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?