Friday, 30 April 2010

Mörder als Vaterlandsheld?

Herr Richard Peñalver ist ein Vertreter der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Venezuelas oder PSUV im Caracas-Stadrat. Nun will der Chávez-Anhänger Abgeordneter der Asamblea Nacional werden. Seine einzige bekannte "Leistung" ist, am 11.4.2002 auf unbewaffnete Demonstranten geschossen zu haben.

Bei dieser Strafaktion haben die sogenannten "Vaterlandshelden" der Llaguno-Brücke in Caracas auf die Menge gefeuert. Mehrere Bürger wurden dabei umgebracht. Damals hatten Hundertausende Venezolaner gegen die Regierung Chávez demonstriert. Die Chávez-Anhänger u.a. an der Llaguno-Brücke haben Gewalt benutzt, um zu verhindern, dass die Masse den Präsidentenpalais erreichen sollte. Am Ende hat eine Gruppierung von Rechts das Chaos benutzt, um gegen den ehemaligen Putschist von 1992 und seit 1999 amtierenden Präsidenten Chávez selbst zu putschen. Nach zwei Tagen war Chávez aber wieder an der Macht.

Die Chávez-Regierung hat seit 2002 abgelehnt, eine unabhängige Kommission zur Aufklärung der Ereignisse zu ernennen. Seitdem werden die Mörder der Llaguno-Brücke als Helden der Regierung geehrt.

Und nun will Peñalver sich als Vaterlandsheld verkaufen. Man liest: "Vaterlandsheld - Llaguno-Brücke". Ideen für Venezuelas nachhaltige Entwicklung? Die hat er nicht. Waffen kann er aber ganz gern einsetzen.

Um die Ereignisse von 2002 besser zu verstehen, kann man Brian Nelsons Buch The Silence and the Scorpion benutzen. Man kann auch eine vorwiegend Chávez-freundliche Version in der englischen Wikipedia lesen.

Ps. Danke an Gustavo und Daniel.

A Panzer under threat

The giant armadillo or Priodontes Maximus is one of the weirdest mammals we have in Venezuela. An average armadillo weighs around 62lbs or 28 kilograms.

It is currently under threat from a larger mammal known as Homo not so sapiens: The armadillo is vanishing very fast from Northern Venezuela due to the rapid population growth and habitat destruction.

A well-known saying in Venezuelan Spanish is "cachicamo diciéndole a morrocoy conchu'o". Literally this means "armadillo calling the (Venezuelan) turtle scaly guy" or "pot calling the kettle black".

Mindmapping Chavismo

Venezuela's density and dense politics

Here you see Venezuela's map showing population density and parliamentary seats for the September 2010 elections. As there is no longer proportional representation -in absolute violation of the constitution- and as the Chavista National Electoral Council has done quite some heavy and shameless gerrymandering, the opposition will have real trouble in getting more than 40% of the seats even if it gets more than 50% of the votes. Quico has written quite a lot about this.

The opposition leaders in Caracas have almost no idea about how to get out of the Caracas-Maracaibo-Valencia hubs. They are lost once they get out of there. Why? They are almost all from Caracas, Maraibo and Valencia and people from there barely pays attention to the rest of Venezuela (I know, I am from one of those cities and most of my friends too). Very few people from outside those areas have some real education and those who do have not been promoted within the oppo parties. The few known faces coming from those "non urban" areas (actually, there are plenty of cities there) who are not old politicians from the IV Republic are mostly Chavistas (hardly any of them with anything but military "education" and most of them actually former IV Republic politicos) or now from the dissident PPT party.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Chávez's little toy

As Tal Cual tell us, the Peruvian government gave Simón Bolívar a sword as present after he led the troops that defeated the Spanish forces in that region. The sword has over 1400 precious stones among emeralds, diamonds, rubies and the like and its blade is made of pure gold. It is rather heavy: about 2 kilograms.

Many autocrats from Venezuela to Bolivia have used the image of Bolívar as a sort of national God they pretend to be followers of. Chávez has taken this to new extremes, even single-handedly renaming Venezuela "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" and claiming to represent some Marxist Bolivarianism, apparently ignoring Marx actually despised Bolívar and that Bolívar was a rather conservative man in many respects.

Tal Cual reminds us that the sword had been kept in the Central Bank as an exhibit in a special room until Chávez decided to take it away "because it was hidden from the public", even if visitors to the bank could see it. Now people can only see the sword when Chávez uses the fragile historical object on his shows, as when he took oath to his paramilitary "Milicias Bolivarianas" some weeks ago.

Chávez often gives replicas of Bolívar's sword to such friends as Mugabe, Gaddafi, Lukashenko and Akhmadinejad. The pictures you see in this post are all with the real object, not the replicas. Hence the gloves that are supposed to protect it.

Historical background

Simón Bolívar is without doubt the most idolized figure in the Americas. For South Americans he is like Washington times 10. He was a fascinating man who fought for good principles like the abolition of slavery, rights of all ethnic groups and the independence. In reality he was far from being unique and in spite of all his shows, he was sick for power. Venezuela and the rest of South American nations would have got independence with or without him, sooner or later. If you want to read an interesting view about him, you can start with Karl Marx's biography of Bolívar (yes, Marx's) and then proceed to a book like Lynch's. Caballero's Por qué no soy un bolivariano is also worth reading.

The capital of France is Paris. Thus: you are a traitor

Chávez at the end of his bloody coup of 1992, 3 years after the "cause" of his coup

Do you know how Chavista logic works? And Chávez is still in power?

70% of Venezuelans can only watch Chávez TV. Probably less than 0.5% of them read newspapers that are critical of Chávez. Most of them have less than 9 years of formal schooling and that in schools that are understaffed with teachers that are very badly paid and poorly qualified themselves. Textbooks in Venezuela are much more expensive than in Europe or the USA and the schools do not provide them, parents have to buy them from their own pocket. Obviously, most can't afford all the books, Venezuelans' salaries are very low.

In that context and if you speak Spanish, you can watch this video of state VTV. There, opposition representative Julio Borges is interviewed. Of course, the state TV only shows what they want to show. People opposing Chávez cannot speak freely on VTV. In this video the Chavez journalist asked Borges if he took part in the 1992 coup. He said he didn't and he said they should prove it. Then they showed several times him with other opposition leaders on a video from 2002 asking for Chávez to step down. I suppose half the European politicians would be considered as coup mongers by Chávez by this logic. Paradoxically, the lieutenant from Sabaneta was a violent coup monger in 1992 and was responsible for the murder of many people and used as excuse the Caracazo of 1989 (three years earlier).

There is no way we can improve things unless we start to force real live debates between Chávez, his high ministers and opposition leaders. Chavismo will do anything it can to prevent it.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

El Tiempo, the Santos Clan, Mockus and Chávez

Santos, from the Santos family

Colombian newspaper El Tiempo is reporting that Mockus admires Chávez and that Chávez would not like Santos in power. One of the main shareholders of that newspaper is the Santos family.

What did Mockus really say? Who could actually win from such a statement? Could Chávez have a preference for either candidate (hope of having a pawn or hope of having a demonization target)? Does it matter what Chávez may think is better for himself?

Demilitarizing Venezuela

Last January Hugo Chávez announced a minimum salary increase for workers of 26.5%, spread in two parts through the year. Expected inflation is around 29-30%. Salary increases for the military are usually announced later in the year, but this time the 1992 coup monger announced that increase sooner. On 23rd April Antonio Rivero, a general who had fallen out of favour with the regime, felt free to talk about the Cubanization of the Venezuelan army (only after he went into retirement). On 25rd April, Chávez decided to announce a 40% increase in the salary of the military, retroactively from 1rst of April. The military guys have had a salary increase of about 30% every year, which is just a bit over inflation and better than for most people. More on salary increases through the years here.

On 19 April Venezuelans celebrate the "Indepence from Spain". On that day in 1810, a civic junta forced the governor of Venezuela, Vicente Emparan, to step down. Emparan had been a governor of the Cumana Province between 1794 and 1802 and was succesful at it. He later returned to Spain. When the Napoleon regime took over in Spain, the new French-controlled government sent Emparan back to Venezuela to be the new governor of the Capitanía general. The junta in Venezuela, led by the rich of society, stood in support of Ferdinand II and forced Emparan to quit. It was only progressively that pro-independence groups took the command. That is why Venezuela's Declaration of Independence just happened on 15 July 1811, over one year after the "Independence day".

And now Chávez is stating that 19 April 1810 was a civil-military movement that was later taken over by the "oligarchy", which is just absolutely rubbish. The oligarchy was in from day 1. Chávez can talk so freely because most Venezuelans haven't got the slightest clue about their history. That goes for all social groups. And of course, Chávez does not count as oligarchy people like Diosdado Cabello and people like the Chacón family (Arne now in jail and Jesse, former minister, going into low profile).

Chávez is also talking constantly about Colombian candidate Santos. I am firmly convinced Chávez is hoping for Santos, another military, to become president of Colombia at this stage. Although I doubt Mockus will win, I also think he would be the best for Colombia and Venezuela, by far. Chávez would hate to see Mockus in power, whatever he says now.

As Miguel wrote, we can live without the military, or at least by putting the military on their place and having a system as in Costa Rica or Iceland. Venezuela is a country that has been taken hostage by the military since the very beginning.

We need to deconstruct the military "heroes" of Venezuela without falling into iconoclasm for its own sake. We need to bring about discussions about real issues for Venezuela. It won't be easy.

The EU, China, Russia, the EU have earned so many billions in weapons sales to Venezuela. The Venezuelan military and many Venezuelan politicos have profited a lot from this. Every single ruling group in Venezuela has proclaimed itself "the real heir" of Bolívar's tradition.

People like Colombian Mockus are not talking about Bolívar (also a hero in Colombia) or Santander. They are talking about the work Colombians have to carry out to bring progress to the country. We need to bring about that kind of discussion to Venezuela as well.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Straßenwahnsinn in Venezuela

Einfach ZDF-Sendung sehen!

ZDF Anarchie auf dem Asphalt

Dazu eine kleine Geschichte: ein Arzt, Freund meiner Familie, hatte es einmal sehr eilig und sein Auto hatte eine Panne. Er suchte vergeblich einen Taxi. Er sah einen Taximotorradfahrer, winkte zu. Als sie mitten im Verkehrstau waren, sah der Motorradfahrer eine junge Frau auf dem Bürgersteig, die eine Handy hatte. Der Mann riss ihr das Mobiltelefon von ihren Händen ab und gab voll Gas. "Was machen Sie, was machen Sie?!" schrie unser Freund, während der Taximotorradfahrer schneller zwischen den Autos fuhr. "Keine Angst, Kumpel, es war zu einfach, da musste ich zugreifen". "Bitte, halten Sie hier an!". Er zahlte und stieg sofort ab, er zitterte vor Angst.

Vor Chávez gab es zwar schon illegale Taxifahrer, aber bei weitem nicht so viele Taximotorradfahrer.

Was kann man sagen? Es geht um
  • Mangel an richtigen Jobs
  • keine richtige Ausbildung (öffentliche Schulen sind sehr aber sehr schlecht)
  • eine besonders korrupte Polizei
  • keine Ahnung von Verkehrsregeln (den Führerschein kriegt man beinahe automatisch, die Prüfer lesen meistens die Antworten vor, so dass es schneller geht, beim praktischen Test muss man bloss zahlen)
  • keine effiziente Verkehspolitik (oder einfach keine Verkehrspolitik der Chávez-Regierung)
  • verrückte Benzinpreise
Die Motorizados sind fast alle Chávez-Anhänger. Im Video kann man am Kfz-Kennzeichen "Apure" erkennen: das Fahrrad wurde in einem der ärmsten Bundesstaaten registriert. Die Verkehrspolizisten, die man im Video sieht, arbeiten für die Gemeinde Chacao, die von der Opposition regiert wird.

Was kann man diesen Motorizados anbieten, was nachhaltig wäre?

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Rape of Venezuela's Paradise

Last Friday the current vicepresident, Elías Jaua, declared an "emergency plan to rescue the Caura Basin", as if his government had just come to power.

Venezuela's Guayana is one of the most gorgeous regions I had ever seen on Earth. It has an extraordinary biodiversity, breathtaking landscapes and is home to several of Venezuela's last First Nations. Those First Nations have several languages, from Pemon and Yekwana to Yanomamö. Yek'wana and Pemon are probably as close to each other as Spanish is to French, whereas Pemon is as close to Yanomamö as English is to Hebrew or Arabic. We are talking about very unique cultures, unique and under threat.

Several important rivers have their origin there. Most of Venezuela's electrical power comes from the dams built in them. The region is rich in gold as well.

Southern Guayana has had a problem with illegal mining for many years. When I first was there, in 1990, there were very few outsiders in the region. In 1997, Santa Elena de Guairén, the main city in Southern Bolívar, had already grown and there was a good road towards Brazilian Boa Vista. Still, changes would come later on.

Back in 1997 I talked to several illegal miners who were taking the same route through the jungle, towards Icabarú. There were a couple of military posts on the road and nothing more but jungle. The military, who were supposed to do something about illegal mining, would just greet them by name and let them pass. Very few tourists passed through that road, so the soldiers knew who was who. I remember how I asked the miners about the mercury. "Don't you think that is bad for the rivers, for the animals?" "Nay, nothing happens. Mercury is only bad for us, the miners".

The situation has dramatically worsened since then. From 2006 onwards it has become absolutely critical. I have written several times about it (for instance, here and here). El Universal published an interesting article about the problem a couple of days ago. I was actually writing this post when the vicepresident finally spoke.

The only people who can be found in those areas are native Americans, military posts and illegal miners. There are very few tourists. There is no way mining machinery can get to the illegal mines unless they pass in front of the military posts. And that is what is happening day in and day out.

Caura Region

The Caura has its origin in Southwestern Bolívar and flows northwards into the Orinoco.
El Universal article quotes José Royo, from the Indigenous Parliament, who says that before 2006 there were some 600 illegal miners in the Caura region and now there are more than 3000 miners from Brazil, Colombia and Guyana. Other sources talk about more than 4000. Mind: that number refers to the Caura region only.

The region around Jaua Sarisariñam, one of the most impressive tepuyes, is supposed to be a restricted area for anyone but native Americans and scientists. In reality it is one of the most affected.

Sarisariñama with its huge caves containing unique flora and fauna is one of the worst hit by miners just in the Caura region

The massive erosion has lead to an increase in the cases of malaria among the Yekuana and Sanemas. The Indians also suffer heavily from mercury pollution. Dissident deputy Pastora Medina says mercury has led to a dramatic increase in the cases of cleft lips and other deformities among Indian children. The fish in the rivers are full of mercury and the waters go all the way to the Orinoco and affect thus many more people.

The native American association Kuyujani went to the National Assembly to talk about this. NGO Provea has also protested in front of the Ministry of Environment on several occassions. The Universidad Nacional Experimental of Guyana has organized a workshop to discuss the illegal mining in the Upper Caura.

Oswaldo Ponce, precandidate of the PUSV with native American background and even Vicente Rangel, a Chavista vicepresident -after so much talk from NGOs -, have finally taken over the topic.

White spots in some of the key areas of illegal mining

Gran Sabana

The problems affect all the way from the Caura basin across the Caroní River eastwards up the the border with Guyana, in the Gran Sabana, on the Southeast of Bolívar state.

The Caroni River has its origin in South-Southeast Bolívar State and it flows into the big Guri dam and from there into the Orinoco. It is also heavily polluted now. Illegal miners get to Icabarú through the Santa Elena de Guairén route or with small airplanes.

The Pemón Indians, who inhabit that territory suffer from the same things as their cousins to the West: mercury poisoning, the destruction of their forests, the influx of illegal miners.

They are also increasingly under pressure from squatters and others from Santa Elena to the South and from the different mining spots on the West and North (El Dorado).

And Amazonas state...

The whole problem with illegal mining is not only present in Bolívar State, but in the other state Venezuela has south of the Orinoco: the Amazonas state. That region is as big as North Dakota and larger than Greece but fewer than 200000 people live there. Many are still native Americans (Yekuanas, but also Yanomamö, Piaroas, Banivas, Piapocos and others with very distinct languages). In a previous post I wrote how the government expelled hundreds of illegal Colombian miners who were in the Western part of the Amazonas state only when Chávez became angry with Colombian president Uribe. Until that moment they had been tolerated and they had been destroying the environment. I wonder what has happened with Venezuelan and Brazilian illegal miners in that area.

Why is all of this happening?

Countries such as Brazil and Colombia have traditionally been very lenient towards environmental crimes in spite of their strict legislation. But they started to do real efforts to improve things and enforce the law. The Venezuelan government, on the other hand, has been mainly busy with pretending to have a revolution. Illegal miners have opted to cross the border on a massive scale for many years now, joining the groups of Venezuelan illegal miners. Many poor Venezuelans in the South have opted to get into mining because there are very few other options.

Gold is gold and votes are (still) votes

The military are said to receive a meaningful part of the gold as payment for allowing the ore extraction, for allowing the transportation and smuggling of food and much more. Many Indian villages have become now deposits of food, machinery, weapons and sex for miners. The town of El Dorado, just to the North of the Indian areas proper, is completely based on the mining industry.

The government does not want to lose votes. You can understand the situation when you read some of the things those minsers say in a video called El Dorado. Please, take your time and watch it yourself. Things go like this:

"I have been working here for 30 years...and you know, after you are forty years old there is no other job in the state" (miner)

"fortunately, this government has allowed us to work".

If you watch the whole video, you will notice most of those miners haven't got the slightest clue about what damage they are bringing to the environment. They say they don't harm the forest because they don't cut many trees and then they "replant". They have no idea about the whole problems with mercury pollution and they are often not aware of how much vegetation they are destroying or what impact they are having to the local communities. Any state will have to do some serious work on education among these people.

The government has known very well about the problems in Guayana, but then: there are more miners and relatives of miners and newcomers who work providing food, machinery, dwelling and prostitutes to those miners than native Americans in the broad South Guyana region by now.

What to do?

I hope with all my heart the government will finally do something about this. I doubt it but I can only hope it does. The pace of destruction is very fast now. I hope they don't just close a couple of mines for some time and forget about it all. I actually demand from the government to bring about sustainable improvements for the whole region of Southern Venezuela.

Among other things, the government must
  • stop all illegal mining
  • stop the use of mercury and other poisonous materials for mining
  • create a reliable, independently-managed mechanism to guarantee that the military men (or better still, an educated police force) enforce the law and comply with it themselves
  • stop further squatters from getting into national parks or areas destined to the First Nations
  • fulfill the promise to give ancestral lands back to all native American communities while providing a mechanism for preventing that external groups profit from them
  • improve health services to the First Nations
  • guarantee good primary and secondary education for all native Americans and support the publication of text books and other material in all the native American languages with at least 1000 speakers
  • support transparent programs to create sustainable jobs for the First Nation communities
  • support transparent programs to generate job opportunities for all those Venezuelan miners outside protected regions
  • provide good basic and secondary education including state books to all children in the Guyana region (for all Venezuelan children, for that matter, it costs less than what we are spending in weapons)
  • prevent external groups or individuals who think "they are one with the environment" or "they do know how to live in communion with it" from living in those national parks
  • introduce educational programmes in the whole Guayana area to educate people about pollution problems
When Chávez was a candidate back in 1998, he promised he would not let the huge electric line be built across the gorgeous Gran Sabana. One of the first things he did was to build that electric line. Two Pemon indians were killed by the military while opposing the action.

After more than 500 years we finally need to understand we do not need El Dorado. We need sustainable development at a social, economic and environmental level.

Interesting post in Spanish about the Caura case here

Friday, 23 April 2010

The Chinese pawn broker and Venezuela or "espero que usen vaselina"

The Venezuelan government had announced some days earlier that it was getting Chinese investments for 20 billion dollars. I wrote about that here and Miguel wrote much more extensively about the same subject here. Today we can read in Spanish an interview with Ramírez, the Red Baron of PDVSA. In today's Venezuela, the public has hardly any access to information about the big deals Chavismo closes with foreign powers. We can only hope to get some bits of information from the Venezuelan regime when it feels like doing it.

Basically, in clear text, these are some of the items we get from the article (some is very clear, some just needs a little bit of between-the-lines reading):

  • Chavismo gets "20 billion dollars" to be paid in oil and oil products
  • Venezuela will have to give 100000 oil barrels per year for that (at least this year, but I don't think it will get "better" for us)
  • Venezuela would be thus sending up to now a total of 200 thousand barrels of oil to pay loans to China (as there were already 2 credits for 8 billion "dollars")
  • Those 20 billions are not supposed to be for oil projects (for which PDVSA needs money as Miguel wrote); the regime is currently deciding "in what programmes to use the money" (which means they basically are running out of money and what to be sure they have enough for the September elections)
  • As Miguel had found out, the Chinese will be giving 50% of the amount in dollars and 50% in yuan
  • Ramírez said that they are getting those yuan because Venezuela "has the strategy of not depending too much on dollars". Ramírez also said the yuan is a freely convertible currency, which is half the truth (or a third of the truth, we will actually get the 2/3). Now I wonder what happens if the yuan gets revalued as the US is expecting. What are we going to pay? Ramírez also says "nuestra alianza es ahora con China". This goes along the line of Chávez, who said the commitment was done because his system and political views were here to stay as the Chinese ones. So basically we go now from US dependency to Chinese dependency. Great.

The PDVSA baron also talked about the nationalization of service companies. He said the government would pay "when we are ready" and that those companies, having problems with their workers, "even own us money". In clear text: the government still does not have money for them, so it will just threaten them in order to make them stop bothering.

The Venezuelan government is currently receiving several times the amount of petrodollars governments in the nineties were getting from oil exports and yet it is pushing Venezuela into more and more debts. I am sure the regime will have money aplenty for this year's elections, just like in 2004, even if the nation will have to pay for it very dearly.

And what is the opposition doing? They have no clue.

ACHTUNG! WATCH OUT! There are two polls on the right panel. It would be great if you could take a second to fill in your choices. Thanks!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

There is something very wrong with Chavismo

Updated 2

Now according to Chavismo's Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias, the National Assembly will set up a commission to study the suicide of Valero. They do not seem to investigate the hundreds of murders that take place in Venezuelan prisons year after year. Here we have another proof that for these systems some are more equal than others.

Here you can read (in Spanish) some of the many murders Chavismo does not care about.

Updated 3

Finally I see an article that makes sense in the ABN: the minister for Women Issues declared the media was giving a bad focus on this issue by forgetting Jeniffer Vieira, the victim and that the state, the media and everybody should take seriously the problem of gender violence. The minister is very right in saying that. Still, I have to say El Nacional (oppo) did publish an article precisely about that issue whereas the ABN (state) media was just glorifying the boxer.


I did not want to talk about this, it was too macabre, but it turns out to show just too clearly how many things are going wrong in Venezuela: the case of Edwin Valero.

Valero was a boxer and he was pretty good at that. Venezuelans excel particularly at such sports. A couple of days ago Valero murdered his wife, gave himself to the police and while in custody hanged himself in the cell. Valero had a long history of beating up his wife. She had been in hospital because of that. He had actually an order of restrain but he repeatedly violated it. He was addict to alcohol and cocaine and was supposed to be heavily under drugs when he committed the murder.

Valero was a fan of Hugo Chávez Frías and he had a tattoo on his chest with Venezuela's flag and Chávez face on it. He had repeatedly praised Chávez in his victories in the ring, showing a Chávez puppet to the public. They were friends. Valero lost his visa of entry to the USA because he had been caught there once drunk while driving. He said the USA did not want to give him a visa because of political reasons.

El Nacional managed to interview him shortly after he was detained. In that weird interview, Valero told quite some things. If you read Spanish, you can read it here. There he basically said he had killed his wife, that his life was now completely destroyed, that the worst was that they would take away his children from him. He said he was going to Cuba for a desintoxication treatment and as he had lost his passport, he was going to wait in La Guaira until he could get a new passport. He said he was driving from Mérida to La Guaira via Valencia and that he had been heavily drinking the whole time. It takes hours to go from Mérica to Valencia. He state he had seen a car following him, so he stopped at a military post and told the guys there (who are supposed to help in road security) someone wanted to kidnap him. They knew very well who he was. They told him to go to Valencia and sleep there. Now: how is it possible for a guy under that condition just to go and sleep his rush there?

Today Venezolana de Televisión has a story about the boxer's funeral. The Chavista media says he had died in the cells of the Carabobo police (which is under opposition's jurisdiction) and the cause of death was "mechanic asphyxia". They said he was there because of the "pressumed murder of his wife". He had been found still agonizing and the police took him to a hospital as soon as they were alerted by another prisoner, but Chavistas cast doubts on that version. I wonder if there will ever be a real investigation of the case.

Total number of murders Venezuela-Germany

Population Germany-Venezuela

Venezuela has by far the highest murder rate in South America. It is much higher than in war-torn Colombia. Chávez has repeatedly denied Venezuela's violence is a worse issue than elsewhere. He says things like "in Italy a politician was killed recently" and "Venezuela's crime numbers have improved dramatically" (since he is in power). Venezuela stopped sending the murder rate numbers to United Nations in 2002. Here you have a graph showing the total amount of murders in Venezuela and Germany in the last few years. Venezuela has 28 million inhabitants and Germany 82 million. Chávez came to power in early 1999. The numbers come from Venezuelan NGO Provea and the German Bundeskriminalamt. Chávez's ministers have refused to debate openly about the crime issue in Venezuela and say the opposition just wants to use it for politics. It seems it is a crime to say things have got much worse and someone has to take responsability.

Chile's murder rate is similar to Germany's. Mexico, a country with a huge problem because of the drug murders, still has a murder rate that is several times lower than Venezuela's. You can see a full comparison of murder rates for several countries in an earlier post here.

POLL: please, take part in the poll if you haven't done so this month.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Die Deutsche Welle kündigt an: von Bismarck zu Merkel

Stellt Euch vor, die Deutsche Welle oder vielleicht die ARD würde eine Sendung ausstrahlen, die vorhätte, Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel als die verbesserte Version von Bismarck darzustellen. Man kann sicher sein: es würde zu Protesten kommen und wahrscheinlich würden manche die Justiz einschalten, um zu ermitteln, wie der Staat Steuergelder für einen solchen unverschämten Personenkult ausgeben kann. Die Deutsche Welle ist zwar nett zu Merkel, aber nur nett. Die ARD/ZDF sind zwar respektvoll zur Bundeskanzlerin, aber nur das. Oft können Journalisten gnadenlos zu ihr sein, was gut für die Demokratie ist. Stellt Euch nun vor, Deutschland hätte eine Person, die von den Deutschen als eine Mischung von Otto dem Grossen, Bismarck und Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg angesehen würde.

Venezolaner verehren Simón Bolívar zu Unrecht auf diese Art und Weise. Bolívar war sehr klug, so dass er den Personenkult um sich selbst zu fördern wusste, wie der alte Karl Marx ganz genau erkannte. Die venezolanischen Militärs und Caudillos haben dies aber seit Bolívars Tod 1830 ganz unverschämt ausgenutzt. Sie haben sich als "Priester" dieser neuen Religion auserkoren. Historiker Manuel Caballero hat in seinem Buch "Porqué no soy un bolivariano" darüber geschrieben. Aber niemals war dieser Personenkult so ausgeprägt wie jetzt, unter der Chávez-Regierung.

Hier könnt Ihr die Werbung für einen neuen Dokumentarfilm sehen, den die staatliche Venezolana de Televisión angekündigt hat. Dabei wird Chávez als der neue Retter der Nation, der grosse Visionär porträtiert. Alle Venezolaner mit einem Fernseher können sowas sehen. Über 73% von ihnen können nur solche Sendungen schauen.

Dieses Foto - leider von schlechter Qualität - habe ich beim venezolanischen Postamt schon 2007 gemacht. Links steht das Bild von Chávez mit einem Brief, den er im Gefängnis nach seinem gescheiterten Putschversuch geschrieben haben soll. Rechts sieht man Bolívar und einen bekannten Brief von ihm aus dem Exil.

"v" wird bei dieser Werbung wie /v/ ausgesprochen, statt wie /β/, was eine häufige aber sehr krasse Hyperkorrektur ist. Weder eine analphabetische Bäuerin wie meine Oma noch ein anerkannter Schriftsteller würden das so aussprechen.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Venezuela going to pot or to Pot?

Goint to pot only or really going to Pot?

Chávez's popularity has been going down and the National Assembly elections are getting closer. Oil prices, 538% higher than when the military coupster got elected in 1998, are not increasing as the corrupt and highly inefficient Venezuelan government needs.

Chávez feels he has to deflect as much as possible the attention from domestic problems. To do that, he is using again the usual anti-USA rhetoric, but in increasingly pathetic ways. His regime is already talking about the existence of an economic US embargo against Venezuela, when the only embargo there is is the one related to weapons. You cannot say that is why Venezuela's economy is going to pot.

What is destroying Venezuela's economy is Chavismo itself. As we wrote in our previous post, the government is short of money and had to get from China 20 billion dollars in loans -or "investments", as the regime puts it-. As there is no transparency, we don't have an idea about the conditions under which Venezuela will have to pay for the easy money destined to election time and not sustainable development. It won't be easy and I am sorry above all for the Venezuelan kids.

What is the government's general strategy now?

  • to pay poor farmers and unemployed to become "Bolivarian militias", militias that are becoming pretorian guards of Chávez
  • to beef up its intelligence services through Cuban personnel and Chinese communication packages
  • to divert more money and competences from regional governments where the opposition is in "power"
  • to purge even further the military and the judiciary
  • to speed up the brainwashing programmes at every level, even in schools throught the so-called "media guerrillas" and Misiones and through the most general rewriting of history
  • to select ministers and high ranking officials whose main skill is to show submission to the Jefe
Yesterday, Chavista deputies declared they want states and municipalities to give way to the socialist councils. This would allow Chavismo to completely eliminate the few, already almost powerless institutions where the opposition still has representatives and to finally establish councils (Russian "soviet") controlled by the PSUV.

Some days ago Chávez said the "squalid ones", the opposition, suffer from a sickness. He added he did not know if that sickness could be cured.

A little bit after that the current Vicepresident - the list of former vicepresidents or minister is legion-, Elías Jaua, declared that the government had managed to "increased agricultural production by 21% in the latest 10 years". As a former pro-Chávez blogger wrote, that shows the level of failure of this process: Venezuela's population has increased about that much in the same period of time. So: even if we were to believe what Jaua is saying, that means that there hasn't been an increase in productivity in a decade, in spite of all the petrodollars coming in and technology everywhere evolving. The fact a minister can use such a statement as propaganda is very informative. It means that in spite of all the popularity loss, still millions of Venezuelans buy those statements. The reason is simple: their education level is very low and getting lower. Mathematical literacy, already bad when Chávez came to power, is deteriorating even further.

If you speak Spanish and you have a little bit of patience, you can take a short look at this text. The text is very badly written. The author is supposed to be a teacher from one of the Bolivarian institutes that provide Chavista propaganda dressed up as education. The author complains about people asking for "higher academic standards in education". She claims they are "trying to preserve the capitalist hegemony". After reading that text there is one thing we can say for sure: reading and comprehension skills, already very poor before Chávez came to power, are going further down the drain.

Where is this going to end? Will Venezuela go not just to pot but to a Pot-led situation at the end of the road? I don't think so. Venezuela won't become a South American Cambodia. The country just has too much oil and Venezuelans are too connected - even if educationally very isolated - from the outside world. Still, the government is doing anything it can to transform Venezuelans into a meek nation and to accelerate the brainwashing process as much as possible. It will also do anything it can to promote the emigration of those who disagree. It will be willing to take Venezuela into a civil war when its supporters become a clear minority to all.

We need to do all we can to remind Venezuelans that this situation is not normal, that there are better options for our country, that there is a future where resentment as state policy and personality cult are just a sad page in history books and where an open, pluralistic and more just society prevails.

This sign with a big spelling error is located at the exit of a PDVSA plant. This is not an exception but rather the rule now.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

From uncle Sam to uncle Hu

The Chinese era

The people of what is now Venezuela have been ripped off on a massive scale since the first time civilizations with very different levels of technological development - Arawaks, Caribs and Waraos on one side and Europeans on the other - met in the Land of Grace. The rip-off has never stopped. Venezuela is now just getting into a new stage: the Chinese era. As fellow blogger Miguel has been writing, the Venezuelan government is in need of cash and due to its erratic policies it is not getting the right response as fast as it needs. Now it has been able to sign a series of agreements that would give the cash-strapped government 20 billion dollars in loans from China. That is 20 billion more for Chávez. Venezuela's debt with China has been going up very fast in the last years. Chávez had also signed a $16 billion deal with China in 2009. Loans are not bad. The problem is who is doing what with that money.

Chávez said "we know that when we assume this compromise, both governments and republics and their respective political regimes are here to stay". I wish someone could ask Chávez what he meant by that. We won't have the chance to do that as Chávez won't get into open debates or interviews with real journalists. I wish we could at least get the details about the contracts signed now.

If you watch the video in the link above you will see how even the Chinese get surprised by the supine way in which Chávez calls them "friends" time after time. As usual when Venezuelan leaders have friends abroad, they will become real amigos. The government claims there will be joint companies that will benefit Venezuela. We know how the Chinese-Venezuelan "computer enterprise" (Lang Chaon on the Chinese side and the Venezuelan government on the other) ended for Venezuela: China was supposed to build computers in Venezuela and get Venezuelans assembling computers for the first time. In reality Venezuelans had been assembling imported parts since the late does not really take much to do that. The only difference was that they were doing it without a government pretending that to be a big deal. If you are interested in finding out what we got from that computer company venture, try to look for "Lang Chao Venezuela" in your favourite search engine. Or save time: there is nothing since the announcements 3 to 4 years ago. We know how the technology transfer went for the "Bolivarian satellite": Venezuela bought the technology and the Chinese got the money.

An old story

There have always been Venezuelans working rather for foreign interests to the clear detriment of their fellow citizens: the native Americans who sold slaves to the Dutch and English for rifles, the native Americans who led the Spanish invaders to the conquest of the Caracas Valley, the Amos del Valle who were usually interested in maximizing their gains without any interest for the people and the country they got their fortunes from, the heads of state of 'independent' Venezuela who signed deal after deal that turned out to be disgraceful for Venezuela and very profitable for European powers and then for the United States.

Unfortunately, the counter-reactions have turned out to be fatal as fatal: Cipriano Castro and some short-lived lefty movements came to nothing or just lead to more chaos, loss of lives and capital.

The ones talking about how to protect Venezuela's interests tend to take economic credos as absolute truths, whether they are right or left.

On one side we have thus:

- people who believe in economic rules as if they were physical laws, who think economics is like mathematics and who are convinced in the power of the invisible hand even when it is gives them the finger
- people who think we need to have complete free trade getting towards us to develop even if absolutely no developed country ever reached development without some forms of protectionism and state support (not the US, not Japan, not any European country)

They turned out to become what lefties call compradores.

On the other we get a similar lot. We get

- people who believe supply and demand can be abolished by decree or even revolution
- people who think any country can be autarchic
- people who deem themselves as irreplaceable
- people who secure their power by using corrupt and otherwise inept thugs who have no idea of sustainable development.

We haven't got governments as the Norwegians got them in the late XIX and early XX century, governments that carried out very intelligent policies of national development, governments that offered interesting investments to foreigners while securing the middle and long-term technology transfer and capital control by nationals, implementing honest and transparent procedures and heavily investing in real education (not education as in "título de licenciado o doctorado"). We haven't done what the Japanese did during the Meiji period by bringing to the country top scientists and teachers, by developing local industries and controlling what kind of "free trade" we want - as US Americans, Germans, Japanese and Swiss did and still do.

Someone's going to pay for it

Chávez is desperate for money. He wants to win as many seats in the September elections as possible - at absolutely any cost. Nothing better for him than getting money from a country that does not ask questions about human rights.

We will have to pay for the money he is getting now anyway.

I wish we Venezuelans could learn a little bit about how the rich made it: USA, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Norway.

The sad thing is once Chávez is gone chances are huge that we will keep having governments that keep getting into unfavourable deals to Venezuela because the rulers are incompetent, because they keep defending some vested interests, because they prefer above all to be popular than to develop the country on a long term basis. Unless we radically change the way we think about sustainable development, we will keep running from Uncle Sam to Uncle Hu to Uncle Hans to Uncle Sam again.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Von Führern, Caudillos und Leitfiguren Venezuelas

Auf dieser Karte könnt Ihr die Geburtsorte verschiedener Politiker des Regimes und der Opposition in Venezuela sehen.

Dem Klische entsprechend werden blaue Linien für die Opposition, rote Linien für die Regierung benutzt.

Die grünen Kreise beziehen sich auf Politiker, die schon zu Zeiten der sogenannten 4. Republik aktiv waren. Mehrere der PSUV-Führer kommen aus kleineren Städten Mirandas, aus ärmeren Kreisen. Das gilt für Aristóbulo Isturiz (eigentlich früher Mitglied der 4ten Republik) und für den Vizepräsident, Elias Jaua.

Damit zeigt sich deutlich, wie sich die Opposition immer noch ihre Vertreter aus den allergrössten Städten Venezuelas aussucht. Carlos Ocariz und Liliana Hernández sind glücklicherweise zwei neue Oppopolitiker, die nicht aus einem der drei grössten Städte stammen. Es ist kein Wunder, dass sie sich für Regionen einsetzen, die traditionell nicht von der Opposition berücksichtigt werden. Ich würde für mehr Politiker wie sie plädieren.

Carlos Ocariz

Die allermeisten Venezolaner wohnen zwar in Städten. Sie wohnen aber meistens in Städten, die weniger als eine Million Einwohner haben. Übrigens: ich komme aus eine der drei grössten Städte Venezuelas und ich gebe zu: wir sind überrepresentiert. Es stellt sich aber die Frage, wie man Leitfiguren in den anderen Regionen fördert, politische Führer, die über nachhaltige Entwicklung und Wirtschaft wissen, die dazu Kontakt mit allen Sektoren unterhalten können und nicht zu Caudillos mutieren.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Message to the current Venezuelan government

Ciudadanos miembros del gobierno actual de Venezuela:

El diputado Villalba, uno de los seguidores del actual presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, declara que el gobierno tiene que crear "guerrillas" en las escuelas venezolanas para "informar sobre cualquier situación que suceda frente a la manipulación de las corporaciones mediáticas del país."

Con esto el gobierno pretende autoproclamarse juez que determine qué es manipulación mediática. Al hacer esto, el gobierno está usando el sistema educativo venezolano para fines políticos y, por consecuencia, está violando las normas más elementales que se deben seguir para administrar la educación de Venezuela.

La educación debe reflejar el pluralismo de ideas. Como dice la constitución que Ustedes han abandonado hace tiempo, la educación debe estar "fundamentada en el respeto a todas las corrientes del pensamiento" (artículo 102).

Ustedes no solo quieren manipular la educación venezolana para fines absolutamente partidistas, fines que elevan al rango de "nacionales", sino que no permiten que se oigan libremente las voces de personas que no piensen como Ustedes en los medios de comunicación estatales. Estos medios - incluyendo a Venezolana de Televisión y Radio Nacional - no les pertenecen a Ustedes, sino a todo el pueblo de Venezuela. El pueblo de Venezuela está formado por todos los ciudanos, no solo por los que piensan como Ustedes.

Citizens members of the current Venezuelan government:

Deputy Villalba, one of the supporters of current president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, declares that the government has to create so-called guerrillas in Venezuelan schools "to inform about any situation that may occur regarding the manipulation carried out by the media corporations in the country."

By stating this the government is making itself the judge of what media manipulation is. By doing this the government itself is using the education system in Venezuela for political gains and consequently violating the most elementary norms required to manage education in Venezuela.

Education has to reflect the pluralism of ideas. As the constitution that you long abandoned states, education must be "based on the respect of all currents of thought" (article 102).

You not only intend to use the Venezuelan educational system for your own party goals, goals you want to declare "national". You are also preventing people who think differently from you to freely express their voices in the state media. The state media - including Venezolana de Televisión and Radio Nacional - does not belong to you only but to the whole Venezuelan nation. The Venezuelan nation is made up of all citizens, not only those who think like you do.


The Red Siskin or Cardenalito is a bird that lives primarily in Venezuela and some parts of Colombia and Guyana. It is a beautiful bird but it is seriously under threat: a lot of people want to catch it to keep it in cages. That is stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

As many other birds in the Tropical Zone, it is not just colourful, it also has a very melodious song.

Governments should keep posters on the road. Instead of showing the "Presidente Comandante" hugging children, they should have a message about leaving birds and natural parks alone.

Please, take part in the poll! Thanks

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

You and Venezuela's education

Textbooks here and there

I want to ask you a favour: send me a picture of a primary or secondary school book from your country if you or rather your children or grandchildren happen to have one. Any textbook would do: maths, English (or Norwegian, German, Spanish), geography, biology...anything.

Whether you have a picture or not: tell us how much you had to pay for textbooks in primary or secondary school in your country or whether those textbooks are from the state. As far as I have found out pupils in the vast majority of developed nations and in many others use textbooks from the school at primary school level and in most countries (including very capitalist USA) they also use school books right up to secondary school.

Do you know how things are in Venezuela? The norm is that parents have to pay for books and those books can cost more than one worker's monthly salary. Sometimes they can make photocopies of the books and sometimes - the exception - they can borrow them from the very poor libraries. Misiones do provide for some very rudimentary material. Almost all Venezuelans think that is normal and anything else is "a luxury" and that "you cannot give it all away". But they think the petrol prices they have are fine and public universities are really free. No wonder most students there come from private schools in spite of all the quotas.

Venezuelans' priorities

And meanwhile Hugo Chávez has lots of money to spend in Russian tanks and Chinese airplanes and yesterday he used Bolívar's sword to take oath to 35000 militia men and women, mostly functional illiterate, as if he were a new King Arthur with his new red knights.

A suggestion to opposition "leaders": it is fine you say you are for private property and keep repeating the words "private proverty" every minute or so, but please, get into these other topics. Now.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Das Ministerium der Wahrheit

Der jetzige Minister der Volksmacht für Bildung, Héctor Navarro, hat erklärt, die angekündigte "Jugendguerrilla", die inner- und ausserhalb der Schulen die Botschaft der Regierung verbreiten soll (siehe hier), sei keine Kampf-, sondern eine Ideen-Guerrilla, die gegen die "Verleumdungskampagne der Medien" agieren wird. Dieser und andere Parteibonzen sind anscheinend der Meinung, dass Leute nur geschockt wären, wenn diese Schüler Waffen tragen würden. Sie finden nicht abstossend, Schüler für Propagandazwecke auszunutzen.

Herr Navarro sagte ferner, dass diese Schüler "Botschafter der Wahrheit" sein werden.

Das kommt mir bekannt vor.

Schade, dass der Minister venezolanische Schüler nicht an der PISA-Studie teilnehmen lässt.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Getting used to a dictatorship

Tania Díaz

Goose and gander

The new Venezuelan minister of the Popular Power (sic) for Information, Tania Díaz, has just declared the first group of schoolchildren is ready to become "communication guerrillas". They will be used to spread governmental messages in Caracas and then throughout Venezuela. They will "present a new way of looking at the world through Bolivarian socialism". They will get all resources for that: loudspeakers, written material, courses of "communication".

A few days earlier, the government started a process against the opposition governor Salas Feo on the basis that he is "proselitizing in Carabobo state schools". What did he do? He distributed books and other school material with the image of his party. Obviously, he should not have done that, he should have distributed that material without any propaganda*. Still, it seems that in Chavista Venezuela what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

Yesterday former coup monger and current president Hugo Chávez said that "if the opposition tries to do something irregular" he will speed up the revolution process. Former vice-president and journalist Rangel added on the same ocassion that "the opposition is not democratic and the opposition are behaving in a subversive way".

Venezuela as a political soap opera

The general public in democratic countries usually does not get to see how a country becomes a dictatorship. People hear that a country in some remote part of the world has been living under autocracy for decades and then a new dictator pops up in the news. Sometimes people just start to read more and more articles about growing problems with human rights somewhere with a name ending in 'an'.

Things have turned out to be different with Venezuela. It has become a permanent political soap opera. In 1998 the South American country was a democracy, albeit dysfunctional. It still was a democracy several years later, with Chávez in power. Chávez's clownish ways and the excitement by the left in Europe and North America guaranteed an almost permanent place for Venezuela in the news in Europe and North America.

A lot of people were crying "wolf, wolf" from the very beginning, but most foreign and national observers did not believe the coup monger of 1992 could become what he is now. After all: he came to power via elections. Some people from the right were saying Venezuela was becoming a sort of Cuba while doing their shopping in malls that were chock-a-block with imported stuff. The Venezuelan government has been organizing elections on a yearly basis. This is not a dictatorship, is it?

The Carter Centre and the EU did a very sloppy work in evaluating elections and the government has done a lot of unkosher things to "optimize" electoral results, but Chávez did have and has the support of millions. His popularity kept growing as oil prices kept rising and even if it has started to go down, it is still high. Everybody knows the opposition is deeply divided. It claims to be working now more united, but still it is made up of many dozens of political parties.

Things are a changin'

Venezuela is receiving several times the amount of petrodollars it was getting in 1998 but the economic situation is becoming more difficult and the country is in recession. The government knows it has to speed up its process for total control before things deteriorate further, specially in view of September's elections.

Fortunately for the Chávez regime, Venezuela has plenty of oil and gas and more is discovered by the day. Spanish oil giant Repsol just announced Venezuela's gas reserves have increased by 30%. Moratinos, Spain's leftist minister of foreign affairs, is certainly happy to hear that, specially with Spain's current economic situation.

Venezuela is still far away from a Cuban state, in spite of all those Cuban intelligence officers and in spite of all the governmental attacks and foul play.

Chávez's apologists still see space for hope. And even if things were to become like Cuba one day: isn't Cuba the romantic island of Buena Vista Social Club and the cocktails for rich European tourists? There is still plenty of room for getting used to it all, specially with so much oil at play.

* A reader sent me an email saying he did not know Venezuelan pupils don't usually get text books from the state and that he was shocked. He has good reason to be shocked and disgusted. I will go into more into the catastrophic problem we have with education in a new post.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Conquering Delta Amacuro

Delta Amacuro is a thinly populated state of Venezuela. It still has an important group of native Americans, the Waraos. The Waraos speak a language that is not related to any other known language in Venezuela or elsewhere. They live mostly in the huge mangroves of Orinoco's Delta. The normal way of moving around there is by boat.

The state's population has been increasing very rapidly due to the migration of Venezuelans from other regions looking for job around the oil and gas field centres. The region is under heavy environmental pressure. It is poor. A lot of people live from fishing, from odd jobs around oil field providers, some limited and badly controlled tourism and handouts. It has been forgotten by the capital since time immemorial.

The Venezuelan regime still has a strong support there, but this support is not total or definite. The state has 4 municipalities and one of them, Pedernales, has a non-Chavista mayor.

Juan Cristobal from Caracas Chronicles just sent me an interesting document showing how Delta Amacuro and other thinly populated states will be overrepresented in the September elections for the National Assembly. That is true: it is very overrepresented. Still, we could turn that to our favour if we manage to support the opposition there, if we present ideas that are good for the general population of Delta Amacuro and if we make sure that we have enough people defending the vote during election day.

In the graphic above you can see a mindmap of the 2009 referendum for two municipalities: Pedernales and Casacoima. I show just the vote for "No" (100-NO and you get SI, I did not examine abstention). The blue nodes show rooms where the opposition had a witness and afterwards the acta of the voting. The red nodes show those rooms or boxes for which the opposition did not have witnesses.

The nodes with green only had not a single witness from the opposition. Mind: although Chávez very badly needed the indefinite reelection possibility for his post as president, the preference for YES or NO between chavismo and opposition was not so clear-cut as in 2007. There were quite some opposition caudillos who thought the new proposal would benefit them as it allows them now to run for their little local posts forever.

Draw your conclusions.

Ps. references to which actas we have can be found here

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Woolly from Venezuela

The Brown Woolly Monkey is a monkey that can be found from Colombia to Brazil. They are endangered in Venezuela, but still can be found in the Orinoco Forests and on the South-West.

Alexander von Humboldt reported seeing them in their natural habitat on his voyage through Venezuela in 1799-1800.

These monkeys have a particularly long tail. They use it, as expected, to move with ease from tree to tree. They also use it when crossing rivers in a group, so they are basically on each other's tail.

I hope Venezuelans realise sooner than later that comprehensive measures are needed to keep these little cousins roaming around.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Caracas ist Caracas und der Rest ist Wildnis

Venezuela ist extrem zentralisiert. Caracas es Caracas y el resto es monte y culebras: das ist eine Redewendung, die man in der Hauptstadt oft hört. Der Rest sei monte y culebras , lauter Wildnis und Schlangen. Es gibt ein paar andere Städte, die eine gewisse Bedeutung haben: Maracaibo, Valencia, Barquisimeto und Ciudad Guayana. Viele andere Städte, die jeweils mehr als 100000 Einwohner haben, gelten als "Dörfer". Dabei ist Venezuela kein China: Die Gesamtbevölkerung beläuft sich auf 28 Millionen Einwohner.

Die Bemühungen, mehr Verantwortung an die Regionen zu übertragen, dauerten von 1988 bis zum Anfang der Chavez-Periode. Venezolaner konnten 1988 zum ersten Mal Gouverneure und Bürgermeister direkt wählen. Damit fingen sie an, ein bisschen mehr Konkurrenz in der Politik zu sehen...bis Chavismo an die Macht kam.

Chávez will die ganze Macht für sich und darum bemüht er sich, Kompetenzen der Regionen an die Zentralregierung - seine Zentralregierung - wieder zu transferieren. Nach den Regionalwahlen von 2008 hat diese Zentralisierung drastisch zugenommen. Chávez beruft sich oft auf den vergötterten Bolívar, der bekanntlich ein Gegner des Föderalismus war.

Die Oppositionsführer in der Hauptstadt sowie in den anderen grösseren Städten haben bis jetzt nicht begriffen, dass sie, wenn sie jemals die Macht gewinnen wollen, aus ihren Städten herausgehen müssen und die Leute auf dem Land, vor allem aber in den sekundären Städten erreichen müssen.

Fast alle jetzigen Oppositionsführer sind in Caracas geboren. Einige stammen aus Valencia bzw Maracaibo. Im Gegensatz dazu sind die Hälfte der Chavista-Bonzen Menschen aus anderen Regionen. Auch wenn die meisten Venezolaner zur Zeit in Städten wohnen, wohnen sie meisten in sekundären Städten.

Hier könnt Ihr die Ergebnisse der Regionalwahlen in zwei Regionen sehen. Die erste ist Baruta, ein Teil von Miranda und Gross-Caracas. Die Opposition hat eine deutliche Mehrheit da. Das zweite Bild zeigt die Ergebnisse in Maturín, eine Stadt, die schon eine halbe Million Einwohner hat, die aber von den Medien in Caracas und von den Caracas-Politikern völlig vernachlässigt wurde. Da herrscht der Chavismus.

Es gibt vieles, was sehr auffällig ist. Venezolanische Parteien sind meistens keine richtige Parteien, sondern vielmehr Organisationen zur Promotion bestimmter Politiker. Das kommt überall vor, in Venezuela ist es aber die Regel. Venezuela hat mehr als 12 sogenannte sozialdemokratische Parteien und zumindest genauso viele Parteien, die behaupten, liberal bzw konzervativ zu sein. Praktisch keine Partei ist in der Lage, einen Plan für die Entwicklung des Landes vorzuweisen. Kein Wunder, dass die Opposition es so schwierig hat.

Die Vertreter dieser Pseudoparteien müssen endlich begreifen, dass sie herausfinden müssen, welche Parteien zusammenwachsen und welche verschwinden müssen. Sie müssen begreifen, dass sie endlich mal an das Land denken und vor allem daran arbeiten müssen, Ideen für Venezuela zu entwickeln, offene Debatten zu fördern und die Leute in der sogenannten "Wildnis" in der ganzen Diskussion über Venezuela einzubeziehen.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Al Jazeera on Venezuela's energy mess

Here you have some view on the energy crisis in Venezuela. A little detail: notice the huge poster of Hugo Chávez. Venezuelans and frequent visitors to Venezuela will tell you such posters are fairly common since Chávez is in power (not before). I hadn't seen a more pathetic personality cult anywhere but Turkmenistan.

Thanks to Schoukri in Germany.

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Lord of War or More weapons, less schools

The nasty world of weapons

Venezuela is in the middle of a recession - the biggest in South America according to The Economist numbers -, there is no real plan for sustainable development, it is more dependent than ever on oil and yet the regime is wasting more money on weapons.

The weapon business is an ugly world and a lot of countries in the world are involved in it: Russia, the US, China, France, Germany, Israel, Ukraine and many others. Viktor Ostrovsky described in his book By Way of Deception very well how the state of Israel promoted its business at all costs. Among many things, they would sell weapons and training to the government of Sri Lanka while selling weapons and training to the Tamil rebels. No wonder the war took so long. Many other countries are into that kind of deals. They have vested interests in promoting fear and struggle. If there were more stability and peace, their arms industries would suffer. Of course, the other side of the equation tells us that if developing countries spent less on weapons , they could spend much more on primary schools, on universities, on hospitals, on sustainable development in general. Venezuela is a developing nation. Unlike what some think, it is not an emerging market or newly industrialized nation or, as Germans say, a Schwellenland. It is a developing nation heavily dependent on oil.

Russia weapons instead of schools

Vladimir Putin arrived in Russia back from Venezuela and announced Hugo Chávez and his regime are ordering Russian weapons for over 5 billion dollars. The amount includes a credit for 2.2 billion dollars Russia gave Venezuela in September 2009. The agreement will benefit some 13 Russian companies, including well-known Izmash. You can read some stuff in Russian here and some in Spanish here. That is some money for Moscow, which is in the middle of a very bad recession, worse than what you would see in Western Europe or the States these days.

Putin said Russia just gave Venezuela the last 4 helicopters of the 38 Venezuela ordered in 2005. The contract included 20 Mi-17-B5, 10 Mi-35M, 3 Mi-26T, 3 Mi-172-3 and 2 Mi-172 for 500 million dollars.

In 2005 Venezuela bought helicopters, rockets, one hundred thousand Kalashnikovs, T72 tanks and the anti-aircraft system Smerch for 4 billion dollars. The Venezuelan military will now also get more naval aircraft, some extra airplanes. I am still not clear whether there will be more submarines.

Putting it to bad use

Where is all of this leading us to?

I firmly believe Venezuela cannot attack Colombia with those weapons. It does not stand a chance against the Netherlands or Brazil either. Guyana is no match to Venezuela, but other countries would rush up to defend it also.

Venezuela's military regime -yes, with a democratically elected former coupster as head of state- is probably thinking of using those weapons in case of a civil war it keeps announcing. Let's remember the vast majority of leaders under Chavismo are military or ex guerrillas. The only thing I don't see any use for are submarines. The possibilities I thought about are just too crazy.

Some people in Venezuela may have also got some commissions, but I have no proof of this.

What are we to do?

The Venezuelan opposition has to inform as many Venezuelans as possible about how this situation will affect them. It is of little use for Borges or Ledezma to talk on Globovisión and preach to the choir. Insted, the opposition should go to the secondary cities of Venezuela (Maturín, El Tigre and many others with less than 1 million and more than 100000 inhabitants) and talk to the people who have no internet access and no cable TV. They should describe the programmes that could be financed with the money now going to the Russian industry in Russia: more and above all better schools for the poor, investment in small companies with projects for sustainable development, investment on health and general infracture.