Monday, 31 January 2011

Does Bibi want Israel to remain "the only democracy in the Middle East"?

How many hands are politicians prepared to shake?

Omar Suleiman, the Security Man of Egypt

I read Haaretz and find something that corresponds very much with what I see coming from Israeli sources: the government apparently wants the US and the European Union to go on betting on Mubarak "less the Islamic fundamentalists come to power". And they create fear by stressing the fact the Muslim Brotherhood supports El-Baradeid.

And I read in Spiegel (also with reference to Haaretz) that prime minister Westerwelle is afraid of a fundamentalist wave.

Yes, indeed, fundamentalism is a danger, but then: for how long are Western countries going to let dictators be the solution? Do they think Islamic fundamentalism will become less dangerous or be kept under control like that? Does anyone remember how the West supported the removal of Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran? And then the dictatorship that followed with the Shah? And what happened then when the Islamic fundamentalists took power? What is still very much happening? And does anyone remember what happened after Qassim in Iraq was overthrown with Western influence?

And why did the US government not speak of road to democracy before these events took place? Did it not know of the repression Mubarak's regime was carrying out for years now? Is there a transition still possible under Mubarak now?

So many questions...

As usual, I recommend reading Robert Fisk's account

Are there better ways to confront obscurantism and fundamentalism? Is the Muslim Brotherhood evolving differently in different countries? If so: why?

El Baradei
Can he and the Egyptian people get a chance?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Your opinion, tu opinión, Deine Meinung, твоё мнение

One can get quite interesting feedbacks from readers. On the right side you can see a set of little polls about Venezuelan topics.

So far, 90% of visitors have declared to see the Venezuelan government very negatively, 3% negatively, 1% positively and 3% very positively. So far there have been 88 votes. This is not very surprising, but it still is interesting. The amount of people in Venezuela who clearly want another form of government is about 52% and rising, if we consider the elections that took place in September 2010 and the general trend after that. People abroad have a different perspective and the Venezuelan government is likely to be seen more negatively. Some could argue Venezuelans in Venezuela know better, but you see already a trend in Venezuela itself...and we know from history how different governments managed to have a lot of popularity until very late.

Most visitors think there will be a new president for Venezuela in 2013-2014. I still have to own up I started that monthly poll rather later this month and there are just 14 votes.

I also see the top topics you want to read about here are 1) the economy, 2) estimates about what is going to come in Venezuela, 3) ideas for Venezuela, 4) what the alternative forces are doing, 5) Venezuelan culture and 6) mindmap about Chavismo.

There is another poll where I ask readers if they think Venezuela is rich or poor. I have the same poll in my Spanish blog. As I could verify some months ago, 2/3 of my readers in Venezuela-Europa are non-Venezuelans. The vast majority of those in Desarrollo Sostenible para Venezuela are my compatriots. The readers of Venezuela Europe think mostly that Venezuela is NOT a rich country. Only 23% think it is rich or very rich. In contrast, 61% of the readers in my Spanish blog think Venezuela is very rich or rich. How do we have such differences? This reminds me very strongly of something I wrote about Humboldt some months ago.

Thanks very much!

I, Chávez

You can read an interesting analysis of Hugo's latest Speech to the Nation in El Universal (in English!).

Sociologist and university professor Ignacio Suárez went through the military caudillo's speech and got some fascinating insights into the caudillo's mind.

Just a couple of tiny details: Chávez mentioned 'Chávez' (thus in third person) 52 times. He also said "I remember" 48 times. We Venezuelans know what stories those "I remember" can produce. He also used the word "we" to refer to himself a lot of times.

I wrote about the particular use of third person from Chávez some time ago. I wrote back then, on a jocular mode, that Chávez was speaking like the Gollum. I would say today more Chávez is Venezuela's gollem.

Meanwhile, the military caudillo announces he will solve part of the housing problem in Venezuela with the construction of more flats in clogged the military area of Fuerte Tiuna. As the Chávez-close companies are too incompetent and Chávez does not want to finance private companies that are not under control of his boliburguesia, he has given the contract to the Chinese (after announcing it was to the Russians).

So: instead of Venezuelan engineers overseeing the construction, it will be 中国中信集团公司 or CITIC Group. Meanwhile, millions of Venezuela far aware from the presidential palace are in need of proper housing and proper jobs.

In the map below you see the proportion (%) of votes for the main alternative party in the Caracas area and that for the Chávez party.

Roughly speaking, Caracas's West is much poorer than Caracas's East, although that is a big simplification: Petare is rather poor and San Pedro is not.

Coche, where Fuerte Tiuna is, is one of the poorer areas. Notice, though, that Chávez has only half the people's support there. In some ver poor areas like Petare his party is definitely a minority now.

Chávez also said to the military in one of their bases that the alternative forces already have a secret plan to declare their victory in December 2012 and announce Chávez will commit fraud. Chávez is already saying this almost two years in advance. It seems Chávez does not even care about appearances and admits his party has already anointed him as candidate for 2012. After all: extreme left wingers, just like extreme right wingers, always depend on the one and only leader. And they call it a revolution.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Wikileak Norway-USA-Venezuela, the original

I had forgotten, in Aftenposten there is a link to the original Wikileak in English. Please, take a look here.

And for background on that, read journalist Setty's account.

Egypt and Venezuela

I find annoying the way every group is trying to take the Egypt's events to portray their side in Venezuela.

We have facts like these
  • The US government has supported dictator Mubarak for a long time thinking that is the way to prevent Islamic fundamentalism taking power there
  • The government of Israel is very interested in keeping Mubarak or someone with his attitude in Egypt
and Chávez's useful idiots and main honchos hint at the fact the protests in Egypt are more against the US and more for "something like Chávez".

Then we have things like these:
  • Mubarak is a military, like Chávez, and he thinks, just like the Venezuelan caudillo, that he is irreplaceable
  • Mubarak abhors open debates with the opposition, he prefers monologues, like Chávez

In reality geopolitics is way more complex than that.

One of the best commentators about the Middle East is Robert Fisk. I would suggest readers to take a look at what he has to say. Not curiously, he is a bit more cautious than many other "experts" on Middle East matters.

I hope Egypt will be soon a pluralistic, open society. I am afraid it won't be so soon -too many groups from many sides in many countries do not want this. As the saying goes, extremes meet.

One thing I know no extremes want is an open and free debate.

Ein deutsches Dorf in Venezuela

Wo ist denn das? In Venezuela, logo!

Hier könnt Ihr eine sehr gute Sendung von der ZDF über die Colonia Tovar, ein deutsches Dorf in Venezuela.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Who's sleeping with the Devil?

We all remember our dear commandant-lieutenant-leader-president-macho-Bolívar 2.0 talking about the evil Empire and the Devil at the United Nations headquarters. The naive observer would think the US magnates and Venezuela's red-clad warriors are at a clinch with each other. Reality is a wee bit different.

Take the news coming from Norwegian Aftenposten about the Wikileaks. It seems the Norwegians were not very happy at the way US Chevron and Spanish Repsol decided to bid for the development of the Carabobo field.

Former US ambassador Patrick Duddy reported to Washington that Anders Hatteland, Statsoil representative in Venezuela, was mad about the way Chevron and Repsol reacted. The Venezuelan government had been making the rules of the game more and more difficult and the Norwegians were hoping for an international boycot of the tender. French Total and Chinese CNPC decided not to take part in that tender. But Chevron and Repsol did, in spite of what their past experience had been. The Norwegian said US Chevron is giving legitimacy to the Venezuelan government. I repeat: the Norwegian said US Chevron is giving legitimacy to the Venezuelan government. And it seems the "bonus" US Americans paid to Venezuelan authorities did some magic, even if that was not the only reason why they got that field.

The US reporter also said the Venezuelan government gave more money to Statesoil for its shares in one of the fields than reported in the media (130 million dollars).

Stay tuned, more funny stuff is to come.

Ps. thanks to a Norwegian friend
Ps 2. Journalist Setty linked to this post, but there is nobody like him to give a comprehensive background on energy matters in Venezuela.

Economic priorities for Venezuela

The Venezuelan military government announced it will subsidize petrol for the poor in the United States once again. This will cost some 60 million dollars. Why does the military do that? Is it to help the poor in the US? Not really. It is to rub it to the US Americans. Although there is a lot of misery in the States, Venezuela should firstly care about the poor who are in more problems in Venezuela.

Where could the regime use that money instead? Some ideas:

- invest in solving the housing problem beyond Caracas. Hundreds of thousands desperately need houses in the Llanos, in Falcón, in Sucre.

- invest in programmes to create sustainable jobs in the Llanos

- help to improve the infrastructure that poor farmers use for agriculture (but without forgetting to keep an eye on maintenance and accountability in general)

Farmer in Venezuela working as my great-grandfather did

Oil prices keep going up. Venezuela should profit from this...if only the government had a plan.

One thing I do not understand is why the Castro government in Cuba feels so compelled to carry out the current reforms when they could ask more money to the Venezuelan military. Or not? Perhaps they realised Chávez has no economic plan? Miguel showed us the way a dictator acts in pretending to deal with economic issues.

It is about time the alternative parties demand from Chávez to have an open, live debate with him about, among other things, the economy. Not that he will accept. Chávez is just a thuggish lieutenant who has never -ever- accepted a debate*. But the alternative parties need to make the point time after time.

* Two years ago Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa asked to have a debate with Chávez ahd the military "accepted" but only to say he would be one of many others who would be in the debate. Then Chávez said once that he could not debate with Vargas because Vargas was a writer and he was "just a soldier. He then said he could not debate with Vargas Llosa because he (Chávez) was "first league" and Vargas Llosa was not even a candidate. It is mind-boggling how both the state media and Globovisión described the whole issue.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Helden der Rhewoluzion

Rodríguez Chacín benutzt unglaublich oft rote Hemde, wie alle Chávez-Bonzen, die zeigen wollen, wie "revolutionär" sie sind. Niemals hat eine Bewegung so viele rote Hemde getragen wie die Chávez-Anhänger...Ersatz für Inhalt

Ramón Rodríguez Chacín ist einer der Chávez-Bonzen. Wie Chávez und die meisten anderer Führer der Rhewoluzion ist Rodríguez ein Militär. Wie Chávez war er ein aktiver Mitgestalter der Vierten Republik, obwohl er das bestreitet.

Ramón Rodríguez gehörte dem Comando Específico Páez an, eine Militär-Abteilung, die die Guerrilla bekämpfte. Diese kleine Gruppe war am Massaker von Los Amparitos beteiligt, wo mehrere Zivilisten von den venezolanischen Militärs ermordet wurden. Die Gruppe hat auch die "Acción Anguila 3" organisiert. Diese Militäraktion führte 1988 zum Massaker von El Amparo (AI Bericht, UNHCR-Bericht) Er "konnte" nicht bei der Aktion selbst tätig sein, wo 14 Fischer ermordet wurden, weil er auf der Reise dorthin bei einem Hubschraubumfall schwer verletzt wurde und ins Krankenhaus landen musste.

Nachdem Rodríguez die Guerrilla lange bekämpfte, gab es eine Umwandlung.

Er war aktiv bei dem zweiten Putschversuch von 1992 gegen eine Regierung, die demokratisch gewählt wurde und nicht zur Wiederwahl stand. Viele Unschuldigen starben bei diesem Anschlag der Chávez-Anhänger.

Als Chávez Präsident wurde, wurde Chacín Geheimdienstführer. Er war Innenminister ein paar Monate im Jahr 2002, als er einer der vielen Dissidenten, Luis Miquilena, ersetzte. Er war wieder Innenminister für einige Monate im Jahr 2008.

Spiegel berichtete, dass Ramírez Chacín häufige Treffen mit der FARC-Guerrilla in seiner Hacienda im Grenzgebiet hatte.

Den Emails von Reyes zufolge soll Ramírez Chacín Interesse gezeigt haben, mit der kolumbianischen Guerrilla Wissen über Guerrilla-Krieg auszutauschen.

Der Militär organisierte auch zwei Freilassungen von Gefangenen der FARC. Hier sieht man ein Video, wo er mit den FARC-Guerrillas spricht: "wir folgen mit Interesse ihren Kampf. Bleiben Sie stark! Seien Sie vorsichtig, Genosse!"

Rodríguez Chacín hat Ländereien in Barinas, nun anscheinend unter den Namen seiner Töchter (u.a. Fundo El Cristo). Es wäre schön, wenn er vor dem Fernseher sagen würde, wie gross diese Haciendas sind.

Er ist immer noch in der Sozialistischen Einheitspartei Venezuelas sehr aktiv.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Gegen die Wand V: Immer weniger useful idiots für die venezolanischen Militärs

Daniel Duquenal hat vor kurzem einen Post über die verschwindende Anzahl von ausländischen useful idiots der Chávez-Regierung geschrieben. Mir war das auch aufgefallen. Ich habe ihm gesagt, dass die venezolanischen Botschaften immer mehr Schwierigkeiten haben, Leute finden, die für die Militärregierung in Venezuela sprechen wollen.

Eva Golinger, die vor kurzem mehrere Millionen Dollar von der Regierung bekommen hat, um ihre Correo del Caroní-Zeitung - Propaganda pur - weiter zu veröffentlichen, scheint auf der Suche nach Übersetzern für ihre Artikel zu sein. Viel mehr kann sie nicht tun.

Und sonst sehe ich nur sehr alte Artikel von "unabhängigen Beobachtern", die die Anhänger der Militärs wieder aufbereiten, denn immer weniger Leute mit Autorität wollen über die Farce in Venezuela schreiben. Die Chávez-Regierung muss, zB, sich auf den EU-Bericht über die 2006-Wahlen beziehen (und nur auf Teile davon) und vor allem auf den Bericht des Carter-Centers von 2004, um "democratic credentials" bzw einen Persilschein zu zeigen.

Was wird die Militärregierung tun? In Venezuela werden wir weiterhin sehen, wie Chávez und seine Clique mehr Macht zu sich nehmen, mehr Leute schickanieren und Richter weiter unter Druck setzen. Wir werden zugleich sehen, wie die Chavista-Regierung bedrohliche Worte für Andersdenkenden benutzt und noch mehr. Darüber hinaus werden wir sehen, wie Chávez wieder nach aussen über "Dialog" und Zusammenarbeit sprechen wird. Will Grant von BBC wird wahrscheinlich darüber berichten und sonst nichts.

Nun hat Chávez eine neue "Idee": Gran Polo Patriótico. Alle Parteien, alle Organisationen, die für Venezuela was machen wollen, sollten unter seiner Regie stehen. Diejenigen, die nicht nach seinen Spiegelregeln tanzen wollen, werden als Verräter bezeichnet.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Die Venezolaner wollen Pluralismus haben

Am 23.1.1958 musste Diktator Marcos Pérez Jiménez nach Massenprotesten aus Venezuela fliehen.

Als Militär und Putschist von 1992 Hugo Chávez 40 Jahre später bei den Präsidentenwahlen gewann, lud er den im Exil lebenden Pérez Jiménez ein, nach Venezuela zurückzukehren. Pérez Jiménez ist dieser Einladung nicht gefolgt, weil viele Venezolaner, dazu selbst viele Gruppierungen, die mit Chávez in Allianz waren, protestierten.

Chávez hat aber immer den Diktator gelobt, der viele Menschen -darunter echte Sozialisten- foltern bzw ermorden liess. Da Chávez aber weiss, dass die Venezolaner den 23.1 als Befreiungstag feiern, wollte er auch diesen Tag benutzen und die Geschichte neu erfinden.

Und so haben wir heute in Caracas zwei Demos: die alternativen Parteien marschieren auf einer Seite und die Unterstützer der Militärregierung auf der anderen.

Wenn irgendein Europäer sich wundert, wieso ich die jetzige Regierung Venezuelas als Militärregierung nenne, braucht er einfach folgende Punkte zu berücksichtigen:

1) Der Präsident ist ein Militär und ehemaliger Putschist
2) Die Gouverneure von Yaracuy, Aragua, Vargas, Mérida, Apure und Bolívar sind ebenfalls Militär und Putschisten (sie waren in den blutigen Putschversuchen von 1992 beteiligt und das gegen eine demokratische Regierung, die sowieso 2 Jahre später zu Ende gehen musste).
3) Die Gouverneure der Bundesstaaten Barinas und Falcón sind der Bruder bzw die Tochter von Militärs und Putschisten
4) Viele Abgeordneten der PSUV (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Venezuelas) sind auch Militärs und Putschisten.
5) Die Top-Offiziere der Armee, die nun alle Chávez-Freunde sind, haben öffentlich erklärt, dass sie keine Regierung der Opposition akzeptieren würden, was absolut verfassungswidrig ist.

Und nun sagt der Militär Chávez, dass der "Puntofijismo" -die Zeit zwischen 1958 und 1998- die letzte Diktatur Venezuelas war. Der Putschist sagt auch, dass "die" -und damit meint er alle alternativen Parteien, nicht nur AD und COPEI, sondern die Parteien, die seit 1998 entstanden sind, wie UNT und PJ- nie wieder an die Macht kommen werden.

Chávez erklärte nun, dass er 2012 wieder gewählt werden wird. Er regiert seit 4.2.1999.

Ich frage mich, was die Europäische Union von den letzten Aussagen des Lukaschenkofreundes denkt. Vielleicht wollt Ihr an einige EU-Abgeordneten mal fragen, was sie denken?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The alternative forces at the Venezuela's National Assembly

If you speak Spanish, you can watch María Corina Machado, the one the military regime considers as CIA-agent.

She quotes from state sources and shows how the regime contradicts itself in the most pathetic way. She also goes into very clear detail to dismantle the shameless propaganda about health and education and housing and employment.

Bravo for Corina.

Ps. You can read my latest post (en español) on how the Chávez regime misses a big opportunity to support national sustainable development with the housing projects that now only foreigners seem to be able to perform.

envoyé par noticias24. - L'info video en direct.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Humboldt in Venezuela 2

The Pico Humboldt is the second tallest mountain summit of Venezuela. It rises 4,940 metres above sea level, which is not much for the Andes, but higher than the Mont Blanc by over 100 metres.

Good old Alexander von Humboldt was not on that side of Venezuela, although he did write a bit about the region and he investigate a lot about the rest of Venezuela. He very much deserved a peak and a river and a couple of other items called after him.

The Pico Humboldt has 2 of the 5 last glaciers in Venezuela. Chances are those glaciers will be gone by 2040. You can read some practical studd about how to reach the Pico Humboldt here (in Spanish).

The first person to get to the top was Venezuelan scientist Alfredo Jahn. I will write more about Jahn later on.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Venezuelans, (and some of) the First Americans

Paraguaná is a peninsula in Northern Venezuela. It is very close to Aruba, an island the Dutch took over from the Spaniards in 1636.

The peninsula is a very interesting place. The strait connecting it to the rest of Venezuela also goes through the magnificent Médanos de Coro National Park. It was visited early on by the first Europeans in South America, including Amerigo Vespucci, who would later give his name to our double continent.

In the northern part of the Paraguaná Pensinsula we have the Taima-Taima region. Here Jorge Cruxent, a Venezuelan-Spanish archaeologist, discovered some of the oldest remains of human presence in America. If you want to read more about that discovery, check out this site. Very shortly said: that discovery together with another one at Monte Verde, Chile, led scientists to rethink the population of America. Before those discoveries, most archaeologists thought humans had only arrived in America after the Late Glacial Maximum came to an end. Now we know humans populated America during the Late Pleistocene.

It is a real pity that the whole archaeological site and the discoveries kept in a private museum have been so deglected.

Chávez and dialogue

A few hours after Chávez came back to power 13 of April 2002, after the Carmona coup, he declared a call for dialogue and reconciliation. The mood remained like that for some days, while he recovered and felt back in power.

Chávez has repeatedly said after that he does not want to have a dialogue "with the bourgeoisie", which is basically anyone who opposes him. He has declared there is no other project, no other solution, no other anything than his self-proclaimed revolution.

And yesterday, forced to talk in front of people who do not follow him and do not applaud to every whim of his, he declared to want to have a dialogue.

We can be sure of one thing: Chávez is not honest. My guess is the 1992-coupster will get into tantrum mood in 2 weeks time at the latest.

Still, we have to challenge him to make good his promise. That is what the alternative parties are doing now.

Julio Borges declared "we are taking Chávez's word and we will remind him every day about keeping the dialogue going"

Borges also said the Mesa de la Unidad was proposing a schedule for the Chávez's ministers to answer questions on the National Assembly. This will be fun. I wonder if the PSUV honchos will accept an open debate or just limit themselves to a monologue.

Keep tuned.

News from The Land of Grace

The Guardian's journalist Rory Carroll wrote an excellent and well-referenced article about prisoner-for-Chávez María Lourdes Afiuni. Spain's minister of Foreign Affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, had said there are no political prisoners in Venezuela because "international organisations have not classified any prisoner in Venezuela as political prisoner". I hope she reads that article and takes a couple of seconds to click on the reports from HRW (which Chávez denounces as CIA-branch) and Amnesty Internation (which he still hasn't accused of being part of Her Majesty's Secret Service).


Yesterday, Chávez gave his yearly report to the National Assembly. Unlike in other countries, in Venezuela the president does not have to answer to any questions there. He just has to talk. This time, the 1992-coupster talked about "reconciliation and dialogue", which is the kind of thing the alternative forces have been demanding for years and Chávez has rejected time after time. He calls everyone who thinks differently from him "bourgeoisie" and those who think like him "the people". What he said at the National Assembly yesterday is the kind of talk he gives when he feels weak. He was probably afraid of any public reaction from the 67 deputies who are not under his thumb, as the speech was live. Chávez is usually kept very far from people who reject his government -including the 52% of the population who voted against his party in 2010- and this scene was an unsual scene for him. In reality you can count on it Chávez just wanted to avoid any "situation". He won't change a tiny bit: once a lethal coupster, always a lethal coupster.


I expect the government to finally do more construction work this year. Most of it will be carried out by the Chinese and other foreigners as corruption among Chávez's employees makes any public work more inefficient than ever.

The government will be able to do that as oil prices have gone up even further last year, to 26% of what they were in 2009. That will enable the construction of some Potemkin villages. The government announced it will build over 150,000 flats or houses for 2011, but we are to take this with a pinch of salt as it has made that kind of promises for many years now and it has built much less than in the years of the "IV Republic".

The government will try to canalize people's frustrations by allowing more takeovers of private property by some and by more expropriations in order to give a quick solution for a few and hope for more.

One thing I find worrying is the government's obsession with building more and more houses in the Caracas valley and along the Northern part of the Ávila (aka Waraira Repano) National Park. This is not sustainable.


The average OPEC basket price for 2011 is already $91. It was $12.98 when Chávez was elected. Chances are oil prices will keep going up. It is a matter of time until a big fuel source shift takes place. That won't happen in the coming 5 years but it will probably happen before 2025. The Venezuelan red-red government could not care less about the "far future". That's way beyond the 2012 elections. Still, what Venezuelans do in the coming years will be fundamental to avoid any major social catastrophe before that turning point in energy use arrives.

And just as I posed this I see Miguel on The Devil's Excrement has posted this on oil production in Venezuela.

Renault Fluence Z.E.
China denies spying on Renault

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Internet, media and Venezuela

Venezuela's military regime boasts about the great progress on Internet coverage in Venezuela. It often says before Chávez came to power coverage was very limited, very slow and so on. Chávez's apologists (like in German the Amerika 21 site) often repeat the same story.

What the regime does not say, though, is that the Internet, even if it was a rather old idea, only started to catch up after 1995, for several technical and commercial reasons that have nothing to do with Venezuela.

Here you see the world internet host growth since 1981:

Based on the users' estimates plus population estimates, we can get the map you see below (shades are wrong according to my percentages). I simply reused the Wikipedia map and drew on it the latest percentages for internet coverage for South America. Venezuela is in military green.

As you can see, Colombia, Surinam, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have a greater coverage than Venezuela. Venezuela's GDP per capita is clearly higher than that of Colombia thanks to the huge amounts of oil under Venezuelan's soil, if nothing more.

About two thirds of Venezuela's population do not have Internet access yet. Most of those without Internet access cannot watch channels or listen to radio stations critical of the Venezuelan government, in spite of what US Mark Weisbrot, a staunch defendant of the Venezuelan military government, writes. You get out of the main urban centres and it is mostly Chávez media for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What Mr Weisbrot calls "independent private media" broadcasts mostly Colombian music, soap operas or baseball games.

Newspapers? Oh, just check out the national coverage of critical newspapers and just reading habits of the average Venezuelan.

If you haven't taken part in the new poll about what kind of topics you want to read more about, please, go to the right and choose the ones of your choice

Friday, 14 January 2011

Do you speak Spanish and want to know what Chávez's ministers stand for?

If you speak Spanish and you can understand Venezuelan slang, you should simply take a look at André Izarra's tweets. He is the "minister for the Popular Power of Communication and Information of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela". That is the same guy who was laughing with a very high pitch when an NGO representative was talking about the murder rate in Venezuela (from 00:37, specially 1:21). Warning: the tweets become rather repetitive after a while. Just take a look at what Izarra says about the others.

A question to BBC, The Guardian, El País, CNN, Le Monde: what do you think of that minister? Well, that's just a sample. You will certainly see a lot among other groups not supporting the military, but the red-clad Chavistas are definitely "special".

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

I, Guaicaipuro, you, Diego de Losada (or how to reinvent history)

Guaicaipuro, according to the PSUV party, is

the intelectual great-grandfather of these "revolutionaries"

From left to right: former Acción Democrática and now V-Republic hero Aristóbulo Istúriz, PDVSA boss Ramírez, former special police force Freddy Bernal and old IV Republic-turned Chavista Chaderton

And according to them,

evil Conqueror Losada is the intellectual father of

Socialist Ismael García, union leader and socialist founder of Causa R, Andrés Velázquez, and independent Corina Machado (yes, her background is as posh as that of Chaderton)

The Chuzpah

Former guerrilla man and current president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Fernando Soto, made clear what understanding he has of history and democracy when he stated (here the official version) that "yesterday's persecutors and persecuted meet today at the Venezuelan National Assembly". He was referring to the fact he, as a guerrilla man, was persecuted in the sixties and "the others", apparently, where his persecutors. He was implying that people who do not agree with the Chávez regime are "from the IV Republic". He needs to have some chuzpah for that. When he came from Cuba on a boat to start the violent opposition against a very dysfunctional but still democratic government in 1967, Corina Machado and Julio Borges had not been born yet.

Most deputies from the opposition are actually younger than Chavista deputies, with some notable exceptions like Enrique Mendoza (born in 1945). Among the Chavistas there is Aristóbulo Istúriz (born in 1946), who first belonged to the infamous Acción Democrática party and then to the Causa R party and now pretends he did not have anything to do with the IV Republic. Among the "revolutionary" guys, there are also people like Freddy Bernal (born in 1962), who was a notorious police agent during that IV Republic, one who was active in the Special Forces of the Carlos Andrés Pérez government, and one who sympathized, as his father did, with the extreme right and had a crush on former dictator and right-winged military Pérez Jiménez. Bernal is also someone who has been accused of corruption on different occassions, but nothing happens. Fernando Soto talks in the VTV interview about opposition deputy Mazuco. Mazuco can indeed be a criminal or not. I have read some articles against him and some defending him. I think it would be interesting to have a public inquiry with independent judges to judge him and to judge people like Freddy Bernal. Wouldn't that be fine?

When the new Chávez deputy team - with almost 2/3 of the seats for 48% of the votes through recent gerrymandering, not just "circuit majority" - came in, they "took an oath" in the name of "their fathers", Guaicaipuro and Bolívar.

Guaicaipuro was a native American who was killed by the Spaniards. Bolívar is the most hyped caudillo that ever existed in America. In any case: the Chávez movement has a capacity to resell time after time the same story: we are the persecuted and they are the persecutors. We are the Indian-Africans and they are the European descendants. We, 52% of the voters who rejected the Chavismo system, seem to be the children of conquistador de Losada, the one who sent Infanta to capture and kill Guaicapuro.

This is really pretty silly. Very few Venezuelans have not a lot of European ancestry - from the XX, from the XIX, from the XVIII century or earlier. That goes even for dark-skinned Aristóbulo, who is "lighter" skinned than many of my cousins. Very few have not native American or African blood (and that includes freckled, blond cousins of mine as well). The vast majority of Venezuelans today have little to do with the IV Republic. It is true the poorest still tend to have a stronger African or Indian component and the richest still have a more European component, although that is much less the case than in most other nations I have been able to see.

And yet the Chávez regime will keep on telling people through VTV, through national broadcasts through all radio and TV stations that those who opposed them are the Eternal Evil and they, they are the eternal revolutionaries. We are the compradores. They are the anti-imperialist fighters. Never mind our economy is as dependant of oil exports as before. Never mind the Chinese are buying our oil at half the price and sending it to the US in exchange for some cash now.

Eternal Fight for what really?

Minister of Foreign Affaris, Nicolás Maduro, declared yesterday that "Venezuela is a country in permanent fight". Sure, we have a permanent fight now. We have more murders in one week in Venezuela than what we got during the Battle of Carabobo. We do not struggle to attain development but a permanent fight to blame it "on the others".

Maduro also justified the actions taken by the government "to rescue lands from the latifundistas". As I wrote in previous posts, the funny thing is that the average size of those lands taken now by the military is smaller than the lands many Boliburgueses have. It would be nice if Ramírez Chacín's family and Chávez's cousins and brothers declare how much land they have. Hacienda El Cristo someone? Hacienda La Malaguena someone else?

Revolution my foot.

Some interesting reading in Spanish about the boliburguesía here.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Die Chaimas, Identität und Geschichte

Die ersten Nationen

Die Deutsche Welle hat einen interessanten Link zu den Chaimas. Sie beziehen sich wieder auf Luis Caripe, den Ihr im vorigen Video sehen konntet. Die Journalisten schreiben etwas, was viele unabhängigen Quellen mir bestätigen: "Der Lebensstandard der Caripes hat sich in der zehnjährigen Amtszeit Chávez kaum gebessert. "

In der Tat hat sich sehr wenig geändert, was die Lage der Ur-Amerikaner betrifft. Die Gesetze für die Rechte der Uramerikaner- der Absatz der Verfassung über die Sprachen der ersten Nationen, die Absätze über die Abgeordneten der ersten Nationen, die Gesetzgebung zur Förderung indianischer Sprachen sowie das Gesetz zur Preisgarantie für indianische Produkte- sind mMn der grösste Beitrag dieser Regierung. Und trotzdem ist diese Gesetzgebung sehr wenig wert, wenn sie nur auf dem Papier steht.

Was gibt es jetzt?

Es gibt in einigen Orten mehr Unterricht in indianischen Sprachen, was aber nicht so neu ist. Schon 1997 konnte ich mehrere indianische Dörfer besuchen, wo die Kinder Unterricht in ihren Sprachen hatten. Schon als Kind habe ich selbst in meiner Schule von der Warao-Sprache und von den Kulturen vieler Indianer erfahren. Humboldt hat wohl Liste von Chaima-Wörtern produziert. Es waren aber spanische Priester vor und nach ihm, die fast alle Wörterbücher und Lehrbücher der indianischen Sprachen produziert haben. Nun singen die Uramerikaner die Nationalhymne in ihren jeweiligen Sprachen. Das ist zwar nett, nicht aber viel, wenn man diese Sprachen richtig fördern will. Es gibt Sonnenpanelle in mehreren Warao-Siedlungen des Orinoko-Deltas, was praktisch sein kann, aber auch dazu führt, dass viele Indianer nun vor dem Fernseher dahinvegetieren. Da es kaum kulturelle Programme gibt, um ihre Sprachen als Kommunikationsmittel für alle Zwecke zu fördern, benutzen sie immer mehr Spanisch.


Es wurden einige Schulen gebaut. Mit so viel Geld hätte man aber viel mehr bauen können - und Bibliotheken dazu. Einige Indianer haben nun Universitätsabschlüsse der bolivarischen Universitäten, die Qualität der Studien ist aber miserabel. Wir haben immer noch Warao- und Wayuu-Bettler, die eigentlich einen richtigen Job haben sollten. Das alles ist ziemlich wenig für 12 Jahre Regierung und den grössten Erdölboom der Geschichte Venezuelas.


Der jetzige Präsident redet immer wieder über "uns Indianer, deren Vorfahren von den Spaniern gefoltert, ermordet wurden". Er stellt seine Anhänger als ewige Opfer und die anderen -das sind wir- als "Täter, Nachkommen der bösen Spanier". Eigentlich sind die allermeisten Venezolaner - auch Chávez - nicht Indianer, sondern Nachkommen von Spaniern, Uramerikanern und Schwarzen. Wir sind die Kinder einer sehr komplexen Mischung. Wir sind nicht Opfer und auch nicht Täter unserer Vorfahren. Wir sind die Gegenwart und wir müssen für die Zukunft arbeiten. Was haben die neuen Chávez-Abgeordneten getan, als sie ihr Amt antraten? Sie sagten, sie seien "die Kinder vom Indianerführer Guaicaipuro und Bolívar".

Als ich klein war, hatte ich das so gelernt: wir sind eine Mischung von all den Kulturen. Leider stellte ich später fest, dass viele Venezolaner das nicht genau empfanden. Leider musste ich feststellen, dass viele Venezolaner viel weniger über Geschichte wussten, als was sie hätten wissen müssen. Man lernt einfach zu viel auswendig und zu viel, was nicht nötig ist. Fast jeder Venezolaner weiss, an welchen Tag der Caudillo Bolívar geboren ist und an welchem Tag die Carabobo-Schlacht stattfand. Sie wissen aber oft nicht, was uns mit der Aussenwelt verbindet, woher unserer Hauptsprache stammte, was unsere europäischen Vorfahren im Mittelalter getan haben, was für ein Leben unsere indianische Vorfahren wirklich hatten und wieso ihre Technologie weniger entwickelt war. Und so haben Venezolaner immer noch Probleme damit, ihre Identität zu definieren. Und so sagt Chávez, dass Indianer sozialistisch waren und die Menschheit vor erst 20 bis 25 Jahrhunderten entstand und manche Chávez-Anhänger denken, "Tauschhandel" sei eine Erfindung der Indianer und Geld eine Erfindung der Kapitalisten.

Zurück zur Geschichte der Chaimas. Im Artikel der Deutschen Welle steht, dass die Spanier die Kultur der Indianer zum Teil zerstört haben. Das ist auf jeden Fall richtig. Wie Luis Caripe aber sagt, sprach man immer noch Chaima in Venezuela als Humboldt zu Besuch war. Das war zwischen 1799 und 1800. Venezuela hat seine Unabhängigkeit nur einige Jahren danach bekommen.

Die ersten Nationen meiner Region hatten ihre Sprache schon im siebzehnten Jahrhundert verlernt. Die Waikeri-Indianer haben ihre Sprache nur einige Jahre später vergessen. Wer war dafür verantwortlich? Vor allem die Spanier von damals. Wohlgemerkt: von damals. Und die Spanier von damals waren auch unsere Vorfahren. Und die Chaimas und die Guayones und viele anderen haben ihre Sprachen erst nach der Unabhägigkeit verloren. Wer war dafür verantwortlich? Zum Teil unsere Vorfahren, die damals Venezolaner hiessen. Wohlgemerkt: von damals.

Es ist schon an der Zeit, dass wir weniger über "Opfer" und "Täter" sprechen und uns mehr damit beschäftigen, unsere vollständige Identität zu verstehen und unsere Kultur und unser Land richtig zu fördern, nicht nur mit Wort, sondern mit Tat.

Diese sind meine Bücher für Pemon, eine Karibensprache. Ich habe vor allem in der spanischen Wikipedia einige Beiträge über die Ersten Nationen Venezuelas geschrieben

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Humboldt in Venezuela 1

Alexander von Humboldt ist in Lateinamerika mit grosser Wahrscheinlichkeit bekannter als in Deutschland. Hier habt Ihr einen ausgezeichneten deutschen Dokumentarfilm über ihn. Die Bücher sind -logo- tausendmal besser. Dieser Film ist aber eine schöne Einführung zu Humboldts Reisen und ein guter Verbindungspunkt zum gegenwärtigen Venezuela.

Bei 3:03 spricht Herr Caripe über "uns Indianer". Eigentlich sind die meisten Chaimas -eine Ethnie der Kariben- aufgrund der vielen Volksbewegungen an der Nordküste Südamerikas ziemlich bunt gemischt mit Europäern und -etwas weniger- mit Schwarzen. Meine Schwester sieht viel indianischer aus als er. Der Mann hat aber schon einen sehr Chaima-Familienname: "Caripe". Seine Frau sieht auch viel indianischer aus. Caripe war eine Chaima-Region. 99% der Venezolaner haben europäische Namen. Diese Namen waren manchmal nur übernommen, sie sind aber meisten schon die Namen unserer Vorfahren: über 90% der männlichen Vorfahren aller Venezolaner und über 20% aller weiblichen Vorfahren waren Europäer. Die Indinanerinnen bildeten schon der Hauptanteil der weiblichen Vorfahren.

5:20: Die Priester haben zumindest bis zur Unabhängigkeitszeit die Chaima-Sprache nicht verboten, sondern auch untersucht und gefördert. Das sagt Humboldt selbst und er zitiert sogar oft von diesen Priestern. Humboldt hat auch Wörterbücher und Grammatiken der Priester nach Deutschland geschickt, damit sein Bruder diese Werke für seine Untersuchungen verwenden konnte. Manche dieser Werke befinden sich nun in deutschen Bibliotheken. Wann und wo genau haben Priester die Benutzung der indianischen Sprachen verboten? Das weiss ich nicht. Im Delta und im Gran Sabana-Gebiet haben sich die Priester für die Beibehaltung dieser Sprachen eingesetzt.

Cumana ist eine Stadt, die Ihr mal besuchen müsst, wenn Ihr Venezuela besucht. Nur der Kern hat noch historische Gebäude, die ganze Region ist aber schön.

Leider ist die Vision über Simón Bolívar in diesem Dokumentarfilm etwas zu rosig. Das ist nicht verwunderlich: man hat mit venezolanischen konventionellen "Historikern" geredet. Marx hatte eine ganz andere Meinung. Professionele Historiker, rechts und links, auch.

Ihr könnt in Wikipedia ein bisschen über die Fettschwalmen, die Guácharos, lesen.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Do you want to know how much Chavismo rejects pluralism and fair play?

Just take a look at the site of the National Assembly of Venezuela (Venezuela, not the Chávez Party). It is a good example of how the military regime despises pluralism and open debate. It is a good example of how it pretends to be "the people", when it only represents less than half the country's population - at best.

If you don't speak Spanish, I will translate just a couple of titles:

"Venezuelan people ratifies its support to revolutionary deputies"

"Deputies from the right will never legislate for the benefit of the Venezuelan people" (Never mind there are several leftist organisations among the alternative parties)

You also have a link to Chávez's and Fidel's thoughts (Fidel is not Venezuelan, but then the Castro clan are the real bosses).

There is a lot more there. The only mention you see about the alternative parties is something about PJ-boss Borges "recognising that the president of the Nationall Assembly guarantees respect and balance to the new deputies".

The regime has emasculated the National Assembly and introduced an anti-constitutional law prohibiting deputies to vote against their party's wishes. The next step, the regime claims, is to introduce "parlamentarismo de calle". In reality what they are going to introduce is mob pressure: street debates are going to be controlled by the regime, there will be mobbing and threats, people who disagree with the regime will have to shut up because the regime's thugs will make noise and threats...just the same old story when the extremists take power.

If you visit the "national" TV station, you will find countless videos talking about how the alternative parties are traitors, full of criminals and so on.

This is the regime Venezuelans have to deal with now.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

One spot, 10 murders

Imagine a region of some 2.300.000 inhabitants. Imagine in one year 1816 of them get murdered. That means every year about 80 persons are killed for every 100000 inhabitants. Carabobo is that region, but there are many others as mortal as that in Venezuela.

Here I present a little update about violent crime in Carabobo. I use the data for Carabobo simply because I have all the details for that state, not for any other reason. I wish I had the level of detail for other regions. Unfortunately, the CICPC, the state office in charge of that, stopped publishing data nationally since Jesse Chacón became minister of "Information" in 2002 (he has been minister of many other things since then). We just have the reports from the mortuaries and some from local police, we (and journalists mainly and NGOs) have to do the count and go through mortuaries. For Carabobo we do have more details. There are two critical newspapers still there and they also have presented the data month after month since well before Chávez came to office. One can -if one were an investigative journalist- even go through the list of names for most murders, so that one can double-check.

Basically, violent murder rose in the early nineties and then stabilized a bit shortly before Chávez came to office. Since 1999, the number of murders has skyrocketed. The murder rate in Venezuela 1998 was 19 murders per 100,000 inhabitants per year and now it is over 65. Still, those are not exact numbers, just low-range estimates.

It seems Carabobo's murder numbers have stabilized a bit since the end of 2008 (when the new governor was elected). Still, they are incredibly high.

On this map you see a red spot for every 10 murders. I have rounded up or down. The vast majority of murders take place in Southern Valencia, where half a million people live. Still, Libertador and Los Guayos municipalities have a higher rate of murders for their population.

And here you see the progress of violent death in Carabobo since 2004. For the years before 1998 numbers were much lower, but I don't have all the data for every month. Still, one can see how things have evolved.

The Circus: the new National Assembly

Different dictatorships have rejected multiparty parliaments and pretended to give power to the people. Here a Soviet propaganda poster about the "Bourgeois Parliament". The Soviets wanted only a Parliament without real debates and councils dominated by their party. Now the Chávez regime is taking all the power from the National Assembly and giving it to Councils or Parlamentarismo de Calle which will only be dominated by the Chávez Party

The situation

Today we will see the new National Assembly of Venezuela start its "work". In reality there is little it can do as the previous National Assembly emasculated the Assembly's powers and gave a new Enabling Law to the Comandante. The military regime has a clear albeit not absolute majority in spite of having only 48.13% of the popular votes against 47.22% for the MUD plus 3.14% for PPT.

The previous National Assembly openly violated the Venezuelan constitution by creating a law prohibiting future deputies to vote differently from the party line. The Supreme Court is now made up of Chávez's cronies, so we cannot expect them to rule about the constitutionality of anything, even things as basic as the new Law against Deputies Going Against their Party.

Now the National Assembly only accepts cameras from the Chávez TV stations ("state TV stations") and you can expect them to show only what the civic-military regime wants. You can expect a real circus on the Chávez TV channels, which are the only ones that can reach all Venezuelans, even the great majority that does not have cable or satellite dishes.

The regime has no desire to any compromise, as it has already declared. They stated already they will lead 11 of the 15 Assembly committees and they will refuse to make any compromise about which ones.

A couple of days ago one of Cuba's key honchos, vicepresident Machado, visited Venezuela to give "directives" (officially to visit some hospitals where Cubans are working).


Last year the oil price was 26% higher than in 2009. That means the country should be having much more money for 2011. In previous year, such a hike in oil prices would be translated into a GDP growth of 8% or more. We will probably technically get out of recession, but not by much. The democratic forces should stress this fact and should tell all people in Venezuela, specially in areas such as Maturín and Delta Amacuro, but also in Puerto Cabello and Southern Valencia, in Calabozo and Barinas, that the government will have much much more money this year and it has to deliver a lot.

Pluralism and debate

The democratic forces have a difficult time ahead. One of the key things they have to do is to go to people in the C, D and E sectors, specially outside the three main cities, and tell them about how Venezuela needs pluralism and an open, respectul debate. They have to show the world is not divided into a group called Evil and another one called Good. They have to show their ideas for transforming Venezuela into a developed nation. It is a hard task as the military regime won't play fair at all. The military will, of course, pretend they will now "give power to the people". The democratic forces need to make it clear that the military regime is not "the people".

It will an exciting and rewarding task if we plan things through.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ein erdöl- und bettlerreiches Land und sein Gesundheitssystem

Valencia, Venezuela
Das allgemeine Krankenhaus ist - glaubt mir - nicht so bunt.

Was Notitarde berichtet ist eine Situation, die schon seit einigen Jahren zu Normalität geworden ist. Das einzige öffentliche, allgemeine Krankenhaus in der Millionenstadt Valencia hat kaum Medikamente. Das ist so in fast allen Krankenhäusern im Lande und in den meisten "centros de salud" (die keine echte Krankenhäuser sind). Nur die Potemkinzentren, die die Chávez-Regierung für Propagandazwecke benutzt, scheinen richtig gut versorgt zu sein. Das Problem ist nicht so sehr fehlendes Geld, sondern vielmehr, dass vieles gestohlen und das von den Leuten ganz oben nicht nur "toleriert" wird. Diese Situation ist immer schlechter geworden. Und nun sieht man auf den Strassen vor dem Krankenhaus unzählige "trabajadores informales", illegale Strassenhändler, die die Regierung als Arbeitstätige - also nicht Arbeitslosen- zählt, mit Einmalhandschuhen, Verbandsmaterialien und vieles mehr im Angebot. Eine Strassenhändlerin erklärt: "dies gibt uns bessere Gewinnmargen, als alle andere Produkte". Na, Sozialismus pur.

Währenddessen kriegt Venezuela Besuch von einem der wichtigsten kubanischen Bonzen, vom achzigjährigen José Ramón Machado. Der Mann, Vizepräsident der kubanischen Diktatur, besucht für dieses Mal vorbereitete Krankenhäuser, wo die kubanischen "Ärzte" arbeiten und spricht dann im öffentlichen Fernsehen, im selben Fernsehsender, wo Andersdenkenden nicht frei sprechen können, und sagt, in Kuba will man den Sozialismus nur vertiefen. Was für eine Farce.

Wahrscheinlich will Machado Chávez "Vorschläge" geben, wie man mit den Abgeordneten der demokratischen Parteien bei der Asamblea Nacional umgehen kann. Pluralismus wird von diesen Menschen wie die Pest gehasst.

PS. Ik zie dat Alpha ook erover bericht. Je kan dat in het Nederlands lezen.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Chávez goes for Formula One instead of sustainable development

Luxury Venezuela cannot spend money on

An article in Russian Lenta said last month Hugo Chávez is backing Venezuelan racing driver Pastor Maldonado with PDVSA money. It's a pity we did not see that on Venezuelan media. This is happening even though PDVSA is financially under stress, this is happening even though PVDA in problems with debtors galore and even thoughVenezuela is a Third World country with serious needs.

Sorry, but I have no sympathy for the promotion of such a sport at the cost of priorities for poor Venezuela. Sponsoring Formula 1 races could be fine for Kuweit or the United Arab Emirates, with money to waste, not for Venezuela.

PDVSA apparently gave 12 million euros for Maldonado's racing team. I don't think we should spend 12 million euros to have a Venezuelan flag waving on a formula 1 car. That is simply silly. Financing a hundred sportspersons who work and live in Venezuela? Yes. Financing fancy car races? That's simply mental.

I would have preferred that money be spent on a very useful high-tech project to improve health in Venezuela and in many other countries thanks to Venezuelans' technology. Venezuelan researchers get a monthly salary of some $200. Those 12 million euros could pay a lot of diagnosis and vaccination campaign and even the development of new technologies. Or they could be used for educating and providing better equipment for 50 farmers like the one on the picture below.

Ps. My thanks to Dan for that picture of Real Venezuela.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

When will Venezuela have 50 million inhabitants?

Birth rate in the World, 2008

Teenagers having babies

One of the first news of each year is about the first Venezuelan/Caracas/Valencian/Maracaibo baby born. This is also news in other countries, but this has a special dimension in Venezuela, a nation with one of the highest birth rates in America. Only Bolivia and Paraguay have higher birth rates in South America. Ecuador follows very closely. In Central America only Honduras and Nicaragua have higher birth rates. Do you see the pattern? Basically: the Spanish American countries in a particularly big mess. There is also Haiti, although most do not count it as Latin American but "Caribbean". Venezuela's birth rate had been falling for decades now, but it is still high at 24 births per 1000 inhabitants.

Now, I checked out the news about the "First Caracas-born", the first Miranda-State born, the first Zulia-born and the first Valencia-born.

Adringelis Carreño was the first baby born in Valencia. Adriana's Adringelis mother. Adriana is 15 years old. She lives in poor Central Tacarigua, the western-most part of Carlos Arvelo, now an extension of Valencia's Southern slums, a place I know very well.

Wilson Larver was the first Zulian baby of 2011. His mother is 19 and she already has 2 children.
She was a minor when she got them.

At least the mother of the first baby to be born in Caracas this time became mother at a normal age. The state media that talks about that first Caracas child of 2011 praises, as usual, the state hospital system, contrary to what countless physicians state (traitors, the government will say). The head of the Institute for Women Affairs, Judith López, talks about the efforts they undertake to promote birth control and sexual education. Now, I wonder: how does that agree with the president's desire of having a country with 50 million people as soon as possible?

Plans of a military man

Military strongman and president Chávez has repeatedly declared Venezuela needs many more people to become "a super power". Chávez wants Venezuela to have 50 million inhabitants. The way things keep going, Venezuela will indeed be a super power with regards to baby production. The population boom has been going on for decades now, but we should have come to a better control by now. More worringly, Chávez also thinks the Caracas, the Aragua and the Tuy Valleys can all have many more people than they have nowadays. Chávez wants to increase the level of construction on the slopes of the mountain between La Guaira and Caracas, taking away more land from a beautiful national park.

Location, location

Whereas Venezuela is a relatively large land, the population density in those areas is already higher than in European urban agglomerations: Carabobo has a population density of more than 595 inhabitants per km2 and a lot of the land cannot be easily urbanized: it is on very steep mountains and/or the last areas of tropical forest in Northern Valencia. Aragua and Miranda and Vargas are not much better off.

Vargas: try to put many more people there and build higher up those slopes. Wait for rain and see how disaster will come

Serious urbanism is absent in most places in Venezuela. The greatest urbanization centres were built in some of the most fertile lands of Venezuela, fertile lands that are now becoming cement and rubbish. Only the steepest mountains and a few places can still be developed. But: what is the option? The jobs - mostly in the "informal" sector - are there.

People find no real jobs in the Llanos or South of the Orinoco, at least no jobs other than as farmers with extremely primitive equipment.

Drying coffe in Venezuela in the same way as my great-grandfather did, as farmers did during colonial times. It was 30 degrees celsius under the scorching sun. The machines Chávez so often announces to automate work in the Llanos are nowhere to be seen but for a couple of Potemkin villages.

Everything is extremely centralized, even cultural resources and national institutions that could easily be placed in a secondary city. If you travel through Venezuela, try to visit public libraries or cultural centres of Calabozo or El Tigre. Try to see what possibilities an engineer or a technician has there to develop beyond the oil sector or as a rubber stamp working for some local caudillo.

What to do?

Alternative forces in Venezuela need to start putting forward an open discussion about

1) how to make birth control campaigns more effective

2) how to provide a better education to poor boys and girls, not just a piece of paper stating they are "bachilleres"

3) how to make cities in the Llanos and in other places more attractive for the general population. The solution has to be something more intelligent but much less expensive than some sort of Brazilia or Astana. Solutions cannot come exclusively from the State, even if the government needs to set up the legal framework and a lot of the infrastructure. Chávez already thought that by ordering the construction of "cities" in the middle of nowhere, without much planning, he will make people more away from Caracas. That turned out to be a completely failure. As so few houses have been built in the last years - mafias pretending to be unions and asking for money from construction companies, lack of transparency from construction companies and expropriations are some of the many reasons- Venezuela has a horrendous need for more houses now.

Special problems

Solutions have to be much more complex than the announcemtns Chávez makes. They have to come from the State, but they also have to be the job of private companies working together with government in a climate of real transparency or independently in an environment where rule of law and property exist.

Venezuela will have to do a lot with much less money as Chavismo has mismanaged so much of the biggest oil boom Venezuela has ever had. We need to think about clever, transparent descentralization work.

Below you see a density map of 2001. Since then more than 6 million people have been added and most of the newcomers live in the high density areas.

Population density per municipio, km2

And below you have a very rough topographic map of the country. The Llanos are a very special landscape, so it is not that you can just expand the urban centres already present there "because it's all flat". You can't just plan anything there unless you provide for a long-term investment scheme. They are a challenge for agriculture. The Llanos are a challenge for housing that is both comfortable and does not require huge amounts of energy to cool down. Alexander von Humboldt wrote about quite some of the issues over 200 years ago. Since then a lot of insights have come to agriculture, urbanism and energy production. It is about time a new generation of Venezuelans start to get concrete about them.

There is also a mess when it comes to land property. Most of the land is own by the state and some by big landowners - many of them military honchos like Ramírez Chacín and the Chávez clan. Most poor people live in land that has no clear property rights.

Back to real education

The nation has to become aware the reduction of pregnancies of underage girls is a priority. You don't do that just by hanging posters about birth controls on hospital wards or talking to the girls when they appear at the hospital with a 3-month pregnancy. You need real education for boys and girls with open discussions, you need to have this issue as a constant topic in the press. You need to have a president who does not think a nation is prosperous by the sheer amount of its population, as Akhmadinejad and Chávez think, but by the way in which it can provide on a sustainable basis for all of its citizens.