they had to win the next regional and municipal elections to guarantee the peace of the country. He said "we have to do it to guarantee the peace because we are the peace and they (the opposition) is the war, the path to war, to terrorism, to the destruction of Venezuela". He said if the opposition were to win the elections 2009 would be a year of war.

Mr Chávez and his followers became known in Venezuela because of two bloody coups against a democratically elected president, a president who was going to step back two years later anyway (back then we did not have reelections and a presidency was for 5 years). Lieutenant-colonel Chávez and his followers accuse the opposition of being coup mongers because there was a group in 2002 of extreme right who carried out a coup, a coup like Hugo Chávez himself.

The vast majority of the opposition does not want violence. Why can't Chávez accept there are such things as pluralism? That the basis for it are respect and tolerance?

What kind of democrat is this Chávez?

We do have a war in Venezuela already: as I wrote in my Spanish blog, the murder rate keeps increasing and the government keeps repeating it has been reducing it (it has tripled since Chávez came to power). The government refuses to debate openly with the opposition about ways to tackle the problem. Chávez is just interested in staying in power, he cannot focus on anything else.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Sustainable development

If you speak Spanish, take a look at this site. It is a group of Venezuelans who seem FINALLY to be thinking about sustainable development.

What do you think? Unlike most politicians we have, these people might want to use the following thing:

Let's see. Hopefully deeds will follow.

Ps. El Universal published something on them (Spanish)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Eight months to go, Carabobo

Venezuela's local elections will take place in November. The governments of municipalities and states will be elected. We already saw during the referendum on 2nd December 2007 on Chávez's constitutional reform how the opposition won mainly thanks to the votes of the urban areas.

In the map above, you can see in red to pink shades the parishes where Chavismo got 50% of the votes or more in Carabobo, a central state. The data is according to the first, provisional and more detailed of the two reports the electoral authorities have submitted until now. Pink areas are areas where Chavismo got between 40 and 50%. Violet to blue areas are parishes where the opposition won. Violet means the opposition got from 50 to 60%, blueish hues mean it got more (up to 88%).

We still do not know the definite results. The electoral authorities in Venezuela, the CNE, has just stated it won't release more results because "the final decision is known anyway" (i.e. the referendum was rejected). The opposition leaders are playing along with this. They have the tallies, but we, the normal citizens, really do not know for how many centres. The opposition did not have representatives everywhere, that is for sure.

As Quico and Katy at Caracas Chronicles have said in different occasions, the whole issue seems fishy at best. In a nutshell:

  • Over 10% of the votes are unaccounted for
  • Votes from abroad were all ignored, even if every embassy proceeded to count them, they were not added to the results (and we know most Venezuelans abroad reject Chávez government)
  • The voting centres in Venezuela that have not been added yet are either in the countryside or, if they are located in urban areas, are mostly located in places where the opposition did not have many observers

We do not know whether we really got the percentage we got, more or less. If we do not, we will not be able to demand clear accounts for a next time.

Carabobo is one of the most heavily populated states in Venezuela. It is well connected, it is central. Still, we see even here a clear distribution of voting preferences between urban and non urban areas. A couple of exceptions are to be found in some areas like Bejuma, which is very rural, but still relatively better off than municipios such as Libertador.

Within the urban areas one can see very clearly how Chavismo still had the majority in poorer areas, although the difference is minimal. Even in Miguel Pena, a huge and very poor civic parish of Valencia, we see the difference is small.

Juan José Mora 31,17% Morón 32,19%

Urama 23,49%
Diego Ibarra 33,79% Aguas Calientes 27,37%

Mariara 40,02%
Carlos Arvelo 37,88% Belén 36,49%

Güigüe 36,93%

Tacarigua 39,45%
Libertador 42,82% Independencia 35,60%

Tocuyito 45,11%
Miranda 43,31% Miranda 43,31%
Los Guayos 43,77% Los Guayos 43,77%
San Joaquín 45,36% San Joaquín 45,36%
Puerto Cabello 46,92% Bartolomé Salom 50,26%

Borburata 41,88%

Democracia 32,80%

Fraternidad 54,48%

Goagoaza 45,31%

Juan José Flores 47,14%

Patanemo 42,21%

Unión 50,37%
Guacara 51,76% Ciudad Alianza 79,74%

Guacara 46,55%

Yagua 46,85%
Bejuma 55,80% Bejuma 58,06%

Canoabo 45,40%

Simón Bolívar 55,26%
Naguanagua 64,05% Naguanagua 64,05%
Montalbán 55,45% Montalbán 55,45%
Valencia 59,21% Candelaria 57,68%

Catedral 62,01%

El Socorro 69,77%

Miguel Pena 46,04%

Negro Primero 14,07%

Rafael Urdaneta 55,11%

San Blas 67,04%

San José 88,03%

Santa Rosa 49,14%
San Diego 73,53% San Diego 73,53%

Now, based on the data presented by Esdata, a group of citizens who have decided to investigate the whole electoral process, we painted yellow dots for the centres not taken into account by the authorities for their first and only detailed report. They are mostly in "red" parishes (still red at least according to them):

Mind: the opposition won in Carabobo, all blue areas are heavily populated urban areas, with more school centres than the red ones. The urban areas where Chavismo won were mainly Miguel Pena, Los Guayos and some minor areas. Thus: the voting centres unaccounted for are mostly in "red areas". What happened there? We do not know. In Caracas we know some traditionally pro-Chavez areas like Petare voted mostly against him. Now, in Caracas there was a higher amount of observers everywhere.

Anyway, now the opposition needs to focus on addressing the problems but also proposing innovative ideas for the poor in such areas such as Miguel Pena, Los Guayos, Puerto Cabello and Guacara. We need to pay special attention to areas with a high density of still-Chavistas.

Now, we also need to consider conquering such areas as rural Libertador or even more rural Carlos Arvelo.

Opposition leaders cannot keep going on with the arrogant precept that "Caracas (or Valencia) is everything and the rest is jungle". That is not fair, it is not even true, it is simply stupid.

We need to be 10 times more cautious than the last time. In 2004, in Carabobo, for instance, there were huge protests because of the results. People wanted a recount. The military prevented them from checking the paper trail, though. Soldiers surrounded the place where ballot boxes were kept and they took the material away. Unlike national elections, there were no EU observers or the like. Since then, Acosta Carlez has ruled in Carabobo. He is extremely unpopular, even among Chavistas now and the opposition has chances of defeating him or any other candidate from Chavismo in Carabobo, but it still cannot be too cautious.

The opposition needs to offer an authentic plan to recover the state and show a real concept of sustainable development. It cannot just compete by using populist messages. The opposition needs to show this time it can be very different from Chavismo and denounce personality cult . It must carry out a very innovative campaign. The opposition also has to show people have to go for a plan and actions, not for a cacique.

Ps. For those who speak Spanish, there is a good article in El Pais on the upcoming elections