Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Venezuelan Chickindex

Some people have been talking a lot about whether Venezuela's a middle-class country or not. I found it perplexing they focus time after time on trying to find the right exchange rate for the Bolívar in order to calculate that. Most of those who are considered "middle class" in Venezuela could not afford to pay the rent for the average 45 m2 flat in Valencia or Caracas...most people I know live in houses they inherited, they live with their parents, they live in houses or flats they bought over ten years ago.

To really get a real feeling about Venezuelans' purchasing power you have to use something like the amount of time the average or, better still, the median worker needs to pay for a kilogram of meat, a movie theatre ticket, a car and so on.

As I do not have the time to do such a research, I decided to compare how much you could do with the minimum salary in Venezuela in 1998 and now.

Here you can see how many kilos of chicken you could buy with the minimum salary at different times

I couldn't get the data for all the years but what you see here is already very telling. Basically now, in 2014 you can buy 76 kilos of chicken meat with a minimum wage whereas you could buy 83 kilos the year before Chávez came to power. There was a maximum around 2010. These prices are not, at least they weren't - Mercal prices but the regulated price. Mercal prices were back in 2006 considerably lower than that, not so now...and shortages have increased a lot. Even though this picture is just another view of purchasing power, it gives, I think, a good feeling about where things stand now...except, of course, for the  fact there are massive shortages and people have to spend many hours to find that chicken at that price or pay more.

All in all, 15 years after the start of the so-called revolution the average Venezuelans can afford as many or less chickens as in 1998.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Russians, oil and Venezuela

Gazprom has decided to give back the license for oil exploration in the Urumaco II area. They are backpedaling from oil projects in Cuba and Ecuadorean Guinea as well. Gazprom apparently spent about 300 million dollars in exploration work in Venezuela and the Devil's Excrement didn't pop up as expected. The Urumaco II block is part of the Rafael Urdaneta project (Rafal Urdaneta's the name of an old military, what else?) in the Gulf of Venezuela. You can read about that here (in Russian). This announcement, from documents about their decisions from 2013, shouldn't be a surprise. Gazprom had already said a long time ago they were abandoning that field.

The statements about Gazprom's losses, by the way, came last year from Igor Sechin, former Portuguese interpreter for the Soviet forces in Africa and KGB man, one of Putin's best friends and one of the men who was recently placed on a US list of sanctions for Russia's actions in Ukraine. Sechin is Rosneft's chef, not Gazprom's boss but he had explained those things in his capacity as vice-president of Russia. You can read some about the relationship between these companies in the Economist. Bloomberg offers a detailed portray of Rosneft's role in Russia today and quite some insight into Sechin's mind.

Oil prices have been rather stable for the last 3 years at a level 800% higher than in 1998. That is bad for a country that has become so dependent on oil that it needs ever higher oil prices to grow.

No El Dorado

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Not even the opposition seems to denounce these attacks against it

Two months ago the former coup monger and current head of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, read out on public- in Venezuela synonym with regime - TV private emails of opposition deputy María Corina Machado. The government had previously shown illegally tapped recordings of hers, among other opposition leaders.

Whatever the content of those emails, the government is not allowed to do that without court orders. But it does...and it is so common in Venezuela that opposition leaders don't even think it is worth mentioning to the international community...there are so many things to denounce and there is so little time the outside world has for Venezuela.

Still, this makes me wonder how far we are making people get used to anything.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Your feedback

From time to time I carry out a small survey to find out what my readers want to read. Mind: I am a member of the opposition in Venezuela and that will be my departing point - that and information on Venezuela's political situation. I will also tend to give a little bit more information about things linking Venezuela and Europe as that is the name of the blog. Still, I try to cover different topics related to Venezuela and I am thankful for your feedback.

Please, answer to the poll on the right side and, if you feel you have some ideas or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email.


Wednesday, 23 April 2014

País de disparos, país de ideas

Quien haya vivido un par de años en países muy disímiles sabe lo difícil que puede ser dar una buena descripción de la situación económica de uno de estos países a foráneos que tengan un marco de referencia muy diferente. Tratar de mapear ingresos y costes a una moneda determinada, sean dólares, euros o lo que sea, no es un buen procedimiento. En vez de eso, a menudo se usa alguna forma de expresar el poder adquisitivo o se habla de cuánto tiene que trabajar un empleado de una profesión X para conseguir una unidad del producto Y en uno y otro país. Aun así, al final siempre vamos a decir: es de cajón que en un país menos desarrollado haya un poder adquisitivo más bajo.

Independientemente de las diferencias entre un país desarrollado rico y otro pobre y en vías de desarrollo, este último debería darles al menos tanta o más importancia a aquellos aspectos del gasto nacional que le ayuden a avanzar. Eso debería ser evidente, ¿no? El gasto nacional muestra las prioridades de un país.
Fuente: Carlos Mata

Aquí les presento los salarios relativos de dos categorías de militares y de maestros en Venezuela y en Alemania. Aunque los rangos de militares y categorías de maestros difieren, los que presento aquí son más o menos comparables.

El salario  de un teniente en cada país es la referencia "100". Como pueden ver, el aumento de salario de teniente a capitán es mucho mayor en Venezuela que en Alemania: un capitán gana 52% más que un teniente.  Lo más importante, sin embargo, es ver la diferencia en poder adquisitivo entre cualquier militar venezolano y cualquier maestro de escuela. En Venezuela un teniente gana más que un maestro con más de una década de experiencia y estudios extras. En Alemania, es todo lo contrario. La situación se mostraría más dramática si hubiera incluído cargos con más experiencia. Los militares son claramente más importantes para el Estado venezolano que los maestros. Venezuela es un país donde los militares son y siempre han sido una casta militar...sobre todo aquellos que terminan la academia militar, no los pobres reclutas.

Comparación de salarios maestros-militares en Venezuela y Alemania. Referencia: 100=salario de teniente
En realidad los sueldos de los militares son adaptados al menos dos veces cada año para que se mantengan por encima de la inflación. Eso ha sido así por lo menos desde que el chavismo está en el poder. El sueldo de los maestros, por su lado, no había sido adaptado a la altísima tasa de inflación de Venezuela desde hacía años. Apenas en octubre del 2013 los maestros consiguieron firmar un nuevo contrato colectivo y los correspondientes aumentos de sueldo. Pueden tener la absoluta seguridad de que en 2015 y por un par de años más la diferencia entre el poder adquisitivo de un militar y de un maestro con una experiencia "comparable" van a hacerse mucho mayores. El gobierno se cerciora a cada rato de que los militares no sufran por la inflación, pero solo hace lo mismo con los maestros cuando ya no puede seguir postponiéndolo.

Si Ustedes no son venezolanos, tienen que tener en cuenta este detallito: en las elecciones en Venezuela, a diferencia de las elecciones en Alemania, los militares vigilan casi todos los aspectos de las votaciones, son los que realmente deciden cuándo cerrar o abrir los centros de votación, los que transportan los materiales de votación y los que están al lado de los directivos del Centro Nacional Electoral a la hora de anunciar los resultados.

País\Profesión Teniente Capitán Maestro Maestro IV
Venezuela (Bs) 6032 9155 4832 5385
Alemania € 2532 3344 3355 3921

Algunas fuentes:
Venezuela, Venezuela, Venezuela
Alemania, Alemania

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Murder in the Land of the Pseudo-Revolution: United Nations' Report

 Here you have the latest UNODC report on crime in the whole world. The key part on page 35:

"South America now has the same homicide rate as in 1995, which is the result of very different trends at the country level. For example, Colombia’s homicide rate has been decreasing since 1996 but remains at a very high level, while the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the only country in South America that has had a consistently increasing homicide rate since 1995. Other countries in the region have quite stable homicide rates, but at different levels: Brazil’s homicide rate is quite stable and high, while hom- icide rates in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are stable and lower, which gives them homicide pro- files closer to those of European countries. " 

Also take a look at this here (from page 38 of the same report):

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Mother versus cops

This video is circulating in Venezuela...this is just one of many examples of what is going on in the Land of Grace.

Die Osterzeit ist da und das Nagetierfleisch ist so teuer geworden!

Die Capybaras sind die grössten Nagetiere der Welt, wesentlich grösser als die von den Deutschen als Meerschweinchen bekannten Cavias. Sie leben im Orinoko- und Amazonenbecken und sind ausgezeichnete Schwimmer.

Das Capybarafleisch ist der katholischen Kirche zufolge erlaubtes Essen während der Semana Santa und sonst zu Fastenzeit, also wie ein Fisch.  Wie Fischen sehen diese Tiere nicht aus, wie dem Leser schnell deutlich wird. Die spanischen Priester hatten zu Kolonialzeiten den Indianern beigebracht, freitags kein Fleisch zu essen. Sie stellten aber fest, dass die Indianer Capybaras weiterhin aß der Begründung, die Tiere seien ja auch Fische, denn sie schwammen fast die ganze Zeit. Die Priester waren sehr flexibel und wurden zu Lobbyisten für die Capybara-Genießer. Im Jahr 1784 sollen sie durch eine päpstliche Bulle die Erlaubnis bekommen haben, das Tier freitags und zu Osterzeit zu essen.

Früher war Capybara keine Delikatesse, sondern normales Essen zu Ostern und sonst, wenn man was anderes wollte.

Jetzt werden Capybaras auch gezüchtet. Sie sind in den Llanos zu finden. Die Tiere werden zur Zeit insbesondere im Februar und März getötet, wenn sie sich  wegen der Trockenzeit in den wenigen Teichen und Flüssen treffen. In der Regenzeit sind die Llanos fast überall überflutet und die Capybaras können den Jägern leichter entfliehen. Wenn sie getötet werden, werden sie normalerweise getrocknet und gesalzt.

In Venezuela werden Capybaras fast immer Chigüire genannt. Das Wort Capybara kommt aus einer Kariben-Sprache aus dem Amazonas-Gebiet, das Wort Chigüire kommt dem Priester Caulín zufolge aus der Sprache der Cumanagotos und Palenques. Diese waren ebenfalls karibische Ethnien, die wohl im Nordosten Venezuelas lebten.

Ein Kilo Capybarafleisch kostet zur Zeit Bs 300. Das ist 34,6 Euro oder 6% des Monatslohns eines Lehrers, 9.2% des Mindestlohns. 

Wer mehr über Capybaras lesen will, kann das hier (auf Spanisch) tun.
Hier ein Beispiel der Umweltproblematik: illegale Jäger töten die Tiere, wie sie wollen.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

GDP, Venezuela, Nigeria and Norway

Sycophants for the Venezuelan regime, people like Mark Weisbrot in the USA, often talked about the impressive GDP growth shown in the last decade or so. Of course, such impressive GDP rates are no longer present. But: did they ever mean something, at all?

GDP growth is, at most, a faint indicator of something. It can hardly be used to compared countries with different population rates and levels of actual development.

 Look at the following chart. It shows simple GDP growth according to the World Bank for three oil-exporting countries: Nigeria, Norway and Venezuela. As you can see, Nigeria supposedly "outperformed both Venezuela and Norway during most of the last 20 years. The Nigerian government didn't have the same amount of propaganda consultants as Chávez's regime. Few if anyone was talking about development there. 

There is another thing you can notice: both Venezuela and Nigeria show a very unstable growth. Periods of huge hikes switch to deep falls. Norway, on the other hand, remains smoothly just over the positive line.

Positive and negative years don't balance each other. What gets destroyed is gone. You cannot build on destroyed value. It is obviously much easier to show a rise if you firstly fall but that rise means almost nothing. You don't really have to be an economist to understand this.

The data reaches only up to 2012. Last year Venezuela grew by only 1.2% and that growth was based on a massive spending of loaned money. There was hardly any investment. It was money to buy food and appliances and a little bit of housing - but hardly enough - for yet a new couple of election rounds, elections that are supposed to show Venezuela has a democracy even if there isn't the slightest remain of rule of law. 

Venezuela's GDP is likely to stay very low in the coming years and the actual GDP per capita will keep going down as long as Chavismo is in power. Chavismo and its sycophants abroad will blame it on capitalism or some US embargo. Norway is likely to keep its humble but steady growth.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Protests and a little bit of information about Venezuela's demography

Unfortunately, the majority of foreign journos in Venezuela tend to stay in Caracas almost all the time. Admittedly, it is not easy to travel across Venezuela these days: crime, ever worsening traffic jams, road controls by extremely corrupt Guardias Nacionales and costly but crappy hotels are some of the reasons why travelling across the Land of Grace is so gruesome now. That and a superficial comprehension of demography even within Caracas lead many foreign journos to think the rejection of Maduro's policies is above all an upper-middle class or even middle-class phenomenon.

Yes, most blockades in Caracas and Valencia were located in the "best" areas of both cities and the national government has been very keen to highlight this. Yes, street blockades are counter-productive for the opposition. You cannot draw much more of a conclusion from this...specially about the level of discontent in the country.

First of all: about 85% of Venezuelans are poor. A large amount of the "middle class" that makes up about 14% of the population does not even earn enough to be able to rent an 80 m2 flat.

Here you have a map of Carabobo, my region. The areas where the extreme oppo kept tight blockades were El Trigal and San Diego. The first area is middle class (former upper-middle class) and the second lower middle class to middle class with some slums. Blockades were feasible in both areas because access to them is restricted by steep hills or mountains. Let's look closer at different regions where the opposition has protested.

Blue and red spots represent approximately one thousand votes in the 4.2013 elections

El Trigal: The opposition got around 85% of votes in El Trigal in April 2013 (some but not all of the centres here are located there)

Several students were beaten here by cops but basically state-related paras have had trouble getting in. A Guardia Civil were shot dead by oppo snipers. Several detentions were made. 

San Diego: The opposition got 72% of votes in San Diego. Its mayor, Scarano, is currently in jail. The former Chávez candidate for Nueva Esparta and current head of the Supreme Court, sentenced him in a speedy trial to 10 and a half months for disobeying orders to disperse blockades. Scarano claimed his local police did not have the authority for that and that was the role of the national police.

The Chavista paras couldn't get into this area until the mayor was detained and the local police put under the national government's control.

Naguanagua: The opposition got 63.19% of votes in the same elections. This municipality is easily linked to the road towards Puerto Cabello. Here you have poor to middle class.

Here Geraldine Moreno was shot at close range - on the face - by a Guardia Nacional. A lot of students have been beaten in this area.

Centre: this area is directly connected to Southern Valencia and to the slums of Carabobo's Libertador, some of the most dangerous areas in Venezuela. Around 61.22% of the population there voted for the opposition in April of 2013. This is lower middle class or poor.

Geraldine Carmona was killed here. The government said the opposition was responsible "because the shot came from behind her"...never mind people were running away from the paramilitary thugs who were in the Western part of Cedeño Avenue. Several others were wounded.

La Isabelica: Here around 51.54% of the population voted for Capriles in April. A larger amount voted in December for opposition mayor Cocchiola. The people are clearly very poor here.

At least three civilians have been killed by pro-Chávez paramilitary bikers here. Dozens have been shot but have survived. A lot have been beaten. Check this out.

Libertador: In sub-rural Libertador Capriles got only 39.61% of votes. It is one of the poorest areas in the whole region but it has less people than Southern Valencia or the Isabelica and surrounding areas.

Some of the first protests took place here. National Guards acted very swiftly. Several students were tortured and at least one was raped with a gun. 

Two other persons - one definitely Chavista- were killed when they crashed against blockades they couldn't see.

As many people who live in very poor areas have told me: they are scared to death to go out and protest. It's easier to go to march in an area with "just" 10 murders per 100,000 inhabitants than to do the same thing in another with 70 to 100 murders for the same amount of inhabitants.

And by the way: there have been tiny, timid and short-lived protests in rural areas all around Valencia but there are not even national journalists to report about them. People are not happy about the ones in power.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Further Cubanization when Cuba is trying to un-Cubanize itself

A few days earlier, the government came up with a new law forcing landlords to offer on sale "at the fair price" the houses they have been renting for twenty or more years. They have 60 days to prepare the whole paperwork and then offer those houses. Evidently, the Boligarchs who own real-state usually own new buildings, so they won't be affected. A lot of middle-class people coming to nothing will lose their livelihood. The "fair price" is something Maduro's regime decides on its own. This is its solution to its failure in building social housing. The Chávez government was less capable of building flats and houses for the poor than the government of Caldera II, even if Chávez had over 500% the money and 300% the time Caldera had. The Association of Landowners is trying to have this law repealed, but we know how justice goes in Venezuela.

The government is also introducing the ration card for its Mercal supermarkets. People will have to give all kind of personal data and, most importantly, their finger prints. The government says this is to "make the system more efficient". In reality, it is because it doesn't have enough money to finance so much food under market prices. The ration card will aggravate the already bad shortage situation in less poor areas. 

It goes like this:

A large proportion of the poor work as illegal  street vendors to survive - curiously, the government counts them as "employed", so that Venezuela has a 7% unemployment figure when in reality about 50% of the population are street vendors and illegal taxi drivers and the like who more often than not live much worse off than the 26% who are unemployed in Spain.

These people often queue up in shops to buy products at regulated prices and resell those products at a much higher price - usually more than twice -.

Since last December, street vendors have had to spend more time queueing up to buy more products at controlled prices so that they can sell them at a higher price in order to be able to pay off for more and more expensive non-regulated products.

As there are not enough products at regulated prices in the Mercal centres, they spend more and more time in the middle class areas, making shopping there a nightmare for nightmare we are talking about queues of more than 200 people and frequent rows, actual fighting.

Tension will escalate.

She loves maize

The Oriole Blackbird or, in the language of God, maicero, is bird from the Icteridae family. As you can hint from its name, you can find it lingering around maize trees...but also in moist swamps, forests, shrubland. It is a frequent sight in Venezuela.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Venezuela 2014, kurz erklärt

Der jetzige Vorsitzende der Nationalversammlung, der Militär Diosdado Cabello, erklärte vor einigen Tagen, die oppositionelle Abgeordnete María Corina Machado sei keine Abgeordnete mehr. Frau Machado hatte während einer Sitzung der Organisation Amerikanischer Staaten das Wort ergriffen. Da die Maduro-Regierung das nicht zulassen wollte, gab die Regierung Panamas ihre Sprechzeit an sie. Cabello sagte, sie hätte für eine ausländische Regierung gearbeitet und sei deswegen eine Vaterlandsverräterin.

Diosdado Cabello

Nicolás Maduro hatte vor kurzem Cabello zum Kapitän gefördert. Cabello war ein Leutnant, als er an einem blutigen Putschversuch gegen die demokratisch gewählte Regierung von Pérez teilnahm. Chávez hatte im Jahr 2012 per Gesetz seine Militärkumpel der 1992-Putschversuche wieder in den Militärdienst eingegliedert. Damit wäre Cabello aktiver Militär, was ihn laut Verfassung als Abgeordneter disqualifizieren würde.

Ein anderer Abgeordeneter des Maduro-Regimes, Adel El-Zabayar, ging letztes Jahr nach Syrien, um öffentlich einige Monate lang den Massenmörder Assad zu unterstützen. Er durfte das tun. Er ist weiterhin Abgeordneter.

Gladys María Gutiérrez (51) ist eine Anwältin, die von Anfang an in der Partei des Putschisten Chávez tätig war. Sie war sein Kandidat für die Stelle des Gouverneurs von Nueva Esparta im Jahr 1998. Sie verlor die Wahl damals, nahm aber als Ersatzabgeordnete für die Regierung an der ersten Nationalversammlung teil. Danach wurde sie von Chávez u.a. zu Botschafterin Venezuelas ernannt.

Frau Gutiérrez ist seit 2013 die neue Vorsitzende des Obersten Gerichtshofs. Sie hat Capriles Anklage abgewiesen, die Wahlakten der April-Wahlen zu untersuchen. Sie hat vor einigen Tagen zwei Bürgermeister der Opposition zu Haftstrafen verurteilt, weil diese die Straßenblockaden in ihren Vierteln nicht rechtzeitig aufräumten. Die Bürgermeister hatten erklärt, das durfte nur die Nationalpolizei tun, wenn es sich dort Leute befinden. Gutiérrez wickelte sie aber in Schnellverfahren ab.

Nun sagte Frau Gutiérrez, Diosdado Cabello habe das Richtige getan und Machado sei tatsächlich keine Abgeordnete mehr.

Die Gesetze - oder eine bestimmte Interpretation der Gesetze - sind ausschließlich da, um gegen die Andersdenkenden in Venezuela benutzt zu werden.

Das Land leidet immer mehr unter der Mangelwirtschaft. Die Inflation ist bei weitem die höchste in der westlichen Hemisphäre.

Da die Regierung trotz des längsten Erdölbooms unserer Geschichte mit dem Bau von Sozialwohnungen kaum vorankommt, fördert sie ihre Anhänger an, Gelände zu besetzen, die sich in solchen Gebieten befinden, wo viele Oppositionellen wohnen.

Diosdado und Familie