Sunday, 28 February 2010

Venezuela's chessboard

Blogger Quico wrote again an interesting post about one of Venezuela's key events of the late XX century, something that is still influencing a lot of people: the Caracazo, a wave of massive riots and looting that shook the whole nation on 27 February 1989, a wave of violence that lead to the killing of many people, mostly by security forces. The Chavista government says there were between 300 and 5000 dead. This is rather curious: we know more about the amount of casualties in the Battle of Marathon over 2400 years ago than about those in the Caracazo, even if the latter event took place in a very central area of Venezuela. There were lots of journalists there and most Venezuelans do have families. Still, people say there were between 300 and 5000 dead. What were the forces at play there? And what really happened?

As Quico said, the measures announced by the government of Pérez were about to be implemented, but they hadn't been put into effect yet. Now, Quico writes:

The whole story-line of 27-F as revolt-against-neoliberalism is ahistorical and silly. Unless you credit the population with preternatural powers of foresight and posit that they were somehow rioting pre-emptively, in protest against what they calculated would be the futureproblems consequences of policies announced but not-yet enacted, you have to agree that the 27-F riots were the result of mass discontent caused by the that CAP's reform package was seeking to solve, not by the solutions CAP had proposed for dealing with them.

I think there was more to it. I already mentioned some of my points in his blog, but here I try to present them more clearly.

1) Venezuela's population had voted for Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1988 thinking he would give them the same kind of prosperity Venezuela had during the oil boom of the seventies, when he was president for the first time.
2) Instead of that, Carlos Andrés Pérez announced austerity measures. The government was brok: oil prices, the A and O of Venezuela, were low, the government had mismanaged resources for decades and people in Venezuela had no idea about what they have to produce to get the items they were getting. Still, the government did not have any idea about how to communicate things and on top of that, the measures still allowed some very rich groups to profit. Take that and the growing misery in Venezuela and it was clear that things could explode rather easily.

Now, the explosion was in my opinion far less spontaneous than many think. Why?

The Extreme Left had been in retreat for many years already, but it kept promoting its ideas. They had fertile ground and some means.


The parties in power from 1958 onwards, AD and COPEI, kept plundering the country and were more often than not carrying out policies that were pernitious for the sustainable development (never mind it is way worse nowadays). Living standards had kept rising until the beginning of the eighties, but things could not keep improving: there were more people for less petrodollars. It did not help that particularly the areas outside the main hubs (Caracas-Maracaibo-Valencia or CMV-hub) education and job opportunities were miserable, more so than in the hubs. It did not help that most Venezuelans still thought and think Venezuela is rich because of its oil, although it cannot produce anything more. It did not help the police forces often used repressive methods to counterattack the leftist movements, methods that had very fatal consequences for others not involved ("collateral damage"). Most Venezuelans did not notice the repression against the extreme left, but a lot of leftists did and they, for the most part, kept their agenda. They would try to infiltrate where they could.

The vast majority of the people who looted in 1989 did not have any lefty ideals. They were moved because of desperation, but also because there was something to loot, because others were doing it (see comments by Moraimaq, a former slum dweller).


The extreme left got support from Cuba and above all the Soviet Unions for many years. Some of the Venezuelan students and teachers who went to the Soviet Union in the seventies and eighties actually got training by the KGB in such things as "propaganda work" and "subvertion". I wrote about this in Spanish here (I translated a document from the KGB that was made public by dissident Bukowsky). In that post you can read about a course given to Lenin José Moreno Faría, nephew of the head of the Pcv back in 1980. Moreno was a university teacher in Venezuela. I am sure there were many more and not just belonging to the Pcv.

By 1988-1989 the Soviet Union was already too busy with itself, but these were quite some people in Venezuela with the training and ideological basis to carry out subvertive activities.


Douglas Bravo (see mindmap below) and others had a plan to infiltrate the military and that is how they got Chávez. The potion goes like this: put some "Bolivarian" pseudo-history with some half-truths (not difficult when so few Venezuelans have any knowledge of history), add some stories about the very real social injustice in Venezuela, US and European interventions, add the desire of many Venezuelans to become a second Bolívar, use some resentment and lack of opportunities for real work and you have a wee revolutionary. That is how they got Henri Falcón as well. Chávez and Falcón may have not passed page 1 of Das Kapital and their ideas are rather fuzzy, but they got "in the mood" and a general ideology.


The extreme left also had a series of networks for infiltrating slums and universities throughout the seventies to nineties. They were not only in CMV, but also in most secondary cities, from Charallave to El Tigre, from Cumaná to Maturín and San Cristobal.

Those networks included:
  • social aid in slums
  • "libraries" (mostly propaganda): this cannot be underestimated in a country where there are so few public libraries and these are mostly in a couple of centres
  • sports
  • ideology courses (reading some Marx, Lenin or just introduction to Marxism, etc
They were working in a very similar fashion as some evangelical fundamentalists do: brainwashing, social support in a community that lacks strong institutionalized social networks, etc.


I was a student at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Although I had little respect for communism, as a student I could see a lot of their activities time after time just by going to the university: if there was a pacific protest, some "eternal students" involved in communist groups would get in and start throwing rocks and Molotovs and burning down lorries and cars. Most normal students would opt to run away, but the damage was done and the cops would start attacking everybody. I probably saw more commies because the only place you could get books in Russian was at a "casa de la amistad", a place of lefty propaganda, and at the Soviet embassy. You did not need to be a commie to get the Russian books and newspapers, but you ended up with at least one or two propaganda leaflets. If you are easy to brainwash, you are done.

In 1988 there was a particularly big march of university teachers and students from all Venezuela in the capital. People were demanding the payment of debts and an increase in salaries. Many thousands of Venezuelans marched peacefully from the Ucv towards the city centre. I was there.

It was a completely peaceful march. In any case, when we were close to the Helicoide, we saw how dozens "encapuchados" (masked guys) came in from the slums. We could not prevent them from joining in. Once we were in the centre, they started to throw Molotovs and stones to all shops and the police attacked ALL OF US.

Helicoide and slums around

As one reader at Quico's post wrote and as was evident from a text I copied there which was written by a communist, the extreme left was concocting something. It may have gone out of hand, but it was more or less what they intended. The Caracazo was not so spontaneous. The extreme left seized the moment. The efforts were not unified and they were not constant, but there were a series of radical Venezuelan groups with very concrete agendas.

The Soviet Union soon collapsed and it probably did not have anything to do with the 1989 events, but its demise did not change many things in Venezuela.

Even if you could read more a lot about communism's collapse in Venezuelan local newspapers , often more than in many well-known US or European newspapers, the vast majority of the poor noticed very little about things outside. Not only were they unable to travel, but their source of information was rather limited. I still remember how I saw a young man getting into a bus in a poor area of Valencia in 1990. He started "preaching" in the same way as someone from some religious group does...but he was preaching about the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was crumbling apart but I was probably the only person in that bus who knew about that. Most were construction workers, cleaners or street vendors who hardly read anything and Venezuelan TV is just bad.

The Chavez propaganda machine often tells the population about how the "opposition" (it is just one big blob to them) gets support from the US State Department, Israel and European right-winged parties. The Chavista propagandists mention real and unreal supports from the Soros Foundation, from the USAID (if you read German, read conservative journalist Scholl-Latour Russland im Zangengriff) and others.

Some of these things are real and some of this very much not, but in any case "the opposition" as a whole has not been more involved into those kinds of things as chavistas themselves.

In any case: what Venezuelans of good will need to do is to become aware of how different groups (left and right, national and foreign) are trying to move Venezuelans of all types as pawns in a chessboard. Venezuelans need to promote open and civilized debates to minimize the effect of hidden agendas. It will be very hard: open debates on facts and programmes are very dangerous for extremists of all kind. Still, debates are one of the things we need to introduce.

As Liliana Ortega, president of human rights organisation Cofavic, said, there is not a single person that has been punished for the events that happened 21 years. Instead, the government keeps using those events to rewrite history. It does not want people to know who moved what pieces of the board.

PS1: Here a little mind map about some key elements of the extreme left. Notice something: again and again the key agents are from where most Venezuelans are, from outside the 3 largest hubs of population, from outside the areas where the opposition leaders still focus

PS2. If you read Russian or you want to use the rather poor but free Google machine translation tool, go to this. I will later translate it decently. It is a detailed account of a Soviet journalist in Venezuela's slums in 1983 describing the social work and brainwashing of communist groups in Venezuela's slums in a fashion very similar to fundamentalist religious groups of any kind in the world.

PS3: Last but not least, my message to chavistas:

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Venezuela's colours: Cattleya

My mother had lots of them in our garden. Humming birds love them. I am talking about orchids. Blogger Miguel is a specialist and you can see some remarkable pictures of them in his blog.

Here you have a couple of the species that grow naturally in Venezuela. These belong to the Cattleya genus.

Cattleya mossiae

Cattleya lawrenceana

Cattleya lueddemannia

Cattleya maxima

Cattleya percevaliana

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Kot, Menschenwürde und Lateinamerika

Der seit 1999 amtierende Präsident Venezuelas hat gestern wieder das getan, was er am liebsten tut: er hat Menschen beleidigt, um sich selbst zu schützen. Der ehemalige Kommandant und Putschist von 1992 sagte, der Bericht der Interamerikanischen Kommission für Menschenrechte sei "Kot, lauter Kot" und alle Beamten der Kommission seien "Mafiosi". Die skatologische Fixierung des sich selbst bezeichnenden "Führers der Revolution" und Volk schlechthin ist nicht neu: die Ergebnisse des Referendums von 2007, die nicht nur durch ein Referendum von 2009, sondern vor allem durch eine Reihe "Sondergesetze" völlig ignoriert wurden, seien ein Scheiß- Scheiß, Scheiß-Sieg der Opposition gewesen. Davor und danach gab es viele Äusserungen in diesem Stil.

Währenddessen erklärte die "Bürgerbeauftragte Venezuelas", Gabriela Ramírez, der Bericht sei nicht unparteiisch. Sie sagte, es gäbe "eine Anzahl von Zitaten der Opposition im Bericht" und die Kommission verallgemeinere "vereinzelte Fälle, um zum Schluss zu kommen, dass der venezolanische Staat Menschenrechte verletzen würde."

Diese Frau soll die Bürgerbeauftragte in Venezuela sein

Frau Ramírez behauptet also, dass die Kommission nicht unparteiisch ist. Dies kommt aus dem Mund eines aktiven Mitglieds der UVE, einer Partei, die, vielmehr als Schwester-, eine Klonparteie der MVR und nun Teil der PSUV ist. Diese Frau wurde von der Asamblea Nacional - eine fast völlig regierungstreue Organisation trotz zahlreicher Protesten als "Verteidigerin des Volkes" ernannt. Bis jetzt hat sie immer wieder den Eindruck erweckt, keine Bürger- sondern eifrige Regierungsbeauftragte zu sein.

Der Journalist von The Guardian in Venezuela, Rory Carroll, hatte Schwierigkeiten diese Aussagen des Präsidenten als Nachrichten zu thematisieren. Wie Francisco Toro in seinem englischsprachigen Blog Caracas Chronicles berichtet, handelt es sich erneut um "non news". Herr Toro trifft den Kern der Sache: das Traurigste ist, wie der venezolanische Präsident sich weigert, ein offenes Debat zu akzeptieren, überhaupt zu erklären, ob er die sehr konkrete Aussagen zu Menschenrechten und Recht in Venezuela dementiert. Er weigert sich, zu sagen, ob er falsch bzw gerechtfertigt findet, dass 137 Richter ohne jegliche Erklärung seit 2007 abgesetzt oder bestrafft würden, weil sie Leute in Freiheit gelassen haben, die an politischen Protesten beteiligt waren. Dies ist für mich nicht verwunderlich: der Kommandant ist durch das ganze System in Venezuela geschützt: als venezolanischer Präsident muss er keine Antwort geben, er kann sich in seinen ewigen Monologen schützen. Es ist ein präsidentiales System der schlechtesten Art. Die caudillo-Mentalität war zwar immer da, sie hat aber ein neues Ausmaß genommen, seitdem die Militärs an der Macht sind.

Wir können nicht viel von solchen Líderes wie Lula da Silva, Prima Dona der lateinamerikanischen Politik, erwarten. Kurz nachdem der Bürgerrechtler Orlanda Zapata in Kuba in Haft starb, erklärte der Brasilianer zwar kurz sein Bedauern, er ließ sich aber weiter ganz gemütlich von der Castro-Familie hofieren. Das heisst für ihn "Lateinamerikaner sein": solange es unter Latinos bleibt, ist alles chévere.

Mehr über Herrn Zapata hier

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Challenging caudillos, changing Venezuela

Chávez hasn't got the courage to do what this lady is doing: debate

One of the main reasons why Venezuela has the disastrous politicians it has is the absolute lack of any mechanism for normal, civilized debate. It has always been a strong presidential system where the president does not have to answer to any specifics, just theoretically give some "report", report that always becomes a monologue.

We must challenge Hugo Chávez but also any other polician aspiring to play a major role in Venezuela to debate in real time, in front of the cameras, in front of challengers, not followers.

My Scandinavian, German or US American friends who don't know much about Venezuela will say: well, why don't you do it? They will silently think: "why do these guys ponder on such an obvious thing? Geez!".

Venezuelans and Scandinavians, Germans or US Americans who know Venezuela well realise that that is not so evident in the Land of Grace. There is no tradition. We went from being one of Spain's forgotten provinces to being a land of caudillos. Most Venezuelans know about the US primaries and the US presidential debates, but then those are one-time things. There is no parliamentary system around and frankly speaking, Spain's is not the best model. Venezuelans also know very little about the debates that do take place in places like Chile.

Most Venezuelans, although they would like real debates, don't demand them. Why? Because they think they would never happen.

This is a shame and needs to change. Rosales, who is not my take for a politician, demanded a debate with Chávez in the 2006 presidential elections. Chávez said he would not debate with someone who speaks worse than a 6-year old pupil.

Rosales may speak worse than a pupil, but Chávez should have been forced to debate with the candidate of the opposition, whether that person was a Rosales or a Pericles. The thing is Chávez has never had to debate with anyone after he became elected president in December 1998. He never ever debated, actually. Before he became president he went through a couple of interviews, but they were not that hard as he was just a candidate promising Heaven. He later had a couple of silly interviews as president where some journalists afraid to be "difficult", people like BBC journalist Lustig, asked such questions as "do you hate US Americans?". I would love to see Hugo being interviewed by German Marietta Slomka from the ZDF (you can watch her below grilling in German one of many politicians, she does so "gnadenlos", with no mercy):

Vargas Llosa once challenged Chávez to a debate, but Chávez was afraid and recanted after declaring he would accept. The Venezuelan coupster lost face in spite of all his excuses. He said Vargas Llosa was "not of his league", as if a president were something special, a kind of New royalty. It is not surprising, "revolutionaries" never engage in open debates once they get to power as they are as reactionary as the King of France.

Only old-guard Antonio Ledezma, very timidly, said on the aftermath of the Vargas event that he also wanted to challenge Chávez...and he did not have the discipline to insist. He did it so only after Vargas did, and he gave up right away. Are we, Venezuelans, so lacking in persistence to bring things through as Karl Marx said?

"Like most of his countrymen, he was averse to any prolonged exertion"

So far, the most persistent person to challenge a Venezuelan politician to debate has been Vargas, a Peruvian.

The only times Chávez had to answer "normal", not particularly difficult questions, were during two Alo Presidente shows: firstly with a young journalist from Brazil, who had not been "filtered through" and then when Rory Carroll, from The Guardian, also got a chance to ask a normal question. Chávez flipped out on both occassions. There also was an unrequested question from a journalist of Fox News, but the Venezuelan autocrat did not even bother to hide his refusal because it was "Fox News".

Chávez is a military. He is not used to debate. Actually, few other politicians in Venezuela, even if they are not military, can do anything in real debates. Why? Because they are used to the caudillo mentality. Even if they are not military, they think like one. We have seen that when some oppo leaders have been asked hard questions by US or European media outlets. We need to change that. Uribe told Chávez to "be a man and talk openly". I would not use Uribe's prejudiced tone. I would say "be courageous and debate openly" like the lady on the first picture at the German Bundestag.

In Venezuela as far as I remember we had only one TV programme where politicians were grilled, "La silla caliente", with journalist Oscar Yanez. It was journalist against politician. We have never had a real debate between a head of state and other politicians. At most we have had some monologues between parliamentarians at the National Assembly, if chavistas allow the others to take the floor.

We, Venezuelans, have to challenge politicians to debate openly. We have to demand from them to have the courage to answer in real time and not hide behind a programme like Aló Presidente or Plataforma de la Unión. Only if we persist until they do it will they start evolving into something beyond and above the XIX century Venezuela.

And here you get Sarkozy getting grilled on France 3.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010


The bush dog or in Venezuela perro de agua (water dog) is a strange little fellow. It lives from Central America all the way to Southern South America...but it is rare everywhere. I have heard people talking about it but I have never seen one myself. I read one was spotted in the San Esteban National Park, a national park in Northern Carabobo I know well as I used to roam around a lot there. I hope bush dogs can survive in that area. The San Esteban National Park is a wonderful place, but it is heavily under pressure from expanding urban settlements, people's ignorance towards the environment and lack of government control. Carabobo is one of the most densely populated regions of Venezuela and people keep settling in there.

To let you understand the importance of these animals: they are very rare, they are threatened and they are not a variation of the Old World dogs but the only living species of the genus Speothos. That is a genus of the caninae subfamily, which is part of the Canidae family . Wolves, foxes and jackals are closer to our normal dogs in the evolutionary tree than the bush dog.

A bush dog in prison

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The time bomb and the minefields in Venezuela

Venezuela can get to the level of low-flame civil war or enter into a period of very open repression in six months to one year at most.

I don't think I say this lightly. Here you can listen Chávez stating that they will rule for 900 years. The government does not understand such a thing as "pluralism" or "open debate". As you can read from governmental sources, they do not even consider there could be something like a power change. They may say "it is because the opposition is no opposition, it does not live up to the challenge". Everybody knows it is not just that. Chávez and his high-ranking supporters would simply never accept losing power. They are either

  • too involved in crimes of all types AND/OR
  • too imbued in an absolutist ideology that does not accept anything but total contro, power alternation is not an option for them, who claim to be "the People"
As the economy deteriorates and the disatisfaction grows, the government can only threaten, increase control of the electoral system, of resources, move more potential enemies to leave the country as in Belarus or Cuba.

The government has distributed many thousands of Kalashnikovs and other weapons among its militias for some years now. In January of this year the National Assembly approved the new law about "Bolivarian" militias. The military has been training those militias with more or less rigour for some years already. Now they don't just have a new name, they are going to be scale d up.

If you click on the picture you will go to VTV, the governmental national TV site. There you can read about the "Bolivarian" militia, you can watch the president and a young woman in El Pao, in Northern Cojedes.

This woman is one out of 2000 persons (180 of them women), mostly from rural, poor areas who were spending three days in paramilitary training. This lady is an average Venezuelan. Most Venezuelans don't live in "the countryside", but they do live in cities that are anything but urban when it comes to available services and opportunities.

She is poor and her education is minimal. She has probably never left the country and has no ways of comparing things but what she gets through some filter. She has hardly any memories of life before 1998 and if she has, I am sure the pieces relating to previous governments are not good. Venezuelan governments had grown more and more ineffective with the years and rural areas had become more and more forgotten.

The national government is telling these people they are preparing themselves for any US invasion or attack by any US-supported movement. It is brainwashing them in a way that can only be compared to that of evangelical fundamentalists.

It does not help us at all that the most vocal opposition in Venezuela are people like this:

That is Ms Machado. She did a good job for Súmate. Still: it is not just a fatal picture with the wrong person. You just have to listen to her while trying to imagine how much time she has spent listening to people in El Pao, in El Tigre, in Maturín, in Pedernales, in big Miguel Pena or Libertador. She is running just to become a deputy for the most prosperous electoral district in Venezuela. Well, somebody has to do it and yet: a lot of people are putting most of their hopes, efforts and attention on stuff like that.

It does not help another of the most vocal leaders the opposition has right now is a guy like Ravell, with his FOX-News kind of journalism, who often goes to the US on vacation and to see his family there. Let me be clear: 1) FOX News journalism sucks and it isn't much better than VTV journalism and 2) although there is nothing wrong with going to the US or Europe on vacation, the vast majority of the people in Venezuela want to see leaders who are more grounded in Venezuela. They want to see people who have spent more of their free time talking to the average Venezuelans, not to the average inhabitant of a posh area of the capital.

It does not help that the few opposition leaders who are not from the capital's Eastern side are hardly heard anywhere.

The government has a couple of advantages:

1) the general level of education is very low and brainwashing is particularly easy, easier than in many other countries in South America (check out my posts on education)
2) most opposition leaders are indeed out of focus, they don't work outside their main 2-3 urban centres and beyond the TV cameras, they have no project or they don't know how to dissemiante their projects
3) the petrodollars will keep flowing
4) governments such as the Spanish government will keep supporting the Venezuelan regime as long as it gets juicy business deals (sure, and "promoting a climate of dialogue and understanding")
5) the far-right will find its way to promote extreme, undemocratic solutions, just like the far-left, to the detriment of most people, they will also be the ones helping the current leaders of the opposition

Social inequality was very high in Venezuela and things aren't getting any better. Now, though, the government in power knows how to do very effective brainwashing. Tensions will increase. The opposition is lead by people out of touch with the Venezuelans outside the Eastern Caracas cocoon. Groups challenging for an open, fair debate will be either rejected or ignored. Stupid people will try to promote violence and fear.

There are lots of weapons out there. There is some form of ideology - contradictory, rather superficial and all, but much more consistent than what the opposition groups offer -. There is resentment. There is ignorance.

We have a ticking bomb. We have minefields. We need courageous deminers.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Im Herzen Venezuelas: Guárico 2

Den Anfang liest man hier

Venezuela ist ein Land von Caudillos. Das war schon so während der spanischen Herrschaft, als conquistadores und deren Nachfahren die Kontrolle im Lande für sich allein beanspruchten und das war mehr so nach der Unabhängigkeit des Landes. Wie ich in einem vorigen Post geschrieben habe, ist die militaristische Neigung in Venezuela sowie der Personenkult besonders stark ausgeprägt. Páez war nicht nur General im Unabhängigkeitskampf, sondern auch dreimal Präsident. Er besaß unglaublich große Ländereien überall in Venezuela, er war als "caudillo de América" bekannt. Er war nur der prominenteste in Venezuela und vielleicht in Lateinamerika. In Venezuela gab es viele andere, wie Monagas, Guzmán und später Gómez.

Gemeinden, mit Namen von Militärmenschen

Auf jeden Fall haben diese Caudillos wenig für das Land getan. Bildung für arme Kinder war kein Thema. Bildung im allgemeinen war immer katastrophal im ganzen Venezuela, aber viel mehr so südlich von der Küste und weg von den Anden. Der geniale Erfinder und Tüftler, den Alexander von Humboldt im Jahr 1800 in Calabozo kennenlernte, war umso bemerkenswerter, als er in einem so entfernten Ort wohnte und forschte.

Guzmán fuhr in der zweiten Hälfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts ein Gesetz für die kostenlose Bildung und die Schulpflicht ein, was aber wenig in der Wirklichkeit änderte. Erst mit den ersten Regierungen von AD gab es massive Anstrengungen, kostenlose Bildung und soziale Fortschritte bis zu den verlassenen Regionen Venezuelas zu bringen. Die Effektivität ließ aber mit der Zeit viel zu wünschen übrig. Das Land war extrem zentralisiert, Gouverneure und Bürgermeister wurden von der Zentralregierung bestimmt und waren letztendlich neue, extrem korrupte Minicaudillos. Das war auch so für Guárico.

Erst im Jahr 1989 konnten Venezolaner zum ersten Mal ihre Gouverneure und Bürgermeister selbst wählen. Die Leute von Guárico wählten für 1989-92 einen AD-Politiker. Für 92-95 war ein Copei-Politiker Gouverneur. Zwischen 1995 und 1998 war ein AD-Politiker wieder Gouverneur des Bundesstaates.

Eduardo Manuitt war der Sohn eines kleinen Bauers. Auf jeden Fall hat er seine Grundschule und bachillerato (ein Jahr weniger als Gymnasium) in Guárico gemacht. Er ging nach Valencia, um dort zu studieren, wo er aber vor allem politisch bei linken Gruppierungen tätig war. Er war Mitgründer der Causa R. Beim Tod seines Vaters kehrte er nach Guárico zurück und beschäftigte sich mit dem Hof der Familie und sowie mit politischer Arbeit für Bauerngewerschaften. Man muß hier betonen: es handelte sich um arme Bauer, nicht um die hacendados. Manuitt brach, wie Aristóbulo Isturiz und andere, mit causa Radical ab und schloß sich der MVR an.

Im Jahr 1998 wurde Manuitt mit den Stimmen der Chávez-Bewegung MVR und mit denen der Sozialististen MAS zu Gouverneur gewählt. Im Jahr 2004 wurde er wieder gewählt. Hier könnt Ihr ein Interview von 2006 auf Spanisch lesen. 2008 durfte Manuitt nicht wieder kandidieren, denn damals galt immer noch eine Amtszeitbegrenzung. Manuitt wollte, ganz im Sinne eines Caudillos, seine Tochter als neue Kandidaten des Chavismos zu machen, die anderen Führer der Bewegung waren aber dagegen: William Lara war ihr Kandidat. Weil Manuitt sich trotztdem für die Kandidatur seiner Tochter einsetzte, wurde er von der Partei ausgeschlossen.

Es gab drei Kandidaten: William Lara für die Regierungspartei, Manuitts Tochter für die Dissidenten von PPT und ein bekannter Volksmusiker der Region, der von allen Oppositionsparteien unterstützt wurde, Reynaldo Armas.

Die Ergebnisse der Gouverneurwahlen von 2008 ergaben eine deutliche Mehrheit für William Lara. Hier sieht man wie viele Stimmen jeder Kandidat in welcher Gemeinde bekam:

Jeder große Punkt entspricht 1000 Stimmen. Rote Punkte zeigen die Stimmen für William Lara. Rosa steht für Manuitts Tochter. Jeder gelbe Punkt entspricht 1000 Stimmen für Reynaldo Armas. Die Ergebnisse: 52.54% für William Lara, 33.20 für Lenny Manuitt und 13.42% für Reynaldo Armas. Man muss etwas in Venezuela nie vergessen: viele Leute hangen von Arbeitstellen bei der National- oder Regionalregierung ab. Sie werden deswegen die entsprechenden Parteien wählen.

William Lara war auch in Guárico geboren, angeblich stammte er auch aus einer armen Familie. Er hat Comunicación social an der UCV studiert. Comunicación Social ist die Fakultät, um Linksradikal zu werden. Ich weiß es: ich habe an der UCV studiert und dort konnte ich beobachten, wie so viele Studenten, die LKWs oder Autos bei jeder Proteste verbrennen wollten und sehr radikal waren da oder bei der Escuela de Historia eingeschrieben waren. Lara absolvierte später ein Master der politischen Wissenschaften an der Universidad Simón Bolívar. Hugo Chávez hat auch diesen Master angefangen aber nie beendet. Die Universidad Simón Bolívar ist eine der besten Universitäten Venezuelas, das aber eher in den Natur- und Ingenieurwissenschaften. Es ist für diesen Blogger ein Rätsel, was für Standards sie für die Studie der politischen Wissenschaften hat. Die Standards sind nicht so hoch: Chávez selbst denkt, dass die Menschheit erst vor 20-25 Jahrhunderten entstand.

Auf jeden Fall war William Lara 1997 einer der Mitgründer der MVR. Er wurde Abgeordneter und später Informationsminister. Kurz nachdem er Gouverneur wurde, gab er die Empfehlung, seinen Bundesstaat mit dem Bundesstaat Miranda zu vereinen, was einfach Wahsinn ist (hier die seine ersten Bemerkungen und hier seine Relativierung).

Etwas später kamen die Enthüllungen über Manuitts Reichtümer. Diese Bilder sollen ein Teil der Manuitt-Hacienda im Süden Guáricos zeigen:

Manuitt ist nun auf der Flucht. Er behauptet, er hätte nichts gestohlen und alles sei nur Teil der politischen Verfolgung. So wie bei Rosales habe ich meine Zweifeln. Ich frage mich, ob man solche Haciendas auch dann entdecken wird, wenn William Lara nicht mehr Gouverneur von Guárico ist.

Ein Phänomen, das noch zu untersuchen ist, sind die Morde vieler Bauer zum Teil in den Händen der Polizei in Guárico. Das hat es immer gegeben, zu Zeiten Manuitts war es aber sehr schlimm.

William Lara hat sich als besonders radikaler Politiker erwiesen. Im folgenden Video will er das Wort "Scheisse" unbedingt aussprechen. Dazu benutzt er als Vorwand ein sehr bekanntes Buch von Gabriel García Márquez, Der Oberst hat niemand, der ihm schreibt. Lara betont, Márquez habe den Nobelpreis gewonnen, als ob das die Benutzung dieses Wortes in diesem Kontext rechtfertigen würde.

Die Opposition ist nicht ganz ohne Erfolge in Guárico. In den 2008-Gemeindewahlen hat sie 2 der 15 Gemeinden für sich gewonnen. Diese Gemeinden kann man hier unten in blau sehen. Es sind die Gemeinde Roscio, wo die Stadt San Juan de los Morros ist und die Gemeinde Ribas, wo die kleine Stadt (bzw Dorf) Tucupido ist. In beiden Gemeinden hat keine einzelne Partei der Opposition die Mehrheit, es waren mehr als 10 Parteien, die zusammen arbeiten mussten.

Die Opposition muss ihre Strategie deutlich ändern. Auch wenn die Oppositionsführer nur in der Hauptstadt und zwei anderen Metropolen sein wollen, müssen sie erkennen, dass man nur dann zu einer Wende kommen kann, wenn man auch in den anderen Regionen eine größere Unterstützung, wenn man die Herzen Venezuelas erobern hat. Auch wenn Venezuela ein sehr urbanes Land ist, stammen viele ihrer Einwohner aus dem Land. Darüber hinaus denken viele Leute in Venezuela, dass "Stadt" nur die Hauptstadt und zwei andere Städte bedeutet. Mehr als ein Drittel der Bevölkerung leben aber in Städten, die mehr als 100000 aber weniger als 1000000 Einwohner haben. Einige Maßnahmen sind notwendig:

- viele Parteien müssen sich vereinen oder verschwinden; dafür müssen alle Parteien, die in der Zukunft eine wichtige Rolle spielen wollen, echte Vorwahlen und Transparenz einführen, sowie bestimmte Prinzipien und einen Plan für das Land schriftlich festlegen. Es kann nicht sein, dass wir 20 "liberale", 20 "sozialdemokratische", 20 konservative und noch 40 andersartige Parteien haben. Parteien als Platform für caudillos haben keine Zukunft mehr.
- man muss gut gebildete und ehrliche Führer in allen Gemeinden fördern, Leute, die sich für die Interesse aller einsetzen und nicht die einer Gruppe nur. Dafür muss man in diesen Regionen ständig anwesend sein, Projekte vorstellen, über Ideen für die nachhaltige Entwicklung der Regionen und des Landes sprechen und über die Notwendigkeit, Transparenz und Ehrlichkeit in der Region walten zu lassen.
- man muss die Studenten, die aus diesen Regionen kommen, als Multiplikatoren benutzen, so dass sie Pluralismus und Entwicklung für das ganze Land fördern und fordern - bei ihren Besuchen, in den Ferien, bei ihren Familien.
- man muss die Aufmerksamkeit der wichtigsten Medien auf diese Regionen und auf ihre Bedeutung für die Zukunft der Nation lenken

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Im Herzen Venezuelas: Guárico 1

Der Bundesstaat Guárico liegt ganz im Herzen Venezuelas. Mit einer Fläche von 64.986 km² ist er grösser als die Niederlande oder die Schweiz und fast so groß wie Irland. Er ist Teil von Los Llanos, die breiten Ebenen nördlich des Orinokos. Der Name leitet sich vom Fluß Guariko. Ganz im Norden ist es hügelig, man findet selbst einige Berge da, die ein Teil der Küstenbergkette bilden. Das Gebiet wird aber immer flacher, wenn man gen Süden fährt. Die grössere Städte befinden sich im Norden. Alles in allem leben hier weniger als 800000 Menschen. Landwirtschaft und Viehzucht sind immer noch die Hauptzweige der Wirtschaft hir. Es gibt reiche Eigentümer mit grossen Haciendas und Pächter, aber auch viele Kleinbauer, die meistens arm sind. Das Kataster ist immer noch jetzt, wie überall in Venezuela, ein Witz.

Früher wandernten die Uramerikaner durch diese Region, um vom Amazonasgebiet zur Küste zu gelangen. Als die Europäer mit ihrer Eroberung anfingen, benutzten Kariben und andere Ethnien die Flüsse, um mobiel zu bleiben und ab und zu Streitzüge gegen die ersten europäischen Siedlungen durchzuführen. Ihr Wiederstand brach langsam aber sicher. Am Ende blieben sie in der Elend, wurden zu Pächtern oder wanderten ab.

Alexander von Humboldt reist Anfang 1800 durch diese Region auf seine Reise, um die Verbindung zwischen dem Orinoko und dem Amazonafluß zu untersuchen. Er hat uns eine faszinierende Beshreibung dieser Region hinterlassen. Er erzählt von San Juan de los Morros, von den vielen Flüssen, von den schönen Pferden und vom überwältigenen Horizont.

Man liest: "Der eigenthümlichste Zug der Savanen oder Steppen Südamerikas ist die völlige Abwesenheit aller Erhöhungen, die vollkommen wagerechte Lage des ganzen Bodens. Die spanischen Eroberer, die zuerst von Coro her an die Ufer des Apure vordrangen, haben sie daher auch weder Wüsten, noch Savanen, noch Prairien genannt, sondern Ebenen, los Llanos".

Zu Humboldts Zeiten wohnen hier einige sehr große Landbesitzer, Sklaven und vor allem sehr arme Pächter, sowie viele geflüchteten Sklaven oder marodierenden Räuber.

Der Deutscher findet, dass diese Region nicht sicher ist. Damals ist das eher die Ausnahme: "Die Llanos waren damals durch Raubgesindel unsicher, weßhalb sich mehrere Reisende an uns anschlossen, so daß wir eine Art Caravane bildeten."

Humboldt erzählt über seine Begegnung in dem damaligen Dorf Calabozo mit einem venezolanischen Genies, der bald in Vergessenheit geraten wird:

"Wir fanden in Calabozo, mitten in den Llanos, eine Elektrisirmaschine mit großen Scheiben, Elektrophoren, Batterien, Elektrometern, kurz einen Apparat, fast so vollständig, als unsere Physiker in Europa sie besitzen. Und all dies war nicht in den Vereinigten Staaten gekauft, es war das Werk eines Mannes, der nie ein Instrument gesehen, der Niemanden zu Rathe ziehen konnte, der die elektrischen Erscheinungen nur aus der Schrift des Sigaud de la Fond und aus Franklins Denkwürdigkeiten kannte. Carlos del Pozo – so heißt der achtungswürdige, sinnreiche Mann – hatte zuerst aus großen Glasgefäßen, an denen er die Hälse abschnitt, Cylindermaschinen gebaut. Erst seit einigen Jahren hatte er sich aus Philadelphia zwei Glasplatten verschafft, um eine Scheibenmaschine bauen und somit bedeutendere elektrische Wirkungen hervorbringen zu können. Man kann sich vorstellen, mit welchen Schwierigkeiten Pozo zu kämpfen hatte, seit die ersten Schriften über Elektricität ihm in die Hände gefallen waren, und er den kühnen Entschluß faßte, Alles, was er in den Büchern beschrieben fand, mit Kopf und Hand nachzumachen und herzustellen. Bisher hatte er sich bei seinen Experimenten nur am Erstaunen und der Bewunderung von ganz rohen Menschen ergötzt, die nie über die Wüste der Llanos hinausgekommen waren. Unser Aufenthalt in Calabozo verschaffte ihm einen ganz neuen Genuß. Er mußte natürlich Werth auf das Urtheil zweier Reisenden legen, die seine Apparate mit den europäischen vergleichen konnten. Ich hatte verschiedene Elektrometer bei mir, mit Stroh, mit Korkkügelchen, mit Goldplättchen, auch eine kleine Leidner Flasche, die nach der Methode von Ingenhouss durch Reibung geladen wurde und mir zu physiologischen Versuchen diente. Pozo war außer sich vor Freude, als er zum erstenmal Instrumente sah, die er nicht selbst verfertigt, und die den seinigen nachgemacht schienen. Wir zeigten ihm auch die Wirkungen des Contakts heterogener Metalle auf die Nerven des Frosches. Die Namen Galvani und Volta waren in diesen weiten Einöden noch nicht gehört worden."

Im Jahr1800 gibt es immer noch Indianer in dieser Region. Humboldt beschreibt wie sie ihm und Bonpland dabei helfen, Zitteraale zu fangen.

Sie werden sich nach und nach mit anderen Gruppen vermischen, wie fast überall in Venezuela.

Er beschreibt auch oft über die Elend, die er da findet:

"Gegen 4 Uhr Abends fanden wir in der Savane ein junges indianisches Mädchen. Sie lag auf dem Rücken, war ganz nackt und schien nicht über 12–13 Jahre alt. Sie war von Ermüdung und Durst erschöpft, Augen, Nase, Mund voll Staub, der Athem röchelnd; sie konnte uns keine Antwort geben. Neben ihr lag ein umgeworfener Krug, halb voll Sand. Zum Glück hatten wir ein Maulthier bei uns, das Wasser trug. Wir brachten das Mädchen zu sich, indem wir ihr das Gesicht wuschen und ihr einige Tropfen Wein aufdrangen. Sie war Anfangs erschrocken über die vielen Leute um sie her, aber sie beruhigte sich nach und nach und sprach mit unsern Führern. Sie meinte, dem Stand der Sonne nach müsse sie mehrere Stunden betäubt dagelegen haben."


210 Jahren sind vorbeigegangen. Die Bevölkerung ist nun viel grösser, die Region lässt sich in einige Stunden und nicht Tage durchkreuzen und die Arm ist seit vielen Jahrzehnten nicht so stark wie damals. Wir werden demnächst sehen, was sich verändert hat und was immer noch so bleibt wie damals.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Jungle and snakes or political suicide?

What is rural?

In the map below you will see all cities with a population estimated to be over 100000 persons for 2007. The 2009 referendum was won by chavismo. I firmly believe there was "voting optimization" (it was not just that the votes abroad were not added), but even if there hadn't been any, chavismo won. Official results were 54.85% for chavismo and 45.14% for the opposition.

The vote cannot be seen completely as a vote on the president, no matter how he presented it. I belive there were many caudillos among the opposition who wanted the law passed so that they could also run for mayors or governors forever. Still, we can safely say that most of those who voted for SÍ are rather chavistas, and those for NO are oppos.

The blue spots show those urban centres were the NO won. The orange spots show where the Sí won by less than 3%. The red ones are those where the Sí won by 53% to 60%. Those in red are the urban centres where th Sí won by over 60% of the votes. As you can see, many areas are in densely populated regions (like the centre-north). Also: we should rethink what we understand by "monte y culebras". A place with more than 100000 persons is seen in other countries as a city.

Grass and snakes

Venezuelan urbanites, specially those of the capital and to a lesser extent those from the other 2 or 3 major cities, often talk about "monte y culebra" or "grass and snakes" to refer to all the rest of Venezuela. This urbanite way of looking at rural or small cities is present everywhere on Earth, but in Venezuela the feeling is very strong.

Many people, Venezuelans and foreigners alike, have written a lot about the urban-rural divide in Venezuelan politics: chavismo is quite strong in rural areas and the opposition is stronger in the main cities (see here for some numbers). The tendency of rural areas to be politically more conservative (and chavismo is a conservative movement, as conservativism goes beyond left or right) happens in many other countries. It is like that in the USA and Belarus, Iran and even Switzerland.

Still, this is not the whole picture. Venezuelan opposition parties have greatly failed to gain ground even in urban centres with more than 100 thousand people, even those very close to the main cities as the capital and Valencia. How come? There are many reasons. Some are not the opposition's fault:

1) Venezuelans read very little and newspapers that go beyond baseball or nudes or crime or car-cow collisions are read mostly in the most urban areas, more so than in New Jersey or Murmansk

2) access to TV stations critical of the regime is possible only in the capital, Valencia or in houses with cable or a TV dish (<30%); href="">here Radio Nacional, don't tell me I did not warn you!)

3) Internet access is possible for less than 30% of the population and they are mostly in the biggest centres.

4) the national government drastically reduced the budget allocated to the elected local governments since 2008, effectively emasculating them; it can and does divert resources to those regions or institutions that are with the so-called "proceso".

5) the government uses government resources for a permanent campaign (from subsidized TV sets to free beer)

6) the quality of basic and secondary education in rural areas tends to be much worse than those in the cities (and this is a big difference to Europe) and people are less likely to look up for alternative explanations

Opposition's Culpa

Still, there are other reasons. Although the regime party, the PSUV, is completely dominated by Chávez and although what chavistas call "ideology" is riveted with all forms of contradictions - a still undefinable "Bolivarianism" trying to mix with communism, socialism with selling cheap imports from abroad, a boyant boliburguesia and so much more-, chavistas do try, at least pretend, to have some form of ideology. The personality cult is the definite glue, naturally.

We should not learn much from the personality cult. This only works if the personality is someone in control of the petrodollars as we have in Venezuela or if you have someone like Gandhi (who still had a comprehensive ideology and plan). We should forget about just finding one big "leader", even if we must promote a charismatic, honest and well-educated group of leaders.

The biggest problems we have are about values, ideology, projects and working methods. I know: that is a lot.


Old parties such as AD did have some - perhaps wobbly - values, but they got diluted: corruption and absolute lack of transparency to define leaders diverted all energies and focus. The leaders just followed the usual Caudillo tradition of XIX century Venezuela. That is how we have right now something unique in Latin America: a dozen or more "social democratic parties", a dozen "conservative to centre-right" parties and several dozens of other parties that claim to have ideologies ranging from standard ecologist to the most contradictory and largely un-historical "Bolivarian" ideas. The current regime may be more corrupt than the very corrupt AD, but it still has much more petrodollars than any other government in decades. This washes away all contradictions and blinds away a lot of the corruption. We need to be more catholic than the Pope or halal than the mufti or kosher than the rabbi. This is right and this is also the only way.

Ideologies and projects

If we forced all the 12 or so parties that claim to be "social democrats" to go to a TV show and demanded from them to explain in front of the cameras why they are different parties I am sure they would be in real trouble. The same goes for those parties that consider themselves more liberal or conservative. They are mostly parties for some amigos and none has a national reach. People talk a lot about unity in Venezuela, but the meaning is kept as fuzzy as possible and it refers mostly to agreeing on a single candidate for an election.

Obviously, if you have 30 parties, you end up with nothing more than machines to promote at best a local caudillo, his family and friends. This is how we got Proyecto Venezuela for Carabobo and how Yaracuy does not have COPEI but Convergencia (a party almost only active there and which was created by late Caldera when he was not chosen as candidate for Copei). In Europe I only know of the German CDU/CSU divide and some parties for ethnic minorities like in Germany the Danish party.

As Juan (formerly Katy) wrote, with such a disarray and with such lack of perspective and interest for other regions, we fail to gain the resources to shoot for Parapara. We need to merge parties and to do that we need some of them to present real, clear ideologies and concrete projects and challenge the rest. They also need to put forward a national project and concrete implementation proposals for all regions.


One of the things the opposition has failed to see is the way many extreme lefties have been proselytizing for many decades now. Although those lefties were not well organized, they had their networks and a rich "mythology" to draw upon. They also had and heve methods that are actually very similar to those used by fundamentalists of many religions.

In many cases, chavismo knew how to take over the previous networks of the old parties in the rural areas. Many of the chavistas from rural areas are former adecos (Aristóbulo Isturiz is one) or copeyanos (the president's parents and many other people in that region or others I know of). It was not difficult to take over: after decades of tear and wear through corruption and the dilution of any set of principles, people were ready for a change. The petrodollars that chavismo got and the neglect in which those rural areas were did the rest. Their conservatism, th government's sole control of the free petrodollars and the opposition's continuous focus on 3 or 4 regions keep those regions so red now.

I will later talk about how the lefties were doing their brainwashing before they got to power, how they do that now and I will give some suggestions about what we need to do.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Sweet creeper

The Green Honeycreeper is a bird that can be found from Mexico up to Bolivia, including Venezuela.

The female

The male

If you know of someone trading birds or keeping birds in a cage, tell her: that's not good. Some people still don't understand.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Towards unchartered waters

Smashing conditions?

On 26 January Ramón Carrizález, minister of Defense and Vice-President and his wife Yuviri Ortega, minister of environment decided to present their resignation "on personal grounds". They said it was not true that their resignation had anything to do about disagreements in the government.

Stepped down for "personal reasons"

Stepped down for "personal reasons"

At the very same moment, Vásquez Orellana, a close friend of Carrizález, also stepped down from his position as president of the state Banco de Venezuela. He claimed to do it "for health reasons".

Stepped down for "personal reasons"

On 10 February, minister of Health Rotondaro also presented his resignation for "strictly personal reasons". He is best-known not for any work on medical research or health service for the poor, but rather for being the military who broke the sound barrier while flying on an F-16 over the capital during Chávez's bloody coup in February 1992. I remember the sound.

Stepped down for "personal (health) reasons"

Of course we know all this chair shifting does not have to do with "just personal reasons", unless we do see everything as personal in Venezuela, which may be the case as reader Gweh says.

But "HE" is stepping in

These people are jumping from the ship without even telling the truth as others did before. Why are they doing so? They have a lot to lose still if they say something. The longer you stay, the less scrupulous you are likely to be and the more you have to lose, so the latest people getting out tend to do so silently. Baduel did not do so and now he is in jail.

Quico wrote about The Economist's article on Venezuela's rising "cubanization". Although I have always resisted to say Venezuela was becoming like Cuba while the oil boom was going on and I saw just a raise of authoritarian wild capitalism, it is true we are heading in a certain way towards that direction. It will never be the same, but that does not mean it could be better. The arrival of Valdés, the minister of Interior of Cuba, is just the latest. The cubanization is not about the many thousands of "doctors" (in reality most are some sort of "health technician"). It is above all the many thousands of security/intelligence personel coming from the Prison Island. You notice them in the accent, they are everywhere.

Here I present a mind map I had in my Spanish blog.

The data is in Spanish, but even if you don't speak my language, you will understand. It is about the ministers of Interior and Justice Venezuela has had since 1999. We have one every 1 1/2 years. Some, specially at the start, distanced themselves completely from the government. Others got some nice post at an embassy or similar. Some others have become ministers of other things. Jessie is trying to keep low profile after the government had to sacrifice his revolutionary and billionaire brother (like Juan Barreto and Bernal for lesser but still very meaningful affairs).

As I earlier wrote (sorry, in German, but the links are in Spanish), a recent poll showed just how messed up Venezuelans' perspectives are: only 22% of Venezuelans support communism and yet about twice as many (or more depending on VTV's or El Nacional interpretation of the same poll) support Hugo Chávez. Now, the president is a declared communist and he has been quite vocal about where he wants to take Venezuela.

We have to understand this in the light of this: Hugo Chávez is a communist (sometimes using the term Marxist, sometimes specializing as Maoist or Gramscist or anything else) but also an admirer of former right-winged dictator Pérez Jiménez and current Iran honcho Akhmadinejad.

How can that be? He once said mankind was 20 to 25 centuries old and another time that all Indians were socialists and there was not such a thing as kings among them. Many Venezuelans, whether supporting or rejecting the regime, whether poor, middle-class or upper class, have a similar or different but equally distorted perspective about history and society. So, the president celebrates the fall of the Pérez Jiménez dictatorship at one moment and praises that same regime on the next.

The ship is not likely to sink fast. Venezuela is not a rich country as its people are generally unskilled and not used to the sacrifices other nations such as South Korea or even Chile, have performed. Still, it is chock-a-block with oil, gas and many other natural products and the president has been building up his military and paramilitary troops for many years now. Those 100000 Kalashnikovs are not for parades.

Recently, the government started to get again, as last year, billions of dollars in what they claim to be 'good investments', but are rather sold-outs for oil fields to those foreign powers they claimed to be liberating us from.

Oil field Carabobo I goes to Spanish Repsol (so, don't expect "socialist" Montesinos et alia to be very vocal about human rights in Venezuela), Malaysian Petronas and Indian ONGC (we are talking about other countries that are overtaking Venezuela)

Oil field Carabobo 3 goes to US Chevron, with 34% of shares, to Japanese Impex and Mitsubishi, with 5% and the Venezuelan Suelopetrol, with 1% (we have to found out who owns that one).

The government gets quite some handy dosh for the election next September. As El Nacional informs us, the bidding brought 34% less money than expected.

The Venezuelan regime is betting on more opponents to leave the country, in the same way as Lukashenko and Fidel have done in their countries. The Venezuelan regime will also use more expropiations and money from the resource sold-outs to keep part of the population content and eager to support it.

Whether the game can be played for two or more years is something we, Venezuelans, need to decide about.

It would be interesting to know how the mood is playing in the barrios right now when it comes to Cuban influence. Most Cubans people in the slums deal with are the few "health technicians" still ther. The security and intelligence people from Cuba are not so easily detected. They tend to blend in very soon in Venezuela as their accent is very similar and their appearance perfectly fits in. They are also usually not in the slums. They are more noticeable when they arrive (at the airports) or when they are just commandeering in higher echelons.

If you happen to have some experience with "new Cubans" in Venezuela, let us know.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

European Parliament condemns the Venezuelan regime

As Spanish newspaper El País informs us today, the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, approved again a resolution with regards to Venezuela's government. As usual, there were discussions between most parties and Hugo's apologists.

Hugo's apologists will say again something like "there was a coup at the European Parliament", "there was no quorum", "they put something in the drink, so less people followed us". Never mind there is always an agenda and people know when those discussions are taking place.

Below you can see the draft as taken from here (11). The final resolution is likely to be different, as usual, but I think it will not change much.

European Parliament resolution of 11 February 2010 on Venezuela

The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on the situation in Venezuela and, in particular, those of 7 May 2009, 23 October 2008 and 24 May 2007,

– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas the concept of freedom and independence of the media constitutes an essential component of the fundamental right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,

B. whereas media freedom is of primary importance for democracy and respect for fundamental freedoms, given its essential role in guaranteeing the free expression of opinions and ideas, with due respect for the rights of minorities, including political oppositions, and in contributing to people's effective participation in democratic processes, enabling the holding of free and fair elections,

C. whereas the right of the public to receive information from pluralistic sources is fundamental to any democratic society and to citizens' participation in the political and social life of a country,

D. whereas the obligation imposed by the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television on all media to broadcast in full all speeches made by the Head of State does not comply with such principles of pluralism,

E. whereas Articles 57 and 58 of Venezuela's Constitution guarantee freedom of expression, communication and information,

F. whereas the media must abide by the provisions of the law; whereas closing a media outlet should be the last resort and a measure that should only be implemented after all the guarantees of due process have been given, including the right to present a defence and appeal in independent courts of justice,

G. whereas in May 2007 Radio Caracas Televisión’s open signal was suspended by President Hugo Chávez and the channel was obliged to become international in order to be able to transmit a signal through cable television,

H. whereas the first protests by the student movement began as a result of the channel being taken off the air,

I. whereas on 1 August 2009 the government of Hugo Chávez ordered the closure of 34 radio stations through a refusal to renew their licences,

J. whereas in January 2010 President Chávez ordered RCTV International (RCTVI) and five other cable and satellite TV channels (TV Chile, Ritmo Son, Momentum, America TV and American Network) off the air after they failed to broadcast the official presidential speech on the occasion of the 52nd anniversary of the overthrow of Perez Jimenez; whereas two of them – America TV and RCTVI – are still banned,

K. whereas this new shut-down triggered a further wave of student protests, which were harshly suppressed by the police in many of the country’s states and cities, and these events resulted in the deaths of two young students in the city of Mérida and dozens of injuries,

L. whereas these measures are designed to obtain control over and gag the media, if not to curtail the democratic rights to freedom of expression and information,

M. whereas the OAS, through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has warned that this new move to take channels off the air has enormous repercussions in terms of the right to freedom of expression,

N. whereas President Chávez recently stated that the use of social networking sites such as Twitter, of the Internet and of text messaging via mobile phones to criticise or oppose his regime 'is terrorism',

O. whereas the reform of the law on science and technology currently being debated by the National Assembly of Venezuela aims to regulate 'information networks' in a manner that could lead to internet censorship,

P. whereas Venezuela has signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights,

Q. whereas Venezuela is the country with the largest energy reserves in Latin America and whereas measures such as arbitrary confiscation and expropriation, some of which affect EU interests, undermine the basic social and economic rights of citizens,

R. whereas some leaders close to President Chávez, such as Ramón Carrizález, Vice-President and Minister of Defence, Mrs Yubiri Ortega, Minister of the Environment, and Mr Eugenio Vázquez Orellana, Chairman of the Central Bank, have recently submitted their resignations,

S. whereas, according to Transparency International's 2009 report, Venezuela is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,

T. whereas the latent climate of insecurity and the levels of crime and violence, which have turned Venezuela and its capital Caracas, into one of the most dangerous places in the world, are causing concern among the people of Venezuela,

U. whereas the many insults, threats and attacks directed against national and international leaders by President Chávez have given rise to unease and a huge number of unnecessary tensions, which in some cases have even led to an order for the mobilisation of troops with a view to a possible war with Colombia,

1. Is appalled at the death of the two young students, Yonisio Carrillo and Marcos Rosales, during the protests in Mérida, and calls on the authorities to carry out an investigation into the reasons why these young men were killed and calls for those guilty to be dealt with by the justice system;

2. Regrets the government's decision no longer to allow these channels to broadcast in Venezuela and calls for their reinstatement;

3. Calls on the Venezuelan authorities to review this decision and the obligation to broadcast fully all speeches made by the Head of State;

4. Reminds the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela of its obligation to respect freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of the press, as it is bound to do under its own Constitution and under the different international and regional conventions and charters to which Venezuela is a signatory;

5. Calls on the Government of Venezuela, in the name of the principle of the impartiality of the State, to ensure equal treatment under the law for all media, including the Internet, whether privately or publicly owned and irrespective of all political or ideological considerations;

6. Believes that the Venezuelan media should guarantee pluralistic coverage of Venezuelan political and social life;

7. Believes that the 'National Telecommunications Commission' should show itself to be independent of the political and economic authorities and ensure equitable pluralism;

8. Calls on the Venezuelan Government to be committed to the values of the rule of law and to promote, protect and respect the right to freedom of expression, including on the Internet, and freedom of assembly;

9. Points out that, under the Organisation of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter, in a democracy, in addition to clear and necessary legitimacy of origin, grounded in and obtained at the polls, legitimacy of exercise must also be complied with, and this must be founded on respect for pluralism, the established rules, the constitution in force, the laws and the rule of law as a guarantee of a fully functioning democracy, and this must of necessity include respect for peaceful and democratic political opposition, especially where that opposition has been elected in the polls and enjoys a popular mandate;

10. Is deeply worried by the drift towards authoritarianism shown by the government of President Hugo Chávez, whose actions are directed towards weakening the democratic opposition and restricting the rights and freedoms of citizens;

11. Calls upon the Venezuelan Government, with a view to the parliamentary elections on 26 September, to respect the rules of democracy and the principles of freedom of expression, assembly, association and election;

12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Government and National Assembly of Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly and the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Predicting a head-on collision in Venezuela


So: what will happen?

I am not a seer. Politics is not physics or mathematics. Societal "predictions" can influence outcomes. What we claim one group will do may influence what it really does in the end.

Still, I reckon it is fair to say this:

The Venezuelan government will

  • massively send military and police agents to the regions where Hugo of Sabaneta said the government will focus when fighting crime; crime may or may not go down a little bit and the government will announce it has greatly reduce it, even if the murder rate will still be several times what it was in 1998
  • distribute mixers, refrigerators, TVs, mattresses and more either for free or next to nothing (minister Samán has already said they are importing all kinds of gadgets and cars to sell at $2.6 while the private sector gets dollars at $4.3)
  • falsify results supposedly coming from areas where the opposition does not have actas (which are many, specially outside the major urban areas)
  • infiltrate groups in the opposition, specially those in charge of actas
  • insist on doing paper trail counting - when things come to that - only in those centres the cne has prepared
  • invite several deputies from far-left European parties to try to legitimize themselves with "international observers"
  • send armed groups in bikes to intimidate oppo voters and witnesses during voting day in September
  • announce the political inabilitation of oppo politicians who could win many votes
  • increase the amount of hours of forced transmission of Hugo's speeches in all radios and TV channels
  • announce some juicy deals for Spanish or Brazilian companies but economically bad for Venezuela in order to buy off favours from Spanish or Brazilian politicians
  • threaten companies and well-known individuals who are still not with them with confiscation unless those companies and individuals stop supporting the opposition
After results are known, they may decide to
  • prepare a law to emasculate the National Assembly
  • aprove a law to give Hugo of Sabaneta full powers for several years (see also Quico's post here)
  • transform the so-called councils (in Russian "soviet") in mere groups under complete control of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela
  • make elections go indirectly through the councils and transform them into intimidation mechanisms against the opposition
  • take away more resources from the states and municipalities

And some of the errors the opposition may make:

  • opposition governor Salas Feo could again refuse to cooperate with the rest of the opposition in Carabobo unless they accept his father and other members of his family party to lead the list of oppo candidates
  • opposition governor Salas Feo and Andrés Velázquez may again fail to organize enough field workers and set up a good network of observers in the most critical areas like Municipio Libertador or Miguel Pena
  • opposition leaders may remain in the main urban centres and fail to go to the secondary ones; they may again use a lot of money to campaign through Globovision and newspapers instead of using flyers and hard ground work in secondary urban centres and slums
  • Primero de Justicia will fail to join forces with the others in Monagas, specially in Maturín
  • A lot of oppos may want to become witnesses, but only in "their areas"
  • The opposition in general may keep thinking Tweeter, Facebook and Globovision are good methods to campaign in Venezuela
  • Oppos may get infiltrated
Of course, nothing of this is inevitable.

Quico made a remarkable job in presenting possible scenarios in this post.

After this and in view of the fact the economic situation keeps deteriorating and oil prices don't rise (fast enough), Hugo will try to gain more control via the Soviety (or councils in English).

The vast majority of Venezuelans do not want communism, but some sort of that is precisely what Hugo is finally trying to set up in Venezuela. Of course, communists will say that what Hugo is trying to impose is not communism, but then it seems as if implementing communism is like trying to measure position and momentum exactly at the same time: according to the uncertainty principle, that is not possible. I do agree so far we haven't had even socialism, it is all about control by one political force around a man supported by extreme left-wingers and wild boliburgueses and mongrels thereof.

Hugo will give more power to those thugs acting as his Sturmtruppen in the same measure as the economy deteriorates further.

Hugo will also try to accelerate the mass emigration of those who opposed him. Never mind that most highly qualified professionals opposed Hugo. As one former chavista told me (she describes herself now only as "nib"): "que se vayan" (may they leave). Hugo is also constantly saying the opposition will lead Venezuela to a civil war if it wins the majority (as he has always claimed about his adversaries). We need to remain cold-blooded and avoid the violence Hugo will try to provoke.

Government "journalists" kicking other journalists who were distributing flyers about the freedom of expression. These "journalists" are free: