Sunday, 31 October 2010

Shameless brainwashing, Latino-style

Chávez's regime expropriated the bottle-manufacturing factory Owens-Illinois Venezuela just a few days ago. The action was part of a plan to control every aspect of income generation in Venezuela and as a way of getting hold of all companies supplying POLAR, the largest private company in Venezuela. Here you can watch a propaganda video the military regime produced to explain its version of why it expropriated that factory. The video shows Owens-Illinois workers applauding, but it does not allow really tell viewers why and when exactly. The believers in Chávez are supposed to imagine workers were supporting what Chávez's henchman and vice president, Elias Jaua, was saying in another place and moment. State "journalists" did not ask workers to talk freely about their "liberation". That is no surprise: what worker would feel like talking openly when the whole factory is chock-a-block with armed soldiers? What worker would talk freely after union people from Agroisleña, another recently expropriated factory, were sacked after voicing their opinion?

The military regime wanted to have a show with "workers supporting the liberation". As it does not have real workers' backing, the regime sent 7 buses to look for some one-hour actors among the eternal jobless hanging around Bolívar's square in Los Guayos, where Owens-Illinois is located. Half of Venezuelans work - according to governmental INE statistics - in what the government calls "informal sector". In reality most of them are basically unemployed, depending on some fictitious "scholarship" or selling Chinese toys or working as pirate taxi drivers when they can. This time, as some people from Los Guayos tell me, the regime did not manage to fill even 3 of the buses. In previous years they would have been able to fill in all 7 buses immediately and the ones outside would be trying to to get in for the privilege of "defending the revolution". Not anymore. The regime's popularity is definitely going down even if Venezuela still is experiencing the longest oil boom of its history.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Venezuela as a feudal state (II)

Caudillos have marked Venezuela since S. Bolívar declared himself "the" Libertador", as if he, singled-handedly, had liberated the region. Bolívar repeatedly rejected federalism and advocated a strong central government arguing decentralized power would lead to chaos, weakness and caudillismo. In reality a country where there is state of law, transparency and a clear distinction between state and government, federalism can become a real option and government becomes more efficient. Bolívar wanted a central government mostly because he intended to be the one in power. Gran Colombia, the union of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and what is now Panama, fell apart not just because of the national caudillos but also because of the way the central government was conceived.

Venezuela became a very centralized nation but it never became strong or prosperous. Military caudillo after military caudillo ruled as short-sighted despot of a country sunk obsessed with a mythical Independence Time period. The exploitation of oil in the XX century just brought the impression Venezuela was, after all, a prosperous nation. Oil became the Dorado that did not materialize before.

When our last military dictatorship came to an end in 1958, a succession of democratic, albeit dysfunctional governments came to power. Social democrats from AD and Christian democrats from COPEI took turns to do some good and some evil, squander a lot and steal a bit. The presidents sent their governors and mayors to the whole country like party satraps to distribute what petrodollars could buy. They kept their local caudillos, who had to be from their own party. Depending on how ineffective and corrupt AD or COPEI was with a region, that region became more or less COPEI or AD. Local leaderships were based on AD or COPEI-alliances.

Centralism ruled until 1988, when Venezuelans could finally elect their first governors and mayors. Suddenly a new set of local proto-caudillos appeared. Venezuelans started to see some form of competition and people started to say: "this guy is better than that one" or "this is even worse". More parties appear, often created by caudillos who could not find their way in COPEI or AD. Those parties became a platform for them. Some started to do a rather decent job, some others did not.

Unfortunately, Venezuela was going through a big crisis, with oil prices at record low levels for years. Venezuelans finally elected as president a military man, the 1992 coup monger. That happened exactly at a time when oil prices started to go up again. That military strongman has greatly profited from the biggest oil boom in decades. He has also done everything to revert decentralization: he has taken power and a lot of financial resources from the elected governors and mayors and distributed resources exclusively according to political alliances, i.e. to how subservient his governors are to him. Chavismo was nothing more than a continuation of caudillismo, now with a union of military men, some communists and a lot of former AD politicians who now distanced themselves from what they call "the IV Republic". Corruption has since reached levels we never thought possible.

Different leaderships could appear based on those first directly elected governors and mayors and also on the fact people saw how badly Chávez's satraps were managing their regions . Only the better educated got an idea about how much money was squandered as Venezuelans - as actually most people around the world- would have no direct information about what oil prices mean for any Venezuelan government.

Some of the governors and mayors have turned out to be better than others. Some became part of the alternative forces.

They all are still trapped in the Middle Age fiefdom mentality. I made the map based very roughly on the deputies each alternative party got in the National Assembly Elections last September. I painted states grey when the opposition got clearly less votes than the Chavez party. Some states like Carabobo have a majority for the opposition, but the alternative forces got less deputies because of the shameless gerrymandering carried out by the pro-Chávez Electoral Commission.

The problem is that party alliances are still based on who gave what job to whom.

  • Blue: UNT, with its centre in Zulia.
  • Light green: COPEI 2.0, based on Táchira.
  • Yellow: PJ, with its centre in Miranda, but also strong in Anzoátegui.
  • Cyan: PPT, a party that is not part of the Unity Front, but is part of the opposition, is now strong in the Amazonas state.
  • Light brown: Proyecto Venezuela is basically a party set up by local caudillo Salas Römer and his family.
  • White: the old AD has a lot of dinosaurs mostly in Margarita Island (Nueva Esparta state) and Sucre. They also have quite a lot of presence "in the countryside".
  • Dark green: Convergencia, only present in Yaracuy. Convergencia's only reason for being is to continue caudillismo in that region.
  • Pink: Podemos (socialist)
  • Green: Cuentas Claras, made up of independent people.
  • Brown: Causa R (socialist), in Bolívar.

UNT calls itself "social democrat" and PJ calls itself "centre" or on other occasions "liberal". Commies in Europe call it "far right". All of them, including UNT and PJ but also the Chávez party, the PSUV, are in reality nothing more than caudillo platforms.

PSUV is not local just because the president is the founder of the PSUV. Other than that, it is just the same thing. In many of the states, whether they are ruled by the military regime or the alternative forces, at least one of the mayors of one of the municipios is the brother or cousin of the ruling governor.

If Venezuela is ever to get out of underdevelopment and stagnation, what we now call "political parties" have to mature. They have to become real parties with a real programme and a concrete plan. They have to stop being caudillo platforms. They have to merge with those that have a similar ideology and become national. They have to choose their leaders through transparent elections.

Right now they are keeping up with feudal customs that came with Spain and were only superficially adapted through the centuries.

By the way, most well-known Venezuelan politicos have or had their haciendas: the Chávez family has the Chavera (and many people say a lot of other lands through front men), many of their amigos like military honcho Ramírez Chacín also have thousands of hectares of land. That goes for PSUV governors in many regions. Rosales, UNT founder and now in exile, also had his couple of haciendas. Former Guárico governor Manuitt -now also in exile-, had his haciendas. But those haciendas are mostly symbolic tokens of a politico's importance in today's Venezuela. Their resources are elsewhere.

In any case, the main difference between Venezuela's current feudal system and that of Middle Age Europe is this:

When the price of those barrels is high, the main lord or king controlling the fields does not even have to have peasants producing anything as Gómez had at the start of the XX century (my granddad was one of those landless peasants back then). The ruling caudillo just needs people to keep other caudillos under control and away from the fields and he needs to give those peasants some of the coins he gets by selling those barrels abroad. The problem comes when he doesn't give people enough coins.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Die venezolanischen Militärs wollen POLAR und viel mehr


Die -wohlbemerkt- demokratisch gewählte Militärregierung in Venezuela will ihre Kontrolle aller Lebensbereiche erweitern. In den 2010-Wahlen hat der Chavismo trotzt aller Tricks nur noch 48.13% der Stimmen erreichen können gegen 50.36% der Opposition (alternative Einheitsfront MUD mit 47.22% und PPT mit 3.14%). Die Militärs wissen, dass sie sich beeilen müssen, wenn sie die ganze Macht behalten wollen.

Der Caudillo konnte seine Position in den letzten 11 Jahren vor allem aufgrund der steigenden Erdölpreise befestigen. Die Erdölpreise sind in dieser Zeit um 600% gestiegen. Damit verfügt die venezolanische Regierung über viel mehr Geld als die Regierungen, die in den 20 Jahren davor an der Macht waren. 1998 produzierte Venezuela ziemlich wenig ausser Erdöl. Nun, mit dem Niedergang vieler Fabriken produziert es noch weniger. Die meisten Menschen sind vom Staat immer abhängiger geworden. Trotztdem gab es bis jetzt immer noch einige Firmen im Industriesektor, die alles getan haben, um zu überleben. Der Caudillo will sie aber nun auch enteignen. Er will sicher sein, die ganze Kontrolle über die wirtschaftlichen Aktivitäten Venezuelas zu haben.

Die bei weitem grösste Firma in Venezuela ist POLAR. POLAR war früher das grösste Lebensmittelunternehmen Lateinamerikas. Es hatte viel für Venezuelas Entwicklung geleistet. POLAR beschäftigt immer noch über 20000 Menschen direkt. Seit einigen Jahren greift die Militärregierung diese Firma ständig an. Der Druck hat in den letzten Monaten deutlich zugenommen. Da die Militärs POLAR noch nicht auf einmal enteignen können, wollen sie mit den POLAR-Lieferanten anfangen. Und so hat der Caudillo zuerst die spanisch-venezolanische Firma Agroisleña und nun die Firma für Flaschenproduktion Owens Illinois Venezuela enteignet. Owens stellt 60% aller Flaschen im Lande her. Die Lage für POLAR wird immer kritischer.

Der Caudillo sagt, er enteignet Owens Illinois wegen der von Owens Illinois verursachten Umweltzerstörung und wegen der Art und Weise, wie sie ihre Arbeitnehmer ausbeutet. Das sind seine Standardworte bei jeder neuen Enteignung. In Wirklichkeit ist aber der venezolanische Staat der wichstigte Umweltzerstörer in Venezuela und die Arbeitnehmer von Owens fühlen sich besser als Staatsarbeitnehmer - zumindest als die, die nicht Regierungsbonzen sind.

Die venezolanischen Militärs glauben, dass sie nichts zu verlieren haben. Der Caudillo hat schon wieder vieles an Weissrusland und Russland versprochen. Er wird dafür nicht nur mehr Waffen, sondern auch politische und "strategische" Unterstützung bekommen. Venezolanische Militärs und "Sicherheitsexperten" kriegen nun Training nicht nur von den Kubanern, sondern auch von den Weissrussen.

Ohne die venezolanischen Militärs würden die weissrussischen und die kubanischen Regierungen nicht überleben können. Ohne sie würden die russischen Oligarchen nicht so viele Millionen verdienen können. Ohne sie würden die Chinesen auch keinen spottbilligen Erdölpreis empfangen.

Die Situation wird immer komplexer werden, auch für die Militärs, denn ihr Caudillo verspricht viel mehr Erdöllieferung, als was Venezuela wirklich produzieren kann und er kann seine Ausgaben nicht unter Kontrolle bringen.

Monday, 25 October 2010

"I like women to keep the protocol because I respect them"

Venezuela's military president ended his autumn tour in Portugal. There, he met with José Socrates, the only head of state of Western Europe who will still meet the Venezuelan caudillo outside international everybody-must-go meetings. The Venezuelan ordered 2 transport boats, a ferry, the construction of 12500 houses Venezuelans are apparently incapable of building themselves and 1.5 million laptops for a children's project. You can read the official version here (Spanish) and a half official one here. The government of the Azores Islands had initially ordered one of the boats but it then rejected the ship when it saw its speed was slower than agreed. Unlike the Azores administration, though, the Venezuelan strongman just said "I want two!". No kidding: he said just that, exactly as the Venezuelan caricature tourists portrayed on a Venezuelan TV comedy in the late seventies and early eighties during Venezuela's last oil boom.

The laptops have been announced as a tool to become independent from "the Empire". In reality the Iberians are basically reselling the technology...a new tale of broken glass for gold.

Portuguese newspaper O Journal de Noticias has a couple of interesting articles about the visit, articles that give a glimpse into the caudillo's set of mind. If you read Portuguese, you can take a look here. There is more interesting data here.

The comment about preferring women to do the protocol because he respects them actually shows his usual preference for just a special kind of women: those he can control. And in this framework of mind he again ignored the protocol: He drove in Portugal without license because he is president, he walked where he pleased and the Venezuelan journalists -state media employees- came firstly. He was three hours late, but that is nothing unusual with him. He reckons that is the norm for every head of state. Don't forget: jefe es jefe.

The caudillo was happy to see so many people waving Portuguese and Venezuelan flags at the Portuguese company. Apparently they were almost all company employees.

I just hope for the sake of Venezuela that the flats Portugal is supposed to build in the Land of Grace are cheaper than the flats we have or haven't got from Belarus and that they are better than the buildings for which Mr Socrates was responsible many years ago before his permit as civil "engineer" was revoked.

And now the caudillo will announce big things for Venezuela. I wonder if the alternative forces will reveal exactly what they are. The Venezuelan people will have to pay over 1.1 billion euros for this.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Ideas for Venezuela: Khan Academy en español

The Khan Academy is a non-for-profit organisation initiated and maintained by US American Salman Khan. It offers thousands of education videos in such topics as mathematics, biology and economics.

We should have something like that for the Spanish speaking world. The government of Spain, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela and all the rest could contribute to produce Spanish videos for all those topics and more, to make them downloadable and to enable pupils and grownups to watch them in schools and public libraries all around the Spanish speaking world. The idea would also help us agree on common terminology in Spanish and to promote the discussion of more ideas for cooperation among the Spanish speaking countries and beyond.

I'm sending this idea to the Spanish government and to the EU as well as to all kinds of people in Venezuela. I am afraid the current Venezuelan regime would only use such an idea to promote its military caste, the PSUV party and more rewriting of history. You know: red-coloured site, no video without a link to the military president or the "glories" of the current government, which Chavismo sees as the eternal government of the "people". If you don't believe me about how the Chavez regime abuses of state resources to promote itself, take a look at the current site of the National Assembly.

So, I hope the Spanish-speaking community can develop a similar idea for all and independently from political schemes.

Who's financing murderous drug dealers?

In this map you can see an approximate snapshot of cocaine use in the world some years earlier. The colours represent very approximate percentage of cocaine users within the total grownup population. The numbers are based on UNODC statistics. There are several regions with underestimates, I am sure, like Brazil and France and more and more Western Africa. As the percentage of children in such countries as Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina is higher than in, said, the US and Germany, chances are that the rate in those countries is a bit higher. Still, I think the tendency is more or less as the UNODC shows.

Every year over 50000 people get murdered in Latin America because of the drug wars. Countless get maimed and handicapped for life. Although consumption in Latin America is increasing and it is increasing fast, the main drug users and definitely the most important financing agents of drug dealers are "normal people" in North America, Spain, Britain, the rest of Western Europe plus Australia.

Who is benefiting from the current policy on the "war on drugs"?

  • drug dealers everywhere
  • military everywhere
  • private companies supplying personnel and all kind of gadgets for said "war on drugs"
  • some politicians

A future government of Venezuela will have to do its homework for fighting the cocaine trafficking and trade within and across Venezuelan borders, but it also needs to be courageous enough to tell the main consuming countries that they have as much if not more responsibility for the devastating cocaine trade.

Lots of vested interests around the world are against an open and thorough debate aimed at finding solutions to this problem. We need to create consciousness at every level and basically tell people everywhere that demand promotes offer.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Venezuela, Europe and sustainable development

The first European competition for sustainable development in Venezuela took place recently (more in Spanish here, here). There was a prize for a research project and another one for the best successfully implemented project. Spain, Germany, Britain and France had organized this competition.

A team from the Universidad Simón Bolívar got the first prize for their research on keeping the Canaima National Park and offering sustainable solutions to the native Americans in the area (mainly Pemon). I know a bit about the research carried out there from a very good friend who recently and prematurely died, father Jesus García, a Catholic priest who had been doing a wonderful social work for the Pemon community.

A team from the Miranda government got the prize for a successful project for the Valencia Lake or Tacarigua Lake. I feel happy about this prize particularly as I come from the region and I have written a bit (in my Spanish blog) about the problems and potentials associated with this lake. I must own up I did not know anything about their work, so now I have to see how really well implemented it was.

I hope these prizes can be further discussed in the Venezuelan media, new projects start to pop up and the best ones get implemented.

I will try to look for more information on both projects and analyse it as far as I can here.

Valencia or Tacarigua Lake. The picture comes from Wikipedia, where it is upside-down.

Notice the greenish colour in the lake. That's alga bloom product of the huge pollution there coming mostly from industries and sewage from one of most densely populated areas of Venezuela. When my parents were small people could bathe in that lake. The place could become a wonderful attraction as the Chiemsee...if we wanted. The landscape is still gorgeous.

Alexander von Humboldt visited the area in early 1800 and wrote extensively about the Lake. You can read about the whole region in his magnificent Voyage to the Equinoctial Regions.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Venezuela as a feudal state (I)

Dots above represent deputies for Distrito Federal (capital area). Dots on the left below represent the three deputies for the First Nations

Venezuela is a feudal state. In spite of the flashy shopping centres, the countless Blackberrys and the open way in which its citizens discuss sex and religion, it is is still tied to a very feudal mentality. This can be seen in many aspects of Venezuela's life: the country has a strong military caste, a group of people hold a lot of power not just economically but on every other aspect of life and caudillos distribute fiefs and other goodies for personal favours at will, land distribution is very unfair and a lot of property rights are based on very fluffy grounds, to say the least. The only difference with real feudal times is that the head of state does have a very strong power in Venezuela. That is mainly due to the petrodollar distribution and the control of the military caste. Feudalism is by any means a very problematic term, but it can describe a Venezuela that saw countless self-styled revolutions but no real Enlightenment.

The reasons are legion and they have their origin far back in the past. Spain hardly experienced any sort of Enlightenment. The central powers did for a long time everything to prevent progressive ideas from spreading in the colonies. Venezuela was a second-class colony after the Dorado Myth proved a myth and Mexico and Peru became the cash providers. Venezuela became a military Capitanía General until its independence. Venezuela has since then been ruled mostly by military honchos. The oligarchs showed very little interest in changing the existing structures. Education, real education for the average citizen, was only a priority during brief periods of times. Now education is more a synonym for holding a piece of paper than for a set of skills and the development of analytical thinking. The current regime, which styles itself as revolutionary, has done little about land reform when it comes to the land of military men or people who collaborate with their leader. Real debates have always being shunned: "jefe es jefe" and "I am on another league", as the current president says.

Caudillismo, a Latin American phenomenon particularly strong in Venezuela, as well as the rejection of traditional parties lead to the atomization of the political spectrum within the opposition. This contributed to the strengthening of the military regime and the loss of more and more democracy and power to the regions. As Juan Cristobal wrote in Caracas Chronicles, in spite of all this, opposition started to rebound and has now become the majority of the Venezuelan population. We have to repeat it again for foreign readers: we are the majority.

The problem is that these emerging alternative forces are represented by a myriad of parties with a regional focus. Although they show an increasing will to work together, they are still doing that in a very loose way: there is no common logistics and ideas are not shared properly. None of those parties has a meaningful presence nationwide except for old AD, a party with a fuzzy presence all around the countryside.

The main reason for the parties' segmentation is that they are above all centered on a big leader, a caudillo who comes first and second, not on a programme or set of clearly defined ideas. That is also the case with the PSUV, but the PSUV has the advantage of (ab)using state resources to promote itself everywhere. The second reason is that they lack resources to expand. The third reason is that people in a country where half the population depends directly or indirectly on a state job are afraid of losing that job. The final reason is that party leaders have just one regional vision and not one containing the interests of the nation as a whole.

In the map above you see dots representing the deputies for the 2010-2014 National Assembly. Although the alternative forces have 51.3% of the vote (Juan says 52%, we should check out that, but it is definitely more than 51%), they got just 67 against 98 deputies for reasons Venezuelan bloggers have explained in great detail before. As you can see, each region has, apart from the red dots for PSUV representatives, a different colour representing the alternative forces.

Those forces decided to support for each region one candidate only, except for PPT, which went solo but is likely to work together with the others from now on. There are supporters of almost any party in any state. Still, the map shows how one party ended up becoming the only alternative force present in one state and nowhere else. It looks like feudal centres of influence.

  • yellow is for Primero Justicia in Miranda and northern Anzoátegui
  • dark blue is for UNT in Zulia and a bit in Apure and Aragua
  • light green is for old party COPEI (now called COPEI Popular) in Táchira and a bit in Falcón and Zulia
  • light brown is for Causa R in Bolívar
  • light blue is for PPT in Amazonas
  • dark green is for Proyecto Venezuela in Carabobo
  • white is for the old AD party, which seemed to be dead but still keeps a meaningful presence in what people from Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo sometimes too foolishly call "jungle and snakes".

There are a couple of minor parties like Convergencia in Yaracuy, which got one deputy. Convergencia's only reason to exist is caudillismo: late COPEI caudillo Caldera decided to create it after COPEI stopped supporting him, the party was then taken over by one of Caldera's friends after this retired from politics. There is another caudillo party emerging, the one Leopoldo López created. As a newcomer, it did not get a deputy.

Unlike in feudal times, though, the head of state in Venezuela - the biggest military caudillo - has a very strong position, has a complete control of the Supreme Court, has control of the National Assembly -albeit without absolute majority-, has control of all state media, has the control of the National Electoral Committee and its power to gerrymander against Venezuelan law and above all a complete control of oil revenues, which are the Alpha and Omega of Venezuela.

If the alternative forces want to change Venezuela for good -in every sense- and not just end the increasing autocracy and mismanagement of the military regime for another form of feudalism, they have to tackle once and for all the Caudillismo that dominates their workings. They also need to get rid of old dinosaurs that still hinder the emergence of new leaderships and independent thoughts in the countryside. They need, in spite of the real or imagine ideological differences, to cooperate more strongly and present a coherent vision and concrete plan of how Venezuela will become a developed nation.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Afro-punk or turban?

The Crax daubentoni is endemic to Venezuela and Colombia. The Spanish name is pavón moquiamarillo or paujil de turbante.

The second picture from Wikipedia shows a female Crax daubentoni in a foreign animal jail.

It's funny what evolution can produce. Take a closer look at a male Crax daubentoni here. I reckon that yellow appendix is the equivalent of a flashy car for some other species.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Eine Europäerin in Venezuela

Regina ist eine Deutsche, die seit vielen Jahren in Venezuela lebt. Ich kann ihren Blog ganz herzlich empfehlen. Er bietet einen besonderen Anblick im venezolanischen Alltag.

Ein Thema, das mir besonders am Herzen liegt, ist Bildung. Regina als Mutter kann einiges sehr konkretes über dieses Thema erzählen. Siehe zB hier und hier.

Aus Reginas Blog
schulbuch 2

Monday, 18 October 2010

A day in the life of a Venezuelan journalist

The Acuario de Valencia is a very nice public zoo and aquarium with loads of species endemic to Venezuela. The Acuario is short of money and the municipality of Valencia, since 2008 under control of Chávez's people decided to strike a deal with a South Korean zoo: the city government would exchange two tamed pink toninas or Amazon dolphins -the main attraction and source of revenue- for "maintenance help" and a Mandarin fish of the type that can be seen in many public and countless private aquaria all over the world. This sort of exchange is of the gold-for-broken-glass exchange we saw in 1498. The deal was not approved by the city council or any other institution but the major.

Many have protested the decision. They think the deal is not fair and the municipality should have money for the kind of maintenance they expect from South Korea (as soon as Parra won as major he decided to go with a huge entourage, including family members, to China "to negotiate deals", the city major uses state resources whenever Chávez is on campaign in the region, etc). The major says the Acuario has enough with the young tonina that is the child of the dolphin couple under discussion and it needs the money, period.

People opposing the exchange decided to set up a stand next to the Acuario this Sunday in order to collect signatures for a petition. They had already collected 107 signatures at about 9am when city buses arrived bringing red-shirted Chávez supporters to show the "official position". The Chavistas tore to pieces all petitions and started to hit the journalists. There were police agents from the Valencia city -each municipio has its own police- and they did nothing.

This is very much the daily news in Venezuela. It happens everywhere, it happens time after time. And Chávez is shopping around in Eastern Europe, in Iran and China.

Notitarde tells about the story in Spanish here (valid link only for today, later they will archived it somewhere else, I will try to relink). I heard quite the same story from some neighbours who were in the place. El Carabobeno has its story here.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Venezuela-Belarus (updated)

In Minsk for the usual stuff

Hugo arrived in Belarus on his usual autumn world tour.

Can any of you identify who the woman to his right is? Lenta says she is his "companion". I initially thought she was one of his daughters, but this does not look like a daughter thing to me.

The Belorussian article says Venezuelans currently following courses at the War Academy met Hugo at the airport. It also talks about the agreements Hugo and Luka will sign on construction (Belorussians building houses in Venezuela as Venezuelans are apparently incapable of doing that), oil (Venezuela pays those houses with oil galore) and other agreements.

Luka will be showing Hugo around Minsk. They will visit, among other things, a public library. As Hugo always comes back with ideas he picks up abroad, I really hope for once he DOES pick up one good idea: the idea of financing public libraries. Above all, I hope he actually for once in his 12 years in office gets one thing done and we finally get loads of public libraries not filled up with books on Marx, Guevara and Hugo, but with books of mathematics, biology, world history, English, Spanish and so much more.

As I had previously written in Spanish here, Belorussians will be getting an increasing amount of oil from Venezuela through Lithuania in a move that doesn't look economically sensible to me (but then I know nothing about oil and economics).


And now Hugo, as usual, started to become emotional and promised Belarus that it would have oil for 200 years and that Belarus and Venezuela would build an alternative to imperialism. Luka told Hugo Belarus would do anything in its power for Venezuela. He was very frank to say Venezuela (or actually Chávez) helped Belarus at a moment of great need. He was obviously referring to the higher gas and oil prices Russia was demanding from the Belorussian government, prices it cannot pay. I am sure the Russians are not very amused to see this going on...but as long as Hugo keeps giving away enough to them, I am sure they won't bother.

Ukraine and lessons for Venezuela

Next stop will be Ukraine. Hugo is visiting Ukraine for the first time. He had not visited it before because the people in power were the ones that came with the so-called Orange Revolution. Now that pro-Russian and former felon Yanukovich is in power, Hugo feels he can have a strategic partner in Eastern Europe's second largest country.

Ukraine should be a lesson to Venezuelans: that "Revolution" was indeed little more than a government change too obviously supported by US interests and too empty of real content, totally lacking any development plan. The leaders were as corrupt as Yanukovich is, but on top of that they spent most of their time quarreling among themselves. If Venezuelans ever want to have a developed nation and avoid a Chávez II, they will have to support groups that distance themselves completely from selfish and doubtful leaders (read Rosales and other AD/COPEI/PSUV dinosaurs) and above all support a movement with a real plan for Venezuela's sustainable development.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Our clown in Moscow (updated)

look for "red Lada Priora" in Russian and you get Chávez

I read in Russian Lenta how today in Moscow Venezuela's military president has just set up the foundation of a new monument for - sigh- Venezuelans' semi-God, Simón Bolívar.

Our clown arrived to the place driving a Lada-Priora which, of course, had to be red.

Yesterday, the Russian and Venezuelan governments announced something I had written about last month: the Venezuelan regime has finally sold off its 50% share in the very important German Ruhr Oel refinery centre (Lenta news here). Russia gets a very useful asset in Germany and Venezuela...well, Venezuela gets apparently some money to invest in a Russian bank that will become a Russian-Venezuelan fund. Venezuela's oil production is still stumbling and the PDVSA guys may also want - for pseudo-ideological reasons - to look for help with Russians and Belorussians only.

The state TV in Venezuela shows here how the current president's ninth visit to Russia (and subsequent trips to Belarus, Syria, China, Iran and Portugal) are "for the benefit of the Venezuelan people". When does German/Swedish/Spanish/British media have to explicitly say the prime minister is traveling "for the benefit of the people"?

Anyway: among the things the military coup monger of 1992 is going to do in Belarus is to talk about how Belarus will help Venezuela to build a few thousand houses in Venezuela. I wonder why Venezuelan engineers and workers are incapable of doing that job perfectly well and efficiently in the XXI century. Wasn't the military president talking about getting off oil dependency? About supporting other sides of our economy? Before 1998 governments would build more social houses in a year than this government has done in any year during this longest and most importnat oil boom Venezuela has ever had.

One last thing: I have a strong hunch the "communications agreement" that is part of the agreements with Russia now will help the military regime's SEBIN in a meaningful way.

Ps. here you can see who is travelling with the military head of state. The article in Russian has the silly title "HeroeS of Latin America". You see Hugo kissing his current companion, you see Eva Gollinger also traveling at the expense of Venezuelan children who could be using that money for books or the like.

Chavistas can't drive a blue Lada less their solid ideology foundations become compromised

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Ideas for Venezuela: show what pluralism is

The current site of the Venezuelan National Assembly contains mostly propaganda for Chávez and insults for alternative forces, just like any other governmental site in Venezuela. Chávez honchos ignore the difference between "state" and "government". C'état? C'est moi. This is part of the so-called "participatory democracy".

The German Bundestag is quite a different story

The alternative forces coming to the Venezuelan National Assembly have to show Venezuelans what pluralism is. How? Among other things, by distributing everywhere in Venezuela clear information about what pluralism actually looks like abroad - in Germany, in Chile, in Canada, in Switzerland or Japan- and by showing the differences of that - the level of debate, the use of state media by all political actors, the accountability in real time - to what we have in Venezuela now.

Venezuelan democratic forces also have to show to the outside world what the military regime in Venezuela -or "civic-military revolution", as it likes calling itself- thinks about pluralism and democracy.

The Spanish Congress, with all its issues, is another example of an institution where pluralism plays a basic role.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The lieutenant on his yearly visit to Russia

"I want to buy this with Venezuela's money"

Chávez is right now in Russia for his usual shopping tour in the Slavic nation. This is his 9th visit to that country. He plans to meet Medvedev and Putin on 13 and 14 October and then go to Belarus to "help Lukashenko in the presidential campaign", as he said. After that, Chávez wants to visit China.

Here a list of Chávez's visits to Russia

1) May 2001
3) July 2006
4) Juny 2007
8) September 2009
9) October 2010

What to expect? Chávez will probably look for more weapons and other technologies for power control. Venezuela is going through its longest oil boom ever and yet there are good chances Chávez will be looking for further ways to finance his regime. The Venezuelan government will announce 843 cooperation agreements on "technology transfer, cooperation on technology, social programmes" and the like. As usual, most of it will be hot air or very expensive ventures hardly related to sustainable development.

The Russians already control important companies for extraction of precious metals in Venezuelan Guayana.

One of the announcements Chávez will make - again - is that Belorussians will build from 5 to 20 thousand houses for Venezuelans. I wonder how Chávez supporters explain the rest of Venezuela why Venezuelans, with their many thousands of engineers and workers, cannot build normal houses themselves. The Venezuelan private sector will have a meeting with the minister for housing in the following days to try to reach an agreement so that the Venezuelan government allows them to do part of the work.

As far as I see, this is the "plan":

Russia: 13-14: meeting Putin-Medvedev
Belarus: 15-17: meeting Lukashenko
Ukraine: 18-19: meeting new pro-Russia president Yakunovich
Iran: meeting Akhmadinejad
China: ???
Lybia: meeting Khadafi
Portugal: ???

Monday, 11 October 2010

Another weird Venezuelan: cuchi cuchi

The Cuchi-Cuchi (Potus flavus) is a weird mammal. It looks like a cross between an ape and a dog. It lives in the tropical forests of Northern South America and Central America. It is a night creature and it just loves honey.

In Venezuela you can find the cuchi-cuchi (or kinkajou) in the forests of Guayana and some regions of the Northeast.

Here you can watch a video of one from Belize, Central America.

China, Liu Xiaobo und die Militärregierung in Venezuela

Endlich hat Chávez auf die Nachricht über den Nobelpreis für Frieden für Herrn Liu reagiert. Die Propagandamachine der venezolanischen Regierung VTV hat tagelang gewartet, bis der "Revolutionsführer" was erzählte. Hier könnt Ihr auf Spanisch lesen, was der ehemalige Putschist und gegenwärtige Präsident Venezuelas sagte.

Chávez erklärt, er lehnt die Befreiung von Liu Xiaobo völlig ab und solidarisiert sich mit der chinesischen Regierung. Er sagt, Liu sei ein Mann, der gefangen ist, weil er die Gesetze Chinas verletzt hat. Er erklärt nicht, um welche Gesetze es sich handelt.

Ferner sagt der Präsident, die Opposition in Venezuela sei eine Minderheit. Er sagt wohl nicht, seine "Mehrheit" in den letzten Wahlen bestehe -trotz aller Schikanen gegen die anderen- aus 48.13% der Stimmen gegen 47.22% und 3.14% für die alternativen Strömungen MUD und PPT.

Der Militärbonze kritisiert die Opposition, die "behauptet, die chinesische Regierung sei totalitär und verletzte die Menschenrechte".

"Die Vaterlandsverräter (escuálido, wörtlich Schwächlinge) ...behaupten, sie seien die Sieger im Lande. Ich sage, dass das Volk auf sie wartet (?), um ihnen zu zeigen, dass sie nie zum Präsidentenpalais zurückkommen werden."

Chávez wechselt dann zu Drohungen. Er sagt, dass wenn die anderen zurückkämen, sie als erstes die Beziehungen mit China abbrechen würden, womit alle Abkommen mit diesem Land gestoppt sein würden. "Alle Agrarsysteme (?), alle Wohnungsprojekte (eigentlich keine), den Bau von Satelliten mit China (in Wirklichkeit Import von einem Satellit, der noch sehr viele Probleme hat), die Militärtechnologie (oder auf Deutsch Waffenimport), die Krediten und langfristige Darlehen (d.h. Pfandgeld für überbilliges Erdöl auf Jahren) würden verloren gehen".

Man kann sicher sein, dass die chinesische Regierung alles tun wird, damit der Militär Chávez trotz venezolanischen Volks weiter an der Macht bleibt.

Hier könnt Ihr lesen, warum Herr Liu im Gefängnis sitzt.

Anscheinend ist Frau Liu nun unter Hausarrest.

Chinesen in noch zum Teil demokratischem Hong-Kong protestieren gegen die Festname von Liu.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The miseries of a military "socialist" regime

So far I haven't seen any report in the Venezuelan state media about the Nobel Price for Peace for Chinese dissident Liu, who is currently in a Chinese prison. I wonder if the Venezuelan regime is asking the Chinese what it wants the Venezuelans to say.

I don't see anything on AVN and I don't see anything on VTV about the Nobel prize for peace. The only thing I see is an article about the Nobel prize for literature: Vargas llosa. AVN stated that Vargas Llosa "criticized Latin America and praised Europe".

The Venezuelan Chávez media agencies seem increasingly like a new version of Soviet Pravda with Fox News and a bit of banana republic colour.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Thinking about Liu Xiaobo


Liu Xiaobo got the Nobel prize for Peace! Kudos to him and kudos to little Norway! It did not let itself be intimidated as other countries have.

¡Muy bien!

As a Latin American and native speaker of Spanish I am very happy Vargas Llosa has got the Nobel Prize of Literature. Vargas has produced a significant amount of masterpieces of the Spanish language. My favourite book by Vargas is La Fiesta del Chivo, but there are many others that were a joy to me. Vargas has also been very vocal when denouncing demagogues and dictators that for so long have been a hindrance for Latin America's prosperity. He has been an outspoken critic of the current military president Venezuela has. Now, I leave it to Daniel to write more extensively about Vargas.

Today I want to call your attention to a candidate for the Nobel prize who is in jail because he believes in freedom and democracy. That writer is Mr Liu Xiabo.

Mr Liu was nominated to this year's prize by such figures as Vaclav Havel, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. He has been in prison since 2008 because he signed, together with hundreds of other intellectuals, a petition to the Chinese government asking for more freedom and democracy for his country. The Chinese regime did not tolerate that. Liu was deemed a traitor of the "fatherland". He was condemned to eleven years in prison and 2 years of privation of political rights. He is currently serving sentence. The Chinese government has openly pressurized the Swedish government not to give the prize to Liu. Ma Zhaoxu, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry had suggested giving the prize to dissident Liu was "totally wrong".

I believe Vargas Llosa more than deserved the prize he got today. I have to say I haven't read anything by Mr Liu apart from a translation of that manifest. I don't know if I would like his books if I ever get a translation of them. What I do know is Vargas would not mind that we also think this day about Mr Liu. Here you can read one of Amnesty International's appeals to the Chinese government to release the Chinese writer. I support that release.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Emasculating the National Assembly and other news

Castrated like the deputies of the alternative parties at the new National Assembly?

Total control of law

The head of the outgoing Venezuelan National Assembly, Cilia Flores, declared deputies are preparing new legislation to introduce "street parliamentarism", among other things. You can be sure every single change in the legislation will approve will have to do with neutralizing any role of anyone foreign to the Chávez party and giving power not to the people, but to mobbing thugs paid by the military regime. Let's remember authoritarian systems spend a lot of effort redefining what "the people" actually is. The alternative forces will have to prepare a plan A, B, C and D for all the tricks the regime is concocting.

Total control of the economy

On another issue: Daniel Duquenal wrote an outstanding article about what the military's latest expropriation is about. This is big news. The expropiation will lead to major problems throughout the whole food chain. And the government will blame it all on saboteurs.

Further, the lieutenant colonel we have as president declared yesterday Venezuela's main airport, Maiquetía, will be "taken over" by the government. Never mind it was already under government control. He said Cuba was earning millions through the Havana airport, so Venezuela should be able to do the same "and not depend on oil alone". Mind: Venezuela has now a shameless airport exit tax (paid on cash only) that is higher than anything anywhere else. Tourists feel fooled and foreign tourists are becoming scarcer and scarcer. You see, that is what beggar countries do when their governments haven't got a clue.

A few days earlier the president and self-styled "painter" said Venezuela could become an arepa-flour exporting country. He seems to ignore the arepa flour people outside Venezuela eat these days comes from Colombia. This is what you get when you have a violent military as head of state.

In the next days the president will visit Russia and Belarus. Let's see what he is going to bring back. More weapons? Belorussians that will build normal houses Venezuelans are not able to build? Loans in spite of the continuing oil boom? If anyone wants to venture a guess, let me know.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Venezuelans in Europe and how they voted

Venezuelans voting in Belgium

How did Venezuelans vote abroad? This time abstention was very high. There are several reasons for such low participation. The main issue was that this time we could only vote for the Latin American Parliament, an organisation most Venezuelans did not know existed. There were other reasons: simple lack of interest, the distance to the closest embassy or consulate and the difficulties Venezuelans have in registering to vote abroad.

In Europe, most Venezuelans still supporting the Chávez regime work at embassies or consulates. Above you see the latest results for Belgium. 60 Venezuelan nationals -of 190- voted. There are not many Venezuelans living in Belgium, so the embassy employees make up a bigger chunk of the pie. The general pattern would be less pro-Chávez for countries such as Spain and Britain, where there are several thousands. There are over 53000 Venezuelan expats registered to vote abroad. There are several times the amount of Venezuelans who could vote if they registered.

The Chávez government will probably do anything it can to prevent the CNE from publishing results of voters abroad. It very likely does not want more Venezuelan expats to take part in the 2012 elections. We, on our part, need to promote Venezuelan expats to go massively to vote in 2012.

If you have data from votes in other European countries, send me an email (desarrollo.sostenible.venezuela at gmail)

Finally, I want to show you our Chavez-o-Metre, which indicates when my readers think Chávez will cease to be president of Venezuela. I discontinued the poll for some months out of forgetfulness. It would be nice if some serious organisation in Venezuela kept this kind of polls in the same way as you see them in the German media. Anyway, what we see in the poll is that people start to have extreme ideas: more think Chávez will be out in 2013 and more think he will still be in power after 2021. Of course, this poll is not representative of the mood in Venezuela, but of my readers. Anyway: thanks for taking part.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Venezolanische Klänge in Deutschland


Spiegel hat auch über Montero geschrieben. Hier könnt Ihr es lesen.

Gabriela Montero ist wieder auf Tour in Deutschland. Eigentlich hatte sie Ende September damit angefangen. Es folgen diese Konzerte:

17 Oktober in Frankfurt
18 Oktober in Düsseldorf
19 Oktober in Hamburg
21 Oktober in Berlin und
23 Oktober in Hannover

Sie wird venezolanische und europäische Stücke spielen und dann wahrscheinlich ihr wunderbares Improvisationstalent zeigen.

Infos zu Tickets usw. sind hier zu finden.