Monday, 31 May 2010

Oliver Stone and his fight against terrorists

I just listened to Oliver Stone talking on BBC. It seems that when people become famous in Hollywood they think they are more insightful about anything. The fact is that Stone is as professional as most rabid right winger he wants to distance himself from. In fact, Stone's objectivity - I don't talk about partiality - is as good as that of the most partisan media in the US. Right now even most members of the German extreme left party Die Linke have a more critical view of Chávez than Stone.

I think the BBC should also have engaged a journalist with a deep understanding of Venezuela, not someone asking very predictable questions.

When the journalist asks him about freedom of expression, Stone just goes into "oh, that is so oligarchic", probably with some eye-rolling. Oh, Oliver, you are so cliché.

Stone says most people (what's "most people"?) watch the private media. This is very telling. This shows the only thing he knows about Venezuela is derived from his guided tours with Chávez, from his time in the luxurious hotels watching Globovisión - the only regime-critical channel nowadays- and looking at the kiosks in Caracas. This "specialist" does not speak Spanish, hasn't got a clue about Venezuela's oil cycles, hasn't delved into enough information regarding countless corruption cases carried out by the Boliburguesía, starting with Chávez's clan. His sources are things like "The Revolution shall not be televised".

Stone does not know, for instance, that

  • less than 30% of the population can watch -admitedly FOX-like- Globovisión (those in Caracas and those with cable-satellite dish)
  • the combined circulation of regime critical newspapers is lower than 200000 per day and Venezuelans read very little
  • Chávez constantly threatens the opposition as no head of state of a democracy country would do (we will annihilate them, we will take out the tanks, sweep them away, they are not human, they are subhuman, etc, etc, just watch the videos I constantly link to here)
  • the personality cult has just gone absolutely bonkers and Chávez does not tolerate any even slight criticism of his persona among those who want to work with him (and he has total control of the national government and thus of the petrodollars)
  • Chávez and his ministers completely refuse to hold open debates with opposition leaders
  • Chávez has introduced laws that were rejected in the 2007 referendum (I am not talking about re-election)
  • Chávez has taken away almost all the power from mayors and governors as soon as the opposition won several key municipalities and states
  • Opposition groups are regularly prevented from walking in very tiny numbers, in the main square of Caracas or in any other square where Chavistas are mayors
  • the police has repeatedly attacked using brutal force opposition groups that peacefully distribute flyers in areas that are considered "del pueblo" (i.e. poor areas or rural areas)
Stone, as a rich pseudo-socialist would be completely at lost if he were to debate with someone like Teodoro Petkoff or...hell, even with your humble blogger.

People like Stone are not interested in Venezuela at all. Venezuela is just a tool in their private fights. For people like Stone you are either with Chávez or you are with the terrorists. Does this sound a bell to you?

Caracas Chronicles on Oliver Stone
Caracas Corhnicles on Weissbrot (who helped with the documentary's script)

Mapping Venezuela, planning development

Here you have a map showing population distribution in Colombia and part of Venezuela. The middle of Venezuela is mostly Llanos - huge grasslands -. The South is mostly jungle. Colombia's East is mostly Llanos as Venezuela plus jungle and the South is mostly jungle.

As you can see, Venezuela's population is very unevenly distributed. This simple map does not show the whole picture. Many of the very highly populated areas are valleys in the middle of mountains.

I think it would be silly to set up new cities in the countryside or expect people already living in the urban centres to turn into farmers. Conditions in the Venezuelan grasslands are not the same as in Virginia or California. Another development approach is needed.

A couple of things I think we can do:

1) start moving some headquarters of scientific/financial institutions to secondary cities like Calabozo or El Tigre: Right now Venezuela is way more centralized than France, Britain, the US, theNetherlands or any other developed nation and more than many other major Latin American countries. Every single national institute that is not a university is in placed in Caracas or just next to it. This needs to change once this regime is gone

2) guarantee that rural schools have excellent teachers and libraries: Venezuela's public schools are a complete mess, but rural schools are much less underdeveloped than those in major cities.

3) start solving the problem of land ownership by creating an absolutely transparent site where people -everybody- must firstly report what land they own: Based on that and following some parametres (from bigger extensions to smaller ones, for instance), start to solve ownership of land so that people can be sure of their investment. Right now land ownership is unclear for over 90% of the territory.

Bravo for Colombians, shame on the government of Israel

As a Venezuelan watching the international news I have to say: bravo for the people of Colombia and shame on the government of Israel.

First with Colombia:

I very much wanted Mokus to win the elections in Colombia, but it seems that won't be the case (El Tiempo in Spanish). Colombians have voted very much in favour of Uribe's man, Santos. I preferred Mokus's approach and credentials. I do not like political dinasties, I do not like the Santos family getting a monopol on news and politics, I think military men should not be heads of state in the XXI century and I am very weary about Santo's role in the "false positives" (innocent people killed by some in the Colombian army - investigations ongoing -). Still, Colombians voted and they did so through an electoral system that, although manual - as in Norway, Germany or the Netherlands - is way more efficient and transparent than the Venezuelan one. Colombians got results fast, there were no threats from any leader, unlike what we have in Venezuela since Chávez is in power.

Going back to the Palestinian-Israel issue:

Al Jazeera (English)
BBC (English)
Spiegel (German)
El País (Spanish)
Haaretz (English)
Aftenbladet (Norwegian)

and if you want to vomit, FOX. Check out for the "anonymous statements" there.

Israel's Deputy Foreign minister said "this is a provocation intended to delegitimise Israel". Actually: what has Israel being doing by taking over more and more land from the Palestinians since 1968 completely against international law? Israel has been occupying land and removing original inhabitants from there based on either "land for war" principles or some weird interpretation of the Book of Joshua, as if Palestinians themselves were not at least as much descendants of the original inhabitants of that land (most of them were already there when Islam arrived).

Update: here a new declaration from Israel declaring Al Qaeda connections on board.

I hope the international community finally does a better job in bringing about justice to this region.

I wonder if we cannot try this: let United Nations bring in all the humanitarian material Gaza needs, with presence from Palestinean and Israeli authorities.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bolivarian lies

The Venezuelan National Institute of Statistics, INE, is completely dependent on the Venezuela regime, so if you want to consider any piece of information from its site, you have to take into account the statistics are mostly concocted to put Hugo Chávez's government under a favourable light.

Here I plotted the average OPEC oil price per year ($ per barrel) from 1998 to 2009. I also draw on the same chart the percentage of "poor" and "extreme poor" as percentage of Venezuela's population according to the INE. I am not normalizing the figures, but still you can get an idea about what is going on.

It is basic: crumbles to the poor at best.

The percentages come from an article published by the INE to praise the government.

In the same article the INE tries to compare unemployment in Venezuela with unemployment in many other countries. In theory unemployment in Venezuela is lower than in Spain or Greece or even lower than the average in the EU as a whole. In reality you just need to read between the lines to realise: about half of the people the INE claims to be "employed" are street vendors (who anyway do not have unemployment money) and the like. I will get into detail in future posts about this "and the like" group.

If you speak Spanish, you can read some news about what kind of "jobs" Venezuelans have here, here.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Keeping an eye on Venezuela's waters

Here you have a very interesting video about how satellite observation can help us to understand what is going on with water resources.

I found the second part of the video particularly interesting for Venezuela.

I wrote already in Spanish about the huge mess with water resources in my region. Other bloggers like Miguel and Daniel have written a lot about the mess with the Guri Dam and other sources of hydroelectric power in Venezuela now. I have little hope the current government will come up with sustainable solutions to these problems but I can imagine we will be able to use satellite studies in the middle term to monitor in a more intelligent way Venezuela's hydrological resources.

In any case, when the time comes and we have that kind of permanent monitoring used by Venezuelan scientists, I think it would be imperative that they keep the public and not just some governmental institution or NGOs informed about how things are evolving: have major changes been detecting in the Orinoco basin? What is happening with the oil fields around the Delta? And what about the Tacarigua Lake? How does the data compare to what we had one, two years earlier?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Venezuelas Wirtschaftslage

Venezolaner sind Spaniern zum Teil sehr ähnlich. So wie unsere Cousins merken meine Landsleute, dass sie pleite sind erst dann, wenn sie die Hand in die Tasche stecken und nichts finden. Letzte Woche sagte Präsident Hugo Chávez vor einfachen Arbeitern und Polizisten das folgende: "Während europäische Länder jetzt Leute massal entlassen müssen, stellen wir (das heisst, PDVSA) mehr und mehr Leute ein, während Spanien Löhne verringert, erhöhen wir sie."

Solche Worte geben Hoffnung an Leute, die über keine richtige Bildung verfügen und keine zuverlässige Informationen finden können. Weniger als 27% der Bevölkerung hat Zugang zu Internet oder zu Fernsehsendungen, die regimekritisch seien. Das merkt der Tourist nicht in seinem Hotel mit 200 Kanäle. Das merken die meisten Reichen auch nicht, die auch alles sehen können, oder Caracas-Einwohner, die zumindest den FOX-ähnlichen aber zumindest andersdenkenden Sender Globovisión sehen können. In Calabozo oder Südvalencia, in Maturín oder La Guaira kriegen die Armen nur Propaganda zu sehen.

Auf Bild 1 könnt Ihr das BIP einiger Länder erfahren (Quelle: The Economist 5.2010).

Bild 2 zeigt die industrielle Produktion im letzten Vierteljahr. Nicht vergessen: Chiles Infrastruktur hat infolge des Erdbebens stark gelitten. Venezuela hat in dieser Zeit nur unter Chavismo gelitten.

Und endlich hat man hier die offiziele Inflationsrate.

Wird Venezuela in den nächsten Monaten kollabieren? Wird die Regierung zu Grunde gehen? Ich bin kein Ökonom. Ich kann aber mit Sicherheit sagen: nein, Venezuela wird zumindest bis September nicht runtergehen. Die jetzige Regierung hat zwar immer mehr Schwierigkeiten, das Land zu verwalten, sie hat immer höhere Erdöleinnahmen nötig, um dasselbe zu liefern. Sie wird alles aber unterzeichnen, was Chavista-Bonzen nicht gehört, um cash für die nächsten Monate zur Verfügung zu haben. Sie wird Enteignungen vorantreiben, um Essen schnell verteilen zu können. Sie wird sagen, dass Menschen es anderswo viel schlimmer haben und dass die Opposition und die US-Amerikaner/Europäer/Kapitalisten/Marsmännchen die Schuld an allem haben.

So geht es weiter und die Opposition hat immer noch nicht genügend gelernt und sie kann dem Volk noch keine Pläne vorstellen.

Muerte lenta, sagt man auf Spanisch.

Venezuelas Alpha und Omega

Ps. Hier kann man auf Spanisch lesen, wie Félix Osorio, Minister "der Vollmacht für Lebensmittel", erklärte, alle Firmen, die Lebensmittel als Ware betrachten, würden "im Krieg gegen die Regierung stehen".

Was diese Chavista-Bonzen nicht begreifen: Regierung ist nicht gleich Staat, Venezuela ist laut Verfassung eine pluralistische Gesellschaft und gezwungener Staatssozialismus ist völlig verfassungswidrig.

Félix Osorio war ein Unterleutnant und, wie Chávez, Putschist im Jahre 1992.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Why is the opposition in such a position? 2

Comes from here

Opposition politician Julio Borges keeps talking about private property time after time. He is right to be worried about it. He is right to say private property is also a concern for the poor as they also want to have their house, they also want to set up their business.

What Borges is not getting is the fact that he will be more concerned about private property than the vast majority of Venezuelans, even if private property concerns everybody. Why?

1) most poor, even if they do aspire to own a house and set up a little business, do not get the way Borges is explaining things. Borges simply does not connect.
2) most poor actually don't even hear PJ because PJ does not get out of the Caracas-Miranda region plus a couple of other big urban centres (lack of money, threats and attacks from the regime's police and other thugs, bad logistics, little knowledge of non-central areas from the very urbanite Primero Justicia members)
3) a very good half of the population does NOT see that as a main concern, even if they should. The reason is they do have other very top priorities that the opposition top is failing to address.
What are those things? Just a couple of a dozen:

1) education: most Venezuelans send their children to very bad free state schools, not very posh private schools as the Chavista top honchos or the oppo leaders do. On top of that they have to pay an amount per child per year that is equivalent to or higher than a worker's monthly salary. PJ and others need to give very concrete ideas about what they are going to do regarding PRIMARY and SECONDARY education: free textbooks as in the US, participation in open evaluation tests as PISA, transparency and betterment of teacher's conditions, more competition to attract the best.

2) job creation for those older than 40 years old: believe it or not, in Venezuela few have a chance to get a proper job after they are 40, specially if they are unskilled workers. The opposition needs to offer sustainable solutions in the form of decent jobs to these people.

3) land ownership in suburban or rural areas: Venezuela needs to establish an online cadaster of all rural properties firstly. This will hurt a lot of big owners -both Chavistas and non-Chavistas, but this will also bring clarity on property claims and all the rest. The vast majority of Venezuelans living outside the main 3 cities are living above ground that belongs to the state and/or is claimed by other people (if you speak Spanish, it is worth checking out this article on the governmental expropiations in rural areas).

4) security: The opposition has addressed the issue of security, but it hasn't done it in a proper way; people hear all the time about the increase in crime, they feel it, they know things are much much worse now, but the vast majority of Venezuelans -unlike Borges- have never been outside Venezuela and they don't know how things are outside their country.

Here you see the percentage of people who voted for PJ when electing the governor for rural Cojedes state. The best results were in the municipality where San Carlos, the main city, is located.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Venezuelas Weg nach Zimbabwe

Rocío San Miguel
, eine mutige Frau gegen die Militärmacht

Die venezolanische Verfassung von 1999 verbietet ausdrücklich die Teilnahme aktiver Militärs an politischen Aktivitäten. Militärs dürfen auf keinen Fall Mitglieder einer Partei sein oder eine irgendwie unterstützen. Es gab gute Gründe für so ein Verbot. Die Militärs haben sich immer wieder im politischen Leben Venezuelas eingemischt und zwar mehr als anderswo im ganzen Lateinamerika. Militärs wollten immer Führer des Landes sein. Simón Bolívar war der erste Diktator, von da ging es aber bergab. Zivilpräsidenten waren eher die Ausnahme. Bis 1958 hatten wir eine Militärdiktatur. Die Zeit zwischen 1958 und 1998 war unsere längste Ausnahme.

Im Gegensatz zu Europa haben die Militärs in Venezuela jetzt eine grosse Rolle bei der Durchführung der Wahlen als angebliche Verteidiger des Verfahren und als Logistikexperten, die alle Geräte und Unterlagen transportieren.

Die Verfassung von 1999 hat aus all diesen Gründen Beschränkungen auf Militäreinmischung von der vorigen Verfassung übernommen. Die Chávez-Regierung hat aber darauf gepfiffen.

Die Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) oder Wahlkommission Venezuelas organisiert nicht nur Nationalwahlen, sondern bei Bedarf auch Parteiwahlen. Die Kommission hatte die Wahlen der Regierungspartei - PSUV oder Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas - mitorganisiert. Die CNE eine Datenbank online zur Verfügung gestellt, damit alle PSUV-Mitglieder ihre Daten überprüfen konnten. Und das war einer der Beweise, die Rocío San Miguel, vom NGO Control Ciudadano, für die Teilnahme hochranginger Militärbonzen an der Regierungspartei und an politischen Aktivitäten vorweisen konnte. Rocío wollte sehen, ob die regierungstreue Justiz endlich etwas tut. Die Richter hatten bis jetzt zB nichts böses gefunden, als Militärs immer wieder "Vaterland, Sozialismus oder Tod" aufriefen oder die Regierung Staatsmitteln für Propagandazwecke benutzt.

Nun probiert die Regierung, irgend etwas gegen Rocío zu finden, um sie ins Gefängnis zu stecken. Die CNE hat die Databank sofort aus dem Netz entfernt. Zu spät: viele Zuschauer von Globovisión sowie der einzige nicht regierungstreue Direktor von CNE hatten die Namen der Militärs in der CNE-Databank gesehen (und das war nicht der einzige Beweis).

Einer der Militärs, die trotz Verfassungsverbots Mitglied der PSUV sind, hat sofort agiert. Wie Blogger Daniel Duquenal schreibt, hat General Luis Alfonso Cohórtez Soto 120 Tonnen Essensprodukte von Polar ohne gerichtliche Verfahren enteignet. Er wollte zeigen, wie revolutionär er ist. Die Regierung wird die Waren durch ihr eigenes Supermarktssystem an das Volk - an die Wähler- verteilen.

Man kann mehr und mehr Enteignungen für die folgende Monate erwarten. Je schlechter die Wirtschaftslage in Venezuela wird, desto mehr wird die Militärregierung darauf zurückgreifen müssen. Je mehr die Militärs das tun, desto weniger werden sie geneigt sein, die Möglichkeit eines Regierungswechsels zuzulassen.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Nosy blokes with and without a black jacket

The anteater above is a Northern Tamandua. The anteater below is a Southern Tamandua. The main difference between them is that the first one wears a jacket. Both anteaters love ants and bees and the like.

EU unwanted in Venezuela

The National Electoral Council (CNE in Spanish) is doing all it can to favour the current regime. Vicente Díaz, the only non-Chavista of the 4 directors, proposed inviting the European Union and the OAS to the September elections of the National Assembly, but the others rejected the motion.

Why don't Chavistas want the EU to go to Venezuela this time, unlike in 2006? Is it because they feel the mood has changed and most people have opened their eyes? Perhaps the Venezuelan regime will now invite people like German communist Sarah Wagenknecht to act as a "EU observer" and then tell people the European Union sent witnesses and these witnesses showed great rejoice.

The citizens of the US and UK have electoral systems that do not guarantee proportional representation. That is according to their laws and it is up to them to keep those laws or not. But in Venezuela the law - the constitution - clearly says the seats should be allocated according to proportional representation, with only an exception setting apart 3 representatives for native American communities. The regime has been gerrymandering big time. As El Universal tells us, some states are more equal than others. El Universal tells us that 52% of the Venezuelan population in 6 states elect 36% of the representatives. There was already a violation of proportional representativity in the 2000 elections, but this time it gets worse.

The voters in the blue states

elect 36% of all deputies

But things are much worse than that. One of those states "in blue" above is Chavista, two in orange are rather more oppo. Blogger If people in Carabobo vote exactly as they did in 2008's governor elections (regarding oppo or regime), about 54% of voters would go for the opposition. If we had the same electoral districts for the National Assembly as in 2005, 54% would get 4 out of 6 representatives...

Thanks to the pro-government Electoral Committee, we are getting - if we "only" have 54% of the votes - 1 out of 7 (SEVEN) representatives now.

Click on that map to see my previous post on gerrymandering in Carabobo

Quico wrote extensively on the gerrymandering question at national level in his blog (there is a tiny error in the Carabobo electoral circuits' map, but that is it).

Last but not least: according to the constitution, active members of the military cannot be members of a political party. An NGO showed live how the online CNE database for PSUV members contained several high ranking and currently active generals. The CNE has not said anything yet.

Those military are supposed to guarantee the the voting process in all its critical phases.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Norwegian looking at Venezuela

Some days ago I asked readers to start sending pictures with something "interesting" they found on the other side of the ocean.

Here I present the first picture. Norwegian reader Stig sends it. He took the picture on the access from a parking lot to a shopping centre in Venezuela. I am sure this view is particularly strange for a Scandinavian. I have to say this kind of thing was no normal at all 15 years ago. When I was a child in Venezuela I would have imagined a poster like that in the Wild West, not in my country. Now it is something absolutely normal.

If you are a Venezuelan with an interesting picture from Europe (anything other than the usual Eiffel Tower picture) or a European with an interesting picture of Venezuela (anything other than the usual Caribbean beach), send it here with some comment!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Oil to Belarus: does it make (any) sense?


The Gomelskaya Pravda, a regional Belarusian online news site, published an article about the recent Venezuelan oil shipments to Belarus. Lukashenko had recently been to Venezuela in order to sign some agreements with Chávez including oil shipments to Belarus. Venezuelan oil would help to pay for, among other things, Belarus companies building in Venezuela what Venezuelan companies are apparently now unable to build: houses. Belorussian friends and I initially thought the shipment would mean shipping oil from Venezuela to Western Europe or somewhere else closer to Venezuela so that Belarus could use some Russian oil originally destined to the Western European market for internal upgrading and reselling as refined products. Blogger and oil expert Gustavo Coronel also confirmed to me the kind of oil contracts people signed between parties located very far away from each other: a country like Venezuela would provide oil to Spain (for instance) and oil passing through Belarus to Spain could instead be used by Belarus for something else. In the end, the markets will optimize deliveries. Sending oil all the way accross sea and land does not make too much sense. Well, it seems that is not the case here.

The article has the title "Black Gold in the Mozyr Oil Refinery". It basically says the first oil shipment from Venezuela arrived in Belarus now. 80000 tons - about 480000 barrels - were shipped from Venezuela all the way to the Black Sea and there to the Ukranian port of Odessa. The oil was put into train containers in Odessa and sent to the South Belarussian city of Mazyr (or Mozyr). Belarus is a landlocked nation.

The issue was important enough for the Belarussian Prime Minister, Sergei Sidorsky and other Belorussian honchos to go to Mazyr and organize an event. Sidorsky gave a speech and mentioned the need to minimize losses in oil refining and that they wanted to increase the light oil products to a percentage of 90% or higher. The oil being shipped is apparently Santa Barbara oil, which is one of the best Venezuela has.

The Belarussian admitted there are concerns about the profitability due to the logistics involved. The general director of the Mozyr Oil Refinery said the Venezuelan oil should be no problem as it is similar to the one they have processed from Russia. All in all, the article timidly hints at logistics and transport costs as being "the" issue. Economists would be calculating costs now. I wonder why they could not do it before the transport. In any case: Belarusians would process the oil and try to sell it as processed products in the European market. The Venezuelan and Belarusian governments plan to set up a joint company to do that where 75% of the shares are Venezuelan and 25% Belarussian.

The Belarussian plant can process 7 to 8 tons a day. 20 trains are required to transport the whole 20 tons from Odessa to Mazyr. 2 trains a day are sent. Belorussians said they think Ukraine is interested in participating. The Druzhba pipeline would be a cheaper way to transport the oil to the refinery in Belarus.

Gustavo Coronel says some sources think the 800,000 tons of "sample oil" could be the start to later ask for 4 to 10 million tons. 4 million tons are equivalent to 24 million barrels of oil or about 70000 oil barrels a day. Gustavo does not believe Venezuela can produce 70000 barrels of Santa Barbara a day.

To me all this sounds like a plan the líderes of both nations concocted in a jiffy and pushed through to initiate without a throrough analysis, even if this is portrayed in this article as a pilot project and the transport from Venezuela to Belarus is just a possibility.

I wonder what are the final costs Venezuela will have to pay for all this.

Ps. My thanks to Gustavo

Mazyr (Mozyr) is in the South-Southeast of Belarus. Our oil goes all the way to that spot now.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Chávez's popularity going through the roof, the Electoral Chavez-Council is very shy

Yesterday the state-controlled Venezolana de Televisión stated Chávez's popularity has climbed 22 points from last month to 80.1%. We are getting close to Lukashenko levels - if we believe in Santa or the government, that is. The IVAD - Instituto Venezolano de Análisis de Datos - is supposed to be an independent pollster, but they are the ones the government chooses to quote time after time. Even if IVAD numbers have been quoted for some years now, the company still hasn't got its site running, as you can see from the screenshot I uploaded here. Perhaps they hurry up now. Perhaps you can say hello to them. Their email is Perhaps they say they are just rebuilding their site.

I swear you: even ranting Soviet-time Pravda was the mother of objective journalism compared to Venezuela's Venezolana de Televisión. At least they kept their insults to "fascist" and "imperalist".

I wrote about IVAD's incredible numbers and Chavista mathematics some months ago. I have the impression someone from the government told the IVAD people to produce better numbers.

The Chavista Nacional Electorate...sorry, Consejo Nacional Electoral

Daniel writes an excellent post about the military (and Chavista) control of the electoral council. Basically the Venezuelan laws forbid active military personnel from being members of a political party. The Consejo nacional electoral had the database of PSUV (Chávez-party) members online. If you had the ID number of a person, you could check out if the ID was in the registry. An NGO entered the IDs of many generals and they appeared in the data base. The head of the NGO went to the only remaining regime-critical TV channel, Globovision, and asked the last remaining but powerless non-Chavista member of the CNE to check that out in front of the cameras. Everybody could see the generals were members of the Chavez party. Those generals are part of the body that keeps control of the key elements of every election. Just a few hours after that came to light, the CNE took off the database from the Internet. Now the (Chávez) Justice is demanding the NGO to prove its case. Stay tuned.

I plotted these numbers based on the news from the state media, as you can see from the link I added. They always said popularity was climbing, even last February. Now they made sure the increase is indeed positive: 82%.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Urwaldvernichtung in Venezuela

Caura in der Nähe von Maripa als das Gebiet immer noch geschützt war (1979)

Eines der schönsten Naturgebiete, die ich kenne, ist stark bedroht, ja schon zu grossem Teil zerstört. Es handelt sich um sehr einzigartige Urwälder im Süden Venezuelas, Urwälder, die (immer noch) über eine sehr grosse Artenvielfalt verfügen und wo einige unserer einheimischen Ethnien bis vor kurzem relativ ungestört lebten. Als ich 1992 das Gebiet zum ersten Mal besuchte, gab es dort zwar schon Armut, es gab aber kaum Umweltprobleme. Als ich es zum zweiten Mal besuchte, 1997, konnte man schon spüren, wie der illegale Goldabbau anfing, in diese Region einzudringen. Das Ausmass der Umweltverstörung hat aber seit 1999 stark zugenommen. Dazu haben die Militärs und die politischen Massnahmen des Militärs und Präsidenten Hugo Chávez wesentlich beigetragen. Die Region war wirklich sehr dünn besiedelt. Um Maschinen oder Essen da zu transportieren, musste und muss man vor der Nase der Militärs vorbeifahren. Seitdem haben viele Menschen, Indianer, vor allem aber Aussenseiter aus Brasilien und aus den Städten Venezuelas und Kolumbiens, Jobs beim Goldabbau in Naturgebieten oder ganz in der Nähe davon gesucht. In Brasilien gibt es jetzt strengere Kontrolle. In Venezuela gibt es wenige richtige Jobs. Ihr könnt mehr darüber in einem früheren Post von mir (auf Englisch) lesen.

Heute liest man in El Nacional (auf Spanisch) die Erzählung eines Pemón-Indianers, der im Dorf Maripa, am Caura-Fluss, als Bergarbeiter tätig war. Da mehrere NGOs schon seit vielen Jahren über die Zerstörung der Wälder und akute Umweltverschmutzung v.a. durch Quecksilber, sah sich die Chavez-Regierung endlich gezwungen, etwas zu tun, oder zumindest so zu tun, als ob sie etwas unternehmen würde: der Vizepräsident Jaua wurde dahin geschickt, Chávez sagte, dass die Militärs alles unter Kontrolle bringen mussten, als ob man das erst jetzt entdecken würde, als ob das Problem einfach so kam, aus der IVten Republik durch eine Zeitmaschine hineingeschleust. Nun haben Militärs eine Reihe Hütten bzw Häuser der illegalen Siedler zerstört, ein paar Gebiete gesperrt. Man weiss nicht, wie lange das so bleibt.

Fast überall im Bolívar-Bundesstaat gibt es jetzt grosse Umweltprobleme. Im Amazonas-Bundesstaat steht es nicht besser mit der Natur.

El Nacional sagt uns, dass jetzt dort über 15000 Menschen leben. Das waren absolute Urwälder, wo keiner, ausser Uramerikaner etwas bauen konnten. Der Pemón sagt uns, dass er da seit 1999 arbeitet und "über Gold und Diamanten" lebt, seine Kinder aber nicht zur Uni schicken kann. "Was mache ich jetzt, wenn ich jetzt kein Gold abbauen kann? Am Anfang lebten wir hier hier ganz ruhig, denn die Natur war unsere Welt. Mit der Zivilisation (sic), kam die Ausbildung (sic) und die Gesundheitsdienste und wir sahen uns gezwungen, vom Gold- und Diamantenabbau zu leben".

Venezuela hat seit Jahrzehnten sehr strenge Umweltgesetze. Sie werden aber gar nicht respektiert.

Wann wird man richtige Jobs für die Einheimischen da anbieten? Wie kann man ihre Ausbildungsmöglichkeiten dort verbessern? Wie kann man endlich mal die illegalen Siedlungen stoppen, das Eindringen der venezolanischen und brasilianischen Garimpeiros anhalten? Welche Massnahmen kann man treffen, um in Ciudad Guayana oder Ciudad Bolívar, in Santa Elena oder Ciudad Piar Arbeitstellen in nachhaltigen Wirtschaftsgebieten anbieten?

Damit müssen sich die Venezolaner endlich mal befassen.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Chávez leaving office: My unscientific poll and Buying votes

Here you have the results for last month's poll: when do you think Chávez is leaving office? There were less respondents (28) this time because I started the poll way too late. I normalized the results and this is what we get:

19.23% think Chávez ceases to be president before 2012. 26.92% think he stops between 2012 and 2014. 15.38% think he will cease to rule as president of Venezuela between 2014 and 2021.
30.77% think he will still be president in 2021. 7.7% have no idea.

OK, let's start again: when do you think Chávez ceases to be president? Please, answer from your bowels: when do you think (not wish) that Venezuela gets a different president?


I just read Chávez will be selling at least 300000 Chinese refrigerators, aircos, washing machines and stuff like that through his "socialist companies". Those companies will buy at 2.6 Bs per dollar instead of 4.3 Bs per dollar as the private sector does...Chávez says he will chock speculators to death like that. There are some boliburgueses who will get a little bit richer, Chávez will buy some more votes and sustainable development will be a little bit further away.

Friday, 14 May 2010

A city as a sauna: Orinoco meets Caroní

Imagine living in a sauna. That is Ciudad Guayana, in the middle between the Orinoco and the Caroní River. The city is located in a beautiful area, but the whole region is under a lot of environmental strain (oil, mining, illegal logging, no proper treatment of residual waters).

The Orinoco is a "white" and the Caroní a "black water river". The dark colour in "black rivers" derives from humic acid due to incomplete breakdown of phenol-containing vegetation of sandy areas. Alexander von Humboldt described the differences over 2 hundred years ago when travelling through the Orinoco to the Río Negro and from there to the Casiquiare and back to the Orinoco. Some mosquitos thrive in white water rivers and not so much in black ones, as any traveller there very soon notices.

Venezuela versus Europe

Chávez says that while Europe is reducing salaries and pensions, he is increasing them. Right. The sad thing is that there are many people who get impressed by that. I know a couple of them, one being an aunt who also believes in ghosts.

What Chávez does not say is that as dramatic as the situation in Spain or Greece is, a recession in Spain is like a boom in Venezuela when it comes to what the poor can really do, what kind of security they live in, not to mention what education or health services they have access to. And yes, Spain's situation sucks. Still: don't count on Spaniards pouring in Venezuela as they were doing until the late seventies.

Chávez also said in view of the pressure on the Venezuelan currency that "there is an economic conspiracy executed by the counter-revolution (i.e. us) and openly supported by the Empire". He further added: "the objective of the opposition's strategy is to try to win the parliamentary elections of 26th September and control the National Assembly to destroy everything we have achieved for the people". There is no way Chávez will want to give up power democratically. And yet we must always behave democratically. It will just be a thousand times harder.

The opposition needs to explain:

- while inflation in Spain and Greece is minimal, inflation in Venezuela is officially around 30% and in reality much higher and salary increases for non-military Venezuelans are actually worse than salary decreases in Spain right now
- the collapse of the Venezuelan currency is basically due to the government's inability to manage the economy
- the real oligarchy right now is to a big extent made up of the red-shirted Boliburguesía, the Diosdado Cabellos, the Freddy Bernals, the Chávez clan itself.

Country Inflation Salary rise Murder rate
Venezuela 31* 25 52
Spain 1.6 -5** 1.2

* inflation is bound to be way higher than that.

** for state employees only

Ps I forgot to add: even according to official figures, over 45% of Venezuelans are working in the informal sector, which is in Venezuela basically "street vendors" and illegal taxi drivers and the like.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Portuguesa: who cares?

Portuguesa state

Population density for each municipality

Portuguesa is one of the most ignored states in Venezuela. I wrote some months earlier about Amazonas as State of Oblivion. Portuguesa is probably the "State One Overlooks". It is located in the Western Llanos. The Northwestern part is rather mountaineous, whereas the rest is flat as Llanos goes. It is mostly agricultural and poor. It has around one million inhabitants, 60%> of them live in 3 or 4 cities: Guanare, Araure-Guanare and then Biscucuy and other smallish cities or villages.

Guanare main square, non-originally called Bolívar Square

It was more in the news in the early eighties, when a politician from there, Luis Herrera Campins, became president of the country.

There are very few educational or cultural organizations there and that reflects on the profile of most of its leaders (or minicaudillos). Chavismo has absolute control of the region. The most important opposition parties in Portuguesa are the old AD and COPEI, unlike in the main urban centres, where Primero Justicia or UNT are the main oppo parties (followed by PROVE in Carabobo). UNT gets to less than 3% of the voters and Primero Justicia to less than 1.5%. I don't think there is much chance the opposition wins one single circunscription seat there.

I must own up I know almost nothing about local politics in Portuguesa. I just opened a Portuguesa newspaper and read what two opposition "leaders" were saying. Basically they were disqualifying each other. One was talking something I keep hearing time after time in Venezuela: they don't recognise natural leadership. I wonder:

  • how do you measure "natural leadership"?
  • Why did they not organise primaries?
  • What does it mean for Venezuelan politicians "to deserve a seat"?
  • Why don't the parties that are in Caracas try to reach those regions?
  • What thoughts have they given to the sustainable development of that region?
  • Is it possible for them to support education to improve entrepeurship and political awareness there?

There is not a single opposition mayor in Portuguesa.

The electoral circumscriptions: not a chance if we go with a divided opposition that has no programme or law proposals aimed at the regional development (not that Chavismo has any programme at all, but they do have the petrodollars)

The Wikipedia article for Portuguesa state sucks big time. The Spanish one is hardly any better.
That is very telling about the level of interest this region gets.

Venezuela auf Deutsch: für Dich immer Sie und einseitige Nichteinmischung

Die Deutschen kennen es: dutzen und siezen. Die Regeln varieren von Land zu Land, von Gebiet zu Gebiet und von Zeit zu Zeit. Wir haben das auch auf Spanisch: tú und Usted -dazu in einigen Regionen "vos"-. In Venezuela dutzt man öfter als in Mexiko oder Peru, aber immer noch weniger als in Spanien. Erwachsene, die sich kaum kennen, benutzen oft "Usted", wechseln in Venezuela aber schnell zu "tú", wenn es Sympathie gibt. Wenn man aber in einer menschlichen Beziehung immer von einer Seite "Usted", von der anderen Seite "tú" hört, zeigt dies deutlich eine soziale Ungleichheit - entweder Kind gegenüber Eltern/älteren Menschen oder Untertan gegenüber Feudalherr oder Landbesitzer.

Chávez benutzt immer "Du". Niemand darf ihn aber dutzen, es sei denn, es handelt sich um seine Brüder, seine Eltern oder eine kleine Anzahl seiner Auserkorenen: Diosdado Cabello, Aristóbulo Istúriz und drei bis vier andere Bonzen. Wie Chávez sagte, als er sich weigerte, mit Schriftsteller Mario Vargas Llosa zu debatieren: "ich gehöre einer anderen Liga". Stell Euch vor, Angela Merkel oder Sigmar Gabriel würden darauf bestehen, mit "Sie" behandelt zu werden, sie würden aber alle dutzen.

Einseitige Nicht-Einmischung

Wie Blogger Quico uns berichtet, hat der Militärpräsident Venezuelas schon wieder den kolumbianischen Kandidat Santos angegriffen. Er nannte ihn u.a. Mafioso. Als der OAS-Vorsitzende José Miguel Insulza sehr schüchtern kommentierte, "ich nenne dies nicht unbedingt Einmischung, dies sei aber eine schlechte Gewohnheit", erwiederte Chávez, "der unverbesserliche Insulza mischt sich ohne Gründe in venezolanische Angelegenheiten ein". Insulza war so schüchtern, weil er eigentlich seinen Job zum grossen Teil dank Chávez behalten konnte.

Für Dich, Insulza, "Sie". Und mischt Dich in venezolanische Angelegenheiten nicht ein, wenn ich kolumbianische Politiker beleidige.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Venezuelans and Europeans looking at Europe and Venezuela

If you are a European living in Venezuela or a Venezuelan living in Europe, I want to ask you a favour: please, send me - desarrollo.sostenible.venezuela at gmail dot com - a "weird/curious" picture of Venezuela -if you were born in Europe- or Europe -if you were born in Venezuela-.The picture should be something "weird" or surprising, something that has caught your attention, whether it is cool or bad or sad or funny, a new landscape, a new view to a street or a human situation that is different to what you knew. It is about the differences you discovered...or the surprising similarities. I will add the details you want me to put.

Venezuelans are a very mixed bunch, with native American, sub-Saharan, North American and Asian influences apart from the European ones, but from time to time I give a Venezuela-Europe focus to this blog. It is called Venezuela-Europa, after all. There are many Venezuelans who have European parents and are going back, there are many Europeans who have fallen in love with Venezuela and some are still there (and I hope they will have again more reasons to remain there soon). Let's see the other perspective.

The pie chart shows the European countries where the Venezuelan readers of this blog who have answered to the running poll are located. The distribution does not correspond to the real distribution of Venezuelans in Europe. Most Venezuelans in Europe live in Spain (and read in Spanish) and there are quite some in France as well (and they read mostly in Spanish or French). Still, you can see some clusters starting to appear. I am sorry for the Venezuelan who is living in a small Eastern European country I forgot to add! (if you want, you can write to me telling me which one it was). I put that one in "some Eastern European country" but only "some" appeared. I will correct that later on.

Vielen Dank für Eure Beiträge! ¡Muchas gracias por sus contribuciones! Thanks for your contributions! Let's see what pictures come first.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Bolívar in nappies

A ship commissioned by the Venezuelan government from Germany to be part of the fishing fleet Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) has just arrived in Venezuela. Our autocrat says the ship will be called - surprise, surprise - Simón Bolívar. We have already another ship called Simón Bolívar, but that one is a school ship. Now we have at the very least two governmental Simón Bolívar ships.

Chávez single-handedly changed the name of our country from República de Venezuela to República Bolivariana de Venezuela. Our currency is called Bolívar, our largest state is Bolívar, the highest peak also, a big iron mountain, absolutely every single main square of every village and city in Venezuela, an autonomous university and a group of state-controlled universities, a thousand other institutions and much more.

Bolívar Peak

Universidad Simón Bolívar

Autocrat in front of first caudillo of independent Venezuela
(Paez would be the second)

Many years ago, shortly after Chávez revamped the Bolívar Cult, I read a reader's letter in El Nacional who in order to avoid confusions with all the new things being called after Bolívar suggested adding a specific word or two: "kindergarten wee Bolívar", "fashion shop Bolívar on the Catwalk", school "Bolívar Reading Books" and so on. US Americans use a lot of "Washington", but even that one does not get close to the use of the Bolívar name in Venezuela. And the saddest part is that most Venezuelans have an incredibly fuzzy idea of universal and national history and who Bolívar actually was. Chávez was not joking when he said that mankind was 20 to 25 centuries old.

One day we will have to deconstruct Bolívar. I mean: the man did some good things, but he was neither unique nor a super hero nor so positive as painted by every Venezuelan textbook and there were many other persons who made great contributions to Venezuela. We would have got our independence without him anyway. The Bolívar cult has done more evil than good in Venezuela, as I have often said.

Bolívar's deconstruction will have to come not as an iconoclastic movement, but rather as very-well planned process of analysis of history as manipulation tool in the world and Venezuela.

Curious note: the Order of the Liberator (referring to Bolívar) was first created by...Bolívar himself.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Germans and mountains under Venezuela's Caribbean

A German expedition ship, Meteo, with a team from Greifswald University has just announced they may have discovered sunken "islands" off Venezuela's and Colombia's coastline in the Caribbean. Basically, we are talking about mountains with summits 800-1000 metres under sea level and going further down up to 1000 metres to the seabed proper. Those elevations hadn't apparently been charted before.

The expedition also dregged soil material from that area and found fossalized chorals, snails and algae. Those elements hint at the mountains once being part of shallow waters. The team assumes the area was above sea level 40 to 50 million years ago.

You will find a general article in English here and a comprehensive report in German and English here about what the initial plan was. Mind: they had several targets in mind, from doing research on volcanic and tectonic activity to testing theories on how the Caribbean appeared to finding signs of oil and learning more about heavy metal circulation, so I suppose we will be hearing more about the other things they were investigating there.

I hope Venezuelan scientists can get more involved in those expeditions.

News from the Land of Unproduction

Venezuela has been a primarily oil exporting country for over 80 years now. It had been importing most manufactured products of some complexity for decades. Still, there were some industries. The manufacturing sector concretely was trying to take off in the late eighties and early nineties. We actually saw an increase in exports in textiles and even some rudamentary electronic products started to be exported to neighbouring countries back then. That is all gone. Rualca, a company producing alluminum wheels and other metal products, was exporting over 95% of its production in the early 90s but became a shadow of itself when Chávez came to power. It was recently taken over by the State.

Some weeks ago we heard Venezuela was importing coffee for the first time in history. We are not only importing German X ray machines or US cars, we are not only importing Chinese toys or Japanese radios. We are not only importing EU meat or New Zealand milk. We are not only importing all kinds of textiles and nappies as we started to do big time since Chávez is in power. We are also importing what once was the main source of export revenue: coffee. Actually, Chávez announced we would be importing black beans as well, which is as if Spain were importing olives or chorizo.

Opposition leader Borges just talked about the record scarcity of coffee and rice. The government regime accussed the private entrepreneurs of provoking scarcity and then took over several of their factories. The same happened with rice. The result is that coffee and rice production, already declining because of all attacks on private property, investment and pricing, has collapsed. This year Venezuela is importing coffee and rice. The Chávez government controls 80% of the coffee and 70% of the rice production now, so it cannot blame it on the capitalists.

According to an article by Reuters, the latest coffee production year resulted in at most 1200000 quintales. Each quintal or coffee sack contain 46 kg of coffee. That means there was a production of 55200000 kg (probably less). The Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1907 tells us that Venezuela was producing 42806000 kilograms of coffee in 1907. Back in 1907 there were some 2.5 million people in Venezuela. Now there are 28 million. Of course, when you have a commodity that can be easily extracted by mechanical work and a few thousand people and you get big money for that, you are going to focus on that...but not in such a way as in Venezuela. Mind: coffee plantations are much more productive in 2010 with 2010 technology than in 1907 and you just need a tiny fraction of the workers you needed over 100 years ago. I am definitely NOT advocating for focusing on coffee. I just want to point out to the fact we cannot even keep up with production of something as basic and as easy to grow in Venezuela as coffee. Venezuela must diversify its production into manufacturing. Don't expect us to get much help from anyone but ourselves. The EU and China, the US and Japan would prefer to see Venezuela as an oil exporting country as now...or in the best case scenario, as their destination for so-called eco-tourism. But I digress.

Chávez got over 12 billion dollars in loans from China last year on condition of selling off cheap oil for many years to come. Some weeks ago we wrote here about the new loans for over 20 billion dollars (actually, half of it in yuan purchases). Now Chávez is announcing new oil deals with the US, Japan and other countries. Once we get the details of those deals we are going to see once more that Chávez, while accussing previous administration of being laceys to foreign powers, is actually selling off Venezuela in the most damaging way we had seen since the times of another civic-military government, that of Juan Vicente Gómez. Many people still think the Chávez government will collapse as it will run out of cash soon. They don't see that 1) Chávez will be able to get much more cash for many years because he is ready to sell off Venezuela's future for many decades - there is the oil, the gold, the gas, the forest resources for others to take - and 2) Chavista officials are already blaming economic woes on an imaginary Cuban-luke embargo.

Former Chávez supporter Ow wrote an article about how even Chávez does not buy Venezuelan products. But Chávez just announced another "Chinese-Venezuelan" company that will produce millions of mobile phones. Will that company become as "succesful" as the Chinese-Venezuelan computer factory?

For comparison, look at the coffee production in Venezuela next to Colombia's. There was a huge varience in the early XX century, with Colombia sometimes producing much more or much less than Venezuela but that was about the average, see here and here. Colombia is still much poorer than Venezuela, but at least it is producing not just coffee (and tragically, cocaine that Europeans and US Americans buy), but it is self-sufficient in food and due to a better education system than Venezuela's (anything is better in South America to the education the average Venezuelan gets), it has more chances to diversify and adapt to the future. Let's not compare Venezuela to Brazil or Chile for the moment. It would become too sad.

Coffee production in Venezuela and Colombia

Population growth in Colombia and Venezuela

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Why is the opposition in such a position? 1

Chávez's popularity keeps going down. The nation is plagued by violent crime, blackouts, recession, shortages of different products, lack of real jobs, proper housing and yet we are far from getting over this regime. Why? It is true Chávez has several times the amount of petrodollars other governments had, the National Electoral Commission is favouring him, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly are all on his side and the Venezuelan military receives salary raises that are always higher than that of the less equal. Still, there is another reason: a big part of the opposition sucks big time.

And why? Because it is to a big extent led by people who still think as caudillos and who see politics as a way to promote their family interest. Take the Salas-Feo clan in my state, Carabobo.

The Feo family has been a wealthy family from Valencia since the XIX century. Feo La Cruz was a governor in the mid of the XX century. One of this daughters married Salas Römer, who became one of the first directly elected governors of the state. Salas Römer was originally from the COPEI party, but he went on his own when he saw that was the only way he would be the centre of his party. He did a fairly good job compared to his predecessors, but that is no surprise as they were always directly appointed by the presidents. He was re-elected and then, as a third term was still not possible, annointed his son, Henrique Salas Feo (third from the left), to be the next candidate for governor. In 1998 Salas Römer ran for president against Hugo Chávez and ex-miss Universe Irene Sáenz. Salas had no chance against Chávez: he has the charm of a skunk with rabies. He could do the trick initially in Carabobo because the competition there was so bad and he had good connections. He was reelected for the first time because his work was indeed much better than that of his predecessors.

Henrique Junior was less succesful. He lost the bid for reelection in 2004 to the Chavista candidate, military honcho Acosta Carlez. Many people say Carlez won through fraud. I don't know but the fact is that those elections were anything but fair. At the end, the military took away the ballot boxes before they could be recounted. There were no international observers for those state elections. Anyway: Carlez was incredibly inept. In 2008 Chávez decided to make Silvio Silva, from the state programme La Hojilla, candidate for the PSUV. The Salas wanted to get back to power. As they were the best known politicians, the rest of the opposition decided to support Henrique Junior against the PSUV candidate. But the Salas got greedy: they wanted all opposition to support Salas candidates for each of the 14 municipalities of Carabobo. The others did not want that, so there was little cooperation. In Valencia, businessman Cocchiola was more popular than the Salas candidate, but Salas refused to step back. The opposition incredibly lost Valencia of all places.

Candidates for the position of mayor in Valencia, 2008 elections: Parra from the Chávez-party came first, followed by Cocchiola, who was supported by several opposition parties. On third place: Padrón, supported by the Salas clan. The opposition would have easily won if the Salas had thought about Venezuela first

Now the opposition in Carabobo has mayors in only 2 municipalities: Naguanagua, governed by Feo La Cruz, and San Diego, where an independent, Enzio Scarano, has been mayor for quite some time already. San Diego is a middle-middle class area, mostly professionals but no villas, and some slums.

When the referendum to allow the indefinite re-election not just for the position of president was announced for 2009, Salas was very absent from the efforts to go against it. It seems as if the Salas clan had made up their minds: Chávez would never be reelected, they may have thought, but with that law change, they had a chance to keep in power forever. The Salas said they opposed the referendum but they kept a very low profile during the opposition campaign against the reform.

The last guy on the picture from left to right is Alejandro Feo Cruz. He is mayor of Naguanagua, a city just North and now completely merged with Valencia. Enrique and Alejandro are cousins. An avenue in Naguanagua and Valencia's public library are called after their grandfather.

The Salas had a party they called Proyecto Carabobo. The only reason to have a party apart from others was to represent their interests. When Salas Senior decided to run for president in 1998, he created Proyecto Venezuela, which has never obtained much support anywhere outside Carabobo. Now the Salas have two family parties: Proyecto Carabobo and Proyecto Venezuela. In the 2008 elections, you could see both parties in the ballot. That is a way to get more votes for the same candidate.

And now, the Salas have shown how uncooperative they are with the rest of the opposition. They said the others had to "respect local leaderships" (this is a term very often used by the different caudillos now). They wanted all their candidates to be accepted.

The Chavista Electoral Council did heavy gerrymandering in Carabobo, as I wrote in earlier posts. It basically concentrated the most anti-Chavista (and mostly middle to upper-middle class regions) in one electoral circuit, one big enough to secure the Guaraca region does not get an opposition representative but not big enough to merit 3 seats. Still, based on demographics, the Valencia district should get 2 seats, but the CNE assigned it one seat only. The opposition could put there a dead dog and it would win. Salas decided to promote as candidate young student Julio Rivas, third from left. Julio Rivas is only known because he took part, as thousands of others, in street demos. He was detained by the police for a couple of days. Since then he considers himself a sort of Nelso Mandela.

When the opposition MUD or Mesa de la Unidad - AD, COPEI, Enzo Scarano, Primero Justicia, UNT, Proyecto Venezuela and others - started discussions about the candidates, Julio Rivas and some other "students" started to shout slogans and ended up beating up several people. When Rivas was taken away from the scene, he kept shouting: "I deserve the seat, give space to the youth". I actually would like to see young people as candidates, but this character has nothing to show: he can't talk, he does not have ideas and no one "deserves a seat" just by going to jail for a day or two.

Venezuelan presidents boast that education in Venezuela is free up to university level. Still: public schools are incredibly bad and pupils have to buy their own books. There is money for Chinese and Russian tanks and planes, but not for textbooks. And textbooks are more expensive in Venezuela than in the US or in Europe.

The governor (Henrique Jr) started to distribute textbooks in poor schools. The bad thing was that he was apparently distributing books with the symbol of the Salas party and, according to Chavistas, with his face. Never mind Chavista officials also distribute state goodies that are wrapped in red plastic, that have the sysmbol of the PSUV or the face of Chávez (not books, though). In general, Venezuelan politicians promote themselves in ways that are more flagrant than the ones used by the Kings of Babylon.

The Salas have a hard time now: the central government - Chávez - has taken away most of the regional revenues. Still, they could do better.

Next September Carabobo will be going to elections with a deeply divided opposition. We are bound to win the electoral district of Northern Valencia-San Diego-Naguanagua, but even if we get 55% of the votes in Carabobo, chances are we lose Libertador-Southern Valencia area as well as Naguanagua and Puerto Cabello and Chavismo gets 6 representatives for the one we get. That is gerrymandering big time. It is a pity...if we could have political parties and not caudillo parties and if those political parties were not 50, but just 5 or at most 10, Chavismo would see its end rather soon.

The blue spots represent 1000 votes for the opposition and the red spots 1000 votes for chavismo. The different colour areas represent the electoral districts (as opposed to the municipalities). We will get the green circuit for sure.