Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Bolivarian Brain Drain

Completely true. Chavez hates intelligent people and people with money different from him, he, his friends and his family which have steal a lot of our Venezuelan money. Insteresting in this article:
  • The government is seizing privately owned companies and farms. Labor unions have been crushed. Political opponents are routinely harassed or else prosecuted by chavista controlled courts.
  • But in the 1970s and 1980s, Venezuelans were the envy of Latin America. Oil rich, educated, with a solid democratic tradition, they lived a tier above the chronically unstable societies in the region.
The Bolivarian Brain Drain

Hugo Chavez and his allies are tightening their grips, forcing the intelligentsia to leave in droves.
Gregorio Marrero / AP
By Mac Margolis Newsweek Web Exclusive
Jul 1, 2009


For just a moment, in the early days of his presidency, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez looked almost like a healer. "Let's ask for God's help to accept our differences and come together in dialogue," he famously implored his conflicted compatriots in 2002. Instead what Venezuelans got was an avenger. The government is seizing privately owned companies and farms. Labor unions have been crushed. Political opponents are routinely harassed or else prosecuted by chavista controlled courts. And now after a decade of the so-called Bolivarian revolution, tens of thousands of disillusioned Venezuelan professionals have had enough. Artists, lawyers, physicians, managers and engineers are leaving the country by droves, while those already abroad are scrapping plans to return. The wealthiest among them are buying condos in Miami and Panama City. Cashiered oil engineers are working rigs in the North Sea and sifting the tar sands of western Canada. Those of European descent have applied for passports from their native lands. Academic scholarships are lifeboats. An estimated million Venezuelans have moved abroad in the decade since Chávez took power.

This exodus is splitting families and interrupting careers, but also sabotaging the country's future. Just as nations across the developing world are managing to lure their scattered expatriates back home to fuel recovering economies and join vibrant democracies, the outrush of Venezuelan brainpower is gutting universities and thinktanks, crippling industries and hastening the economic disarray that threatens to destroy one of the richest countries in the hemisphere. Forget minerals, oil and natural gas; the biggest export of the Bolivarian revolution is talent.

The Bolivarian diaspora is a reversal of fortune on a massive scale. Through most of the last century, Venezuela was a haven for immigrants fleeing Old World repression and intolerance. Refugees from totalitarianism and religious intolerance in Spain, Italy and Germany and Eastern Europe flocked to this country nestled between the Caribbean and the Andean cordillera and helped forge one of the most vibrant societies in the New World. Like most developing nations, the country was split between the burgeoning poor and an encastled elite. But in the 1970s and 1980s, Venezuelans were the envy of Latin America. Oil rich, educated, with a solid democratic tradition, they lived a tier above the chronically unstable societies in the region. "We had a relatively rich country that offered opportunities, with no insecurity. No one thought about leaving," says Diego Arria, a former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations, who lives in New York. "Now we have rampant crime, a repressive political system that borders on apartheid, and reverse migration. Venezuela is now a country of emigrants."
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It's much the same all over the axis of Hugo, the constellation of 10 states in the Andes, Central America and the Caribbean that have followed Chávez in lockstep in the march towards so called 21st century socialism. In the name of power, justice and plenty for the downtrodden the leaders of the "Bolivarian alternative" in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua are rewriting their constitutions, intimidating the media and stoking class and ethnic conflicts that occasionally explode in hate and violence. (The military coup on June 28 that ousted Honduran president Manuela Zelaya, a key Chávez ally, is the latest example of the blowback from the Bolivarian revolution.) The middle classes and the young are taking the brunt. A study just released by the Latin America Economic System, an intergovernmental economic research institute, reports that the outflow of highly skilled labor, aged 25 or older, from Venezeula to OECD countries rose 216 percent between 1990 and 2007. A recent study by Vanderbilt University in Nashville showed more than one in three Bolivians under 30 had plans to emigrate, up from 12 percent a decade ago, while 47 percent of 18-year-olds said they planned to leave. Many established professionals have already made up their minds. "I ask myself if I'm not patriotic enough," says Giovanna Rivero, an acclaimed Bolivian novelist who is leaving for a teaching job at the University of Florida and has no plans to come back. "But Bolivia is coming apart. There are people who´ve known each other all their lives who don't talk to one another anymore."

In Venezuela, Chavez has pushed hard against anyone who refuses to accept his party line. Daniel Benaim was one of Venezuela's top independent television producers, turning out prime time entertainment and game shows for national channels with Canal Uno, a leading production house. "We had 160 employees and a 24/7 operation," he says. But after the failed coup against Chávez in 2002, the government cracked down on independent media and programming budgets dried up. In a month, Canal Uno was down to four employees and heading for bankruptcy. Benaim redirected his business to serve the international advertising market and raked in prestigious international awards, including multiple Latin Emmys. But opportunities for non-chavistas in Venezuela had dried up. One by one, he watched the people he trained over the years leave the country. "I used to give angry speeches about the brain drain. Now I have to bite my tongue," says Benaim, who is also moving to the U.S. "We had the best minds in the business, and now there's nothing for them here."

One of Benaim´s associates was Gonzalo Bernal Ibarra. He, too, had soared up the career ladder in broadcast television and until recently ran a campus network that reached 100,000 students. Everything changed in late 2007 when Chávez lost a refrendum to rewrite the constitution and began to crack down on his media critics, including Bernal. Strangers in jackets with weighted pockets--dress code for Chávez´s military intelligence police--began to follow him day and night. Then congress was set to pass a bill obliging schools to teach 21st century socialism. "I didn't want my kid learning that crap," he says. Even shopping became a trial as spiking inflation and government price controls emptied the supermarkets of basic goods like milk, eggs and meat. One day in late 2008, he opened a bottle of whiskey and held a yard sale. "I got drunk and watched my life get carted away," he says. He now lives in the Washington, D.C. area, with his wife and six year old daughter, and is trying to adapt. "I was living in the most beautiful, wonderful, funny country in the world. Now a third of my friends are gone. In another ten years, Venezuela is going to be a crippled country."

No industry has been harder hit by the flight of talent than Venezuela's oil sector. A decade ago, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) ranked as one of the top five energy companies in the world. Everything changed under Chávez, who named a Marxist university professor with no experience in the industry to head the company. PDVSA's top staff immediately went on strike and paralyzed the country. Chávez responded by firing 22,000 people practically overnight, including the country's leading oil experts. As many as 4,000 of PDVSA's elite staff are now working overseas. "The company is a shambles," says Gustavo Coronel, a former member of the PDVSA board, who now works in the Washington D.C. as an oil consultant. Up until 2003, researchers at the company's Center for Technological research and Development generated 20 to 30 patents a year. Last year it produced none, even though its staff has doubled. PDVSA produced 3.2 million barrels of crude oil a day when Chávez took control. Now it pumps 2.4 milion, according to independent estimates.

The decline has spread across Venezuelan society, heightened by cronyism, corruption and censorship. In May, on the pretext that scientists were pursuing "obscure" research projects such as "whether there is life on Venus," Chávez began to slash budgets at the university science centers, where the country's cutting edge public health research was carried out. Instead he poured petrodollars into official "misiones cientificas" (scientific missions), where the purse strings are controlled by Chávez allies. Now the country's most respected research institutes are falling behind. Earlier this year, Jaime Requena. a Cambridge University trained biologist at the Institute of Advanced Studies, was forced into retirement and stripped of his pension after publishing a paper charging that scientific research in Venezuela was "at a 30-year low." The number of papers published by Venezuelans in international scientific journals fell from 958 to 831, a 15 percent drop in just the last three years. At aged 62, with an aging mother, Requena has few options. "It's not easy to get another job at my age. I would leave Venezuela if I could. My friends and colleagues all have."

An estimated 9,000 Venezuelan scientists are currently living in the U.S. - compared to 6,000 employed in Venezuela. One of the victims is an internationally acclaimed life sciences expert, who quit his job as chief of a major research laboratory in Caracas to try his luck in the U.S. in 2002, but always nursed hopes of returning. "I sent the government a number of proposals and they never got back to me," he says asking not to be named for fear of reprisals against his relatives in Venezuela. "Now it's all about politics. If you are not with Chávez you will never get grants. You will be persecuted. This is a war on merit." Venezuelan medical science, he said, is groping in the dark. "The last epidemiological report Venezuela published was in 2005," he says. "We don't even know what diseases we have and whether they are increasing or decreasing. This is the Cuban model, of keeping people in the dark."

The Bolivarian diaspora seems to be getting worse. Though census data is patchy, Latin American analysts say that outmigration from Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador has created sizeable enclaves in the U.S., Spain, Colombia and Central America. Panama City glistens with new buildings built by moneyed Venezuelan expatriates, who number some 15,000, up from a few thousand at the beginning of the decade. So many Venezuelans have flocked to Weston, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale, locals call it Westonzuela. There is hardly a middle class family in Venezuela without a son or daughter abroad," says Fernando Rodríguez, a columnist for the anti Chávez newspaper Tal Cual. In fact, far more people from the Bolivarian countries might be emigrating if it weren't for the global recession and rising hostility to outsiders, Venezuelan emigrants do not qualify as political refugees and enjoy no special advantage in the fierce competition for the 400,000 H1B work visas issued yearly by the U.S. for highly skilled migrants, three quarters of which go to Indians, who have an edge because they can speak English. "One reason we are not seeing more dislocation from these countries is that many people have no place to go," says Alejandro Portes, a sociologist who studies global migration at Princeton University.

Latin America has seen this before. Virtually the entire Cuban middle class fled to the U.S. after Fidel Castro's revolution, turning Miami into a business hub for Latin America while Havana moldered. The Cold War, stagflation, serial debt crises and massive unemployment drove the brain drain through the 1980s, Latin America's lost decade, especially in Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and throughout Central America. By the early 2000s, some of the countries convulsed by dictatorship or guerrilla insurgency, such as Chile and Peru, had managed to reverse course, making their societies prosperous and safe. But other countries have struggled to bring their expatriates home. In the 1980s and 1990s, Colombia had become synonymous with cocaine, violent crime and guerrilla warfare, all of which drove some four million Colombians from their homes. Targeted by kidnappers and political thugs, tens of thousands of middle class professionals left the country. In 2002 Pres. Álvaro Uribe declared war on drugs and crime, and now onetime bandit cities like Cali, Medellin and Bogota are safer than ever and have even become models for the rest of crime-ridden Latin America. Yet the brain drain has not reversed. "Either the [emigrants] have found the American dream or they are not yet convinced that it's safe to return," says Jorge Rojas, of Codhes, a Colombian thinktank that tracks refugees. "It shows how difficult it can be to recover lost talent."

For the nations of the Bolivarian Revolution, this means some dark days are likely to be ahead. Even the wealthiest nations could ill afford to lose their best and brightest, and Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua have all fallen in the World Economic Forum's competitiveness index. Fitch ratings recently demoted all three countries' debt to junk status, while the World Bank placed the Bolivarian trio of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela in the bottom quarter of its ease of doing business, along with most of the African continent.

Though much has been made of how developing world migrants can mitigate underdevelopment by sending precious savings back home, remittances will not close the widening talent gap that is sapping societies of their ablest hands. "If a 20-something engineer or computer specialist leaves the country, who cares? But in ten years we'll be feeling the loss," says Rául Maestres, a human resources expert in Caracas, whose son and daughter recently left Venezuela -he to work at U.S. architecture firm, she to study advertising in Buenos Aires. "When you think about the opportunities we have lost, you could sit down and cry."

Still there may be a glimmer of revival. Ostracized at home and unwelcome abroad, expatriate communities are trying to turn distance into strength. Using the web, universities and the expatriate grapevine, foreign nationals from the populist countries are talking to each other and building ties with dissidents around the world. Back home opposition movements are making a stand, launching protest marches and candidates in a major city in each country--Guayaquil in Ecuador, Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, Maracaibo in Venezuela. "We are putting together a web of exiles as a counterbalance to authoritarianism," says Coronel, who is tapping the diaspora for a gathering in Ecuador or Argentina in the next few months. "You could call it a kind of axis of freedom." That may sound optimistic given the stranglehold Chávez and his followers have on their countries. But given the growing numbers and brain power of Latin America's new dissidents, uniting their voices might just make a difference.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

A State in Grip of Kidnappers and the Family of Hugo Chávez - The New York Times

Scott Dalton for The New York Times
"This is what anarchy looks like, at least the type of anarchy where the family of Chávez accumulates wealth and power," said Ángel Santamaría, a Barinas cattleman whose 8-year-old son, Kusto, was held for ransom for 29 days.
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: July 20, 2009
BARINAS, Venezuela — Stretching over vast cattle estates at the foothills of the Andes, Barinas is known for two things: as the bastion of the family of President Hugo Chávez and as the setting for a terrifying surge in abductions, making it a contender for Latin America’s most likely place to get kidnapped.

The New York Times
Barinas is the home region of the family of Hugo Chávez.

An intensifying nationwide crime wave over the past decade has pushed the kidnapping rate in Venezuela past Colombia’s and Mexico’s, with about 2 abductions per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the Interior Ministry.

But nowhere in Venezuela comes close in abductions to Barinas, with 7.2 kidnappings per 100,000 inhabitants, as armed gangs thrive off the disarray here while Mr. Chávez’s family tightens its grip on the state. Seizures of cattle ranches and crumbling infrastructure also contribute to the sense of low-intensity chaos.

Barinas offers a unique microcosm of Mr. Chávez’s rule. Many poor residents still revere the president, born here into poverty in 1954. But polarization in Barinas is growing more severe, with others chafing at his newly prosperous parents and siblings, who have governed the state since the 1990s. While Barinas is a laboratory for projects like land reform, urgent problems like violent crime go unmentioned in the many billboards here extolling the Chávez family’s ascendancy.

“This is what anarchy looks like, at least the type of anarchy where the family of Chávez accumulates wealth and power as the rest of us fear for our lives,” said Ángel Santamaría, 57, a cattleman in the town of Nueva Bolivia whose son, Kusto, 8, was kidnapped while walking to school in May. He was held for 29 days, until Mr. Santamaría gathered a small ransom to free him.

The governor of Barinas, Adán Chávez, the president’s eldest brother and a former ambassador to Cuba, said this month that many of the kidnappings might have been a result of destabilization efforts by the opposition or so-called self-kidnappings: orchestrated abductions to reveal weaknesses among security forces, or to extort money from one’s own family.

“With each day that passes,” the governor said recently, “Barinas is safer than before.”

Through a spokeswoman, he declined to be interviewed.

In an election last year marred by accusations of fraud, Adán Chávez succeeded his own father, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, a former schoolteacher who had governed Barinas for a decade with the president’s brother, Argenis, the former secretary of state in Barinas.

Another brother, Aníbal, is mayor of nearby Sabaneta, and another brother, Adelis, is a top banker at Banco Sofitasa, which does business with Adán’s government. Yet another brother, Narciso, was put in charge of cooperation projects with Cuba. The president’s cousin Asdrúbal holds a top post at the national oil company.

Politicians once loyal to the president who have broken with him and his family here contend that Mr. Chávez’s family has amassed wealth and landholdings through a series of deals carried out by front men.

One opposition leader, Wilmer Azuaje, detailed to prosecutors and legislators what he said was more than $20 million in illegal gains by the family since the president’s father was elected governor in 1998. But in a brief review of those claims, National Assembly, under the control of Chávez loyalists, cleared the family of charges of illicit enrichment.

“In the meantime, while the family wraps itself in the rhetoric of socialism, we are descending into a neo-capitalist chaos where all that matters is money,” said Alberto Santelíz, the publisher of La Prensa, a small opposition newspaper.

One reason for the rise in kidnappings is the injection of oil money into the local economy, with some families reaping quick fortunes because of ties to large infrastructure projects.

A new soccer stadium, built under the supervision of Adelis Chávez’s at a cost of more than $50 million, is still unfinished two years after its first game in 2007, joining other white elephants dotting Barinas’s landscape. Nearby lies the unfinished Museum of the Plains, intended to celebrate the culture of the president’s birthplace. A sprawling shopping mall stands half-completed after its backers fled a shakedown by construction unions.

More than a decade into the Chávez family’s rule in Barinas, the state remains Venezuela’s poorest, with average monthly household income of about $800, according to the National Statistics Institute. Kidnapping, once feared only by the wealthy, has spread in Barinas to include the poor. In one case this year of a 3-year-old girl kidnapped in the slum of Mi Jardín, the abductor, when told that the only thing of value owned by the girl’s mother was a refrigerator, instructed her to sell it to pay the ransom.

Kidnapping specialists here said the abductors were drawn from two Colombian rebel groups, a small Venezuelan guerrilla faction called the Bolivarian Liberation Front, other criminal gangs and corrupt police officers. Just a fraction of the kidnappings result in prison sentences.

“With impunity rampant in Barinas, how can our governor say with a straight face that people are kidnapping themselves?” asked Lucy Montoya, 38, a hardware store owner whose sister, Doris, a 41-year-old mother of three, was kidnapped in March.

Doris Montoya’s abductors have not freed her or communicated with her family since receiving ransom money in May, Lucy Montoya said, adding, “The government’s handling of this crisis is an affront to our dignity as human beings.”

Meanwhile, new figures show kidnappings climbing to 454 known cases in the first six months of 2009, including about 66 in Barinas, compared with a nationwide 2008 estimate of between 537 and 612. But officials acknowledge that the true figures are probably higher because many cases are never reported.

Here in Barinas, victims seethe over the inaction of the president and his family. “Our ruling dynasty is effectively telling us we are expendable,” said Rodolfo Peña, 38, a businessman who was abducted here last year. “The only other plausible theory,” he said, “is that they are too inebriated by power to notice the emergency at their feet.”

Sign in to Recommend A version of this article appeared in print on July 21, 2009, on page A4 of the New York edition.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pressure Mounts for Entire Chavez Clan

This is true....... We are tired of Chavez and his family, he won in the last election because he committed fraud.......
vdebate reportef
VENEZUELAN STATE ELECTIONS
Pressure Mounts for Entire Chavez Clan
By Jens Glüsing

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is facing yet another battle for power in gubernatorial elections. Even in his home state, a growing number of people are getting tired of the president and the Chavez clan.

ANZEIGE
When Doña Elena Frías de Chavez goes to church, she is accompanied by seven bodyguards and driven in a small convoy of three armored Ford SUVs. It is shortly after seven, and the mass has just begun in the church of Cristo Rey in Barinas, a city of 270,000 people on the hot plains of western Venezuela. The mother of the Venezuelan president takes a seat in the second row. She is wearing a turquoise blouse and sunglasses, and her hair is dyed blonde.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez comes from a devout family. Doña Elena used to walk to mass at her church, which was only two blocks from her old house. But now she and her husband live in an enormous mansion in a well-to-do section of Barinas.

AP
The party of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez faces real challenges by the opposition in six states on Sunday.
The old house is empty. Nothing about the unadorned, yellow single-story building suggests that the president spent part of his childhood there. Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, the president's father, has been the governor of the state of Barinas for the past decade. He ran for re-election four years ago under the slogan: "Vote for the father, because the son cannot deny him any request."
This is apparently true of the entire family. Since Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper who later staged a military coup and is now the leader of the Latin American Left, was elected president in 1998, his once-humble mestizo family has become a wealthy clan. The Chavez family is believed to own 17 farms, several of them, as the opposition claims, acquired through straw men. "The Chavezes are the new oligarchs of Barinas," says Antonio Bastidas, a former neighbor and member of the opposition today.
FROM THE MAGAZINE
Find out how you can reprint this DER SPIEGEL article in your publication. Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, a former village teacher who is now called "El Maestro" in Barinas, has six sons, and all of them are extremely well provided for. Adelis is a vice president at Banco Sofitasa, which handles the business dealings of the Barinas government. Anibal is the mayor of Chavez's hometown of Sabaneta, Narciso heads the government's office of Venezuela-Cuban cooperation and Argenis is the head of his father's cabinet. Argenis became the de facto head of the family when "El Maestro" suffered a stroke a few years ago. Chavez's cousin Asdrubal is vice-president of the refinery business of the state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
Adan, the eldest of the Chavez brothers, has the reputation of being the family intellectual, and he has held posts as Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba and its education minister. Of all his brothers, Chavez trusts Adan the most, which is why he has now entrusted him with a delicate mission: Adan is running as a candidate to succeed his father in the gubernatorial election on Sunday. His task is to protect the president against the possibility of an ignominious defeat in the "Cradle of the Revolution," the term Chavez likes to use to describe his native state.
The regional elections will be the first trial of strength for the president since last year's failed constitutional referendum, with which autocratic leader Chavez had sought to secure for himself the possibility of unlimited re-election. According to opinion polls, six key states could go to the opposition in Sunday's vote.
Ironically, an effective opposition to the Comandante has developed among his own supporters, the "Chavistas," and some of the renegades are now running as independent candidates. In Barinas, for example, Adan Chavez is running neck-and-neck with the city's mayor, a former Chavez supporter. "We are tired of the nepotism in the president's family," says opposition candidate Simon Jimenez. "Chavez has established a new monarchy."
Barinas, as a microcosm of Venezuelan society, is the perfect place in which to study the rise and fall of the Caudillo. A four-lane highway leads to Sabaneta, his hometown, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the provincial capital. There is no guardrail in the middle of the highway, because it doubles as a runway for Chavez's jet when he comes to visit Sabaneta.


AFP
Adan Chavez is Hugo's most trusted brother. He is now running to succeed his father as the governor of the state of Barinas on Sunday. Mayor Aníbal Chavez has had the street signs painted red, and the house where the president was born, now home to party offices, is painted pink. Many streets in this small, dusty city are unpaved, dotted with knee-deep puddles during heavy rains.
Hugo de los Reyes Chavez and his wife lived here with their two eldest sons until they moved to Barinas in the late 1960s. "Hugo, the second-born, was the most personable of the sons," says former neighbor Bastidas. "He was fascinated by weapons and interested in history."
Hugo Senior was a member of the Social Christian Party of Venezuela (COPEI), but his sons rebelled against what they dubbed "Venezuela's rotten elite" and the "party dictatorship," which they believed had dominated the country until Chavez's election victory in 1998. Doña Elena held the family together with an iron hand.
The village teacher and his wife were people of modest means. Today the governor's salary is a state secret, and Doña Elena makes no effort to hide her expensive taste in jewelry. Barinas is filled with rumors about how the clan came into its money. Two investigations into allegations of illegal enrichment are on hold with the district attorney's office.
Local residents are especially indignant over the story behind the La Carolina football stadium. It was supposed to be inaugurated during the Copa America South American football competition last year, but the structure is still under construction today. Only one match -- between the United States and Paraguay -- took place there, on the construction site and during the day, because the floodlights were missing. Adelis Chavez was in charge of financing for the mammoth project.
There are other tales of Chavez family corruption. The president has already dedicated the state-owned CAAEZ sugar refinery, a $100 million (€78 million) project near Sabaneta, three times, and yet construction is still only half-finished. Another story strikes a particularly sensitive note among the region's farmers, who used to grow corn and rice. Chavez convinced them to plant sugar cane instead, but now they are forced to burn half of their harvest because there is no plant to process the cane. "The president cheated the people," says David Hernandez, another former Chavez supporter.
The president and his family are not even popular among the residents of Sabaneta. Eight demonstrators and three police officers were injured there three weeks ago, when student protests turned violent. Hernandez, a dissident, was summoned by the secret police twice. He receives occasional death threats, and he is afraid to go out at night without bodyguards.
Chavez has never commented publicly on his clan's machinations, but he is believed to have complained at a family event about his relatives' undue enrichment. There are rumors in Barinas that he destroyed his brother Argenis's flashy Hummer with a baseball bat, and that their mother had to intervene.
Argenis was initially supposed to succeed his father as governor, but because he was involved in too many scandals, the president removed him from the line of fire. "Chavez doesn't want to risk his family's safety," says opposition candidate Jimenez.
Adan, the eldest, who is now running for governor, has been generous with his campaign gifts, hoping to bolster his prospects with voters despite everything. In a poor neighborhood in Barinas, Chavez supporters sell pork knuckles, refrigerators and other articles at artificially low prices. Venezuelan coffee -- "100 percent nacional" -- is especially popular at five Bolivar a pound. Coffee is scarce in supermarkets, a consequence of socialist mismanagement of the economy.
NEWSLETTER
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Meanwhile Cuban doctors, sent to Venezuela by Fidel Castro in return for low-priced oil shipments, are writing prescriptions for free glasses and medications. "We are all voting for Adan," says Alberto Bueno, a carpenter standing in line for new glasses in the Mi Jardin II neighborhood.
The president's United Socialist Party of Venezuela has organized a "youth concert," to be held on playing fields on the city's outskirts. The audience is taken to the site in buses, but the venue is much too big.
Chavez's brother Adan waves to the audience, but refrains from giving a speech. The VIP stand where his parents are sitting is as red as the T-shirt his mother is wearing. Doña Elena looks determined, raising her fist in a gesture of defiance.
She plans to attend mass, as always, before the elections on Sunday. And she intends to pray for her sons.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Treasure Targets Venezuelan - Washington DC

The US government is doing the right thing here. These Venezuelans were helping FARC that is a Colombian terrorist group. Actually where are the OAS - Organization of American States? Why they NEVER say something important, on favor of Justice, Human Rights violations, corruption, narcotraffics, etc. Sad.........
vdebate reporter
Treasury Targets Venezuelan Government Officials Supporting the FARC
Washington, DC
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of ForeignAssets Control (OFAC) today designated two senior Venezuelan governmentofficials, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, andone former official, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, for materially assisting thenarcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC), a narco-terrorist organization.
"Today's designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted, and funded the FARC, even as itterrorized and kidnapped innocents," said Adam J. Szubin, Director of OFAC."
This is OFAC's sixth action in the last ten months against the FARC.
We will continue to target and isolate those individuals and entities that aid the FARC's deadly narco-terrorist activities in the Americas."
Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios is the Director of Venezuela's MilitaryIntelligence Directorate (DGIM). His assistance to the FARC includes protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities and providing weapons to the FARC, allowing them to maintain their strong hold of the coveted Arauca Department.
Arauca, which is located on theColombia/Venezuela border, is known for coca cultivation and cocaine production.
Carvajal Barrios also provides the FARC with official Venezuelan government identification documents that allow FARC members to travel to and from Venezuela with ease.
Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, the Director of Venezuela's Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services or DISIP, is in charge of intelligence and counter intelligence activities for the Venezuelan government.
Rangel Silva has materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC. He has also pushed for greater cooperation between the Venezuelan government and theFARC.
Ramon Emilio Rodriguez Chacin, who was Venezuela's Minister of Interior andJustice until September 8, is the Venezuelan government's main weapons contact for the FARC. The FARC uses its proceeds from narcotics sales to purchase weapons from the Venezuelan government. Rodriguez Chacin has held numerous meetings with senior FARC members, one of which occurred atthe Venezuelan government's Miraflores Palace in late 2007.
Rodriguez Chacin has also assisted the FARC by trying to facilitate a $250 million dollar loan from the Venezuelan government to the FARC in late 2007.
We cannot confirmwhether the loan materialized.
On May 29, 2003, President George W. Bush identified the FARC as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker, or drug kingpin, pursuant to the KingpinAct.
In 2001, the State Department designated the FARC as a SpeciallyDesignated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, and in 1997 asa Foreign Terrorist Organization.
This OFAC action continues ongoing efforts under the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide.
In addition to the 75 drug kingpins that have been designated by the President, 460 businesses and individuals have been designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000.
Today's action freezes any assets the designated entities and individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions involving those assets.
Penalties for violations ofthe Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,075,000 per violation tomore severe criminal penalties.
Criminal penalties for corporate officers mayinclude up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000,000. Criminal fines forcorporations may reach $10,000,000.
Other individuals face up to 10 years inprison for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code.For a complete list of the individuals and entities designated today, please visit:
To view previous OFAC actions directed against the FARC, please visit:
Treasury Action against the FARC on July 31, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/.gov/press/ releases/ hp1096.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on May 7, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp966.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on April 22, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp938.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on January 15, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp762.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on November 1, 2007
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp661.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on September 28, 2006
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp119.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on February 19, 2004
(link:http://www.ustreas/. gov/press/ releases/ js1181.htm)

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Mugabe victory in Zimbabwe elections a Joke

Where are the UN working against violation of the human rights? Where are the African countries, doing the right thing?. Mugabe is a cruel dictator. These elections were not fair.
vdebate reporter

Mugabe Victory in Zimbabwe Elections a 'Joke'
By LOUIS WESTON and PETA THORNYCROFT, The Daily TelegraphJune 30, 2008
HARARE, ZimbabwePresident Mugabe was last night sworn in to a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe, extending his 28 years in power after officials proclaimed he had been re-elected by a landslide

CONTESTED VICTORY President Mugabe of Zimbabwe at his inauguration ceremony yesterday at State house in Harare. Mugabe was sworn in following a run-off election in which he was the sole candidate following the withdrawal of the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
Maintaining the fiction that the vote was a contested poll, the Zimbabwe Election Commission said that Mr. Mugabe received 2,150,269 votes — or more than 85% — against 233,000 for Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change who won the first round in March.
Between the two polls Mr. Mugabe's Zanu-PF movement launched a campaign of violence against the opposition in which at least 86 people were killed, and Mr. Tsvangirai pulled out of the election.
"This is an unbelievable joke and act of desperation on the part of the regime," the MDC's spokesman, Nelson Chamisa, said. "It qualifies for the Guinness Book of Records as joke of the year. Mugabe will never win an election except when he's contesting against himself."
Prayers at the inauguration were led by an Anglican ally who broke away from the church, Nolbert Kunonga. "We thank you Lord for this unique and miraculous day," he said. "You have not failed our leader." Mr. Mugabe waved a Bible as he recited "so help me God," to cheers from his supporters.
Mr. Tsvangirai was invited to the event but declined. "The inauguration is meaningless," he said. "The world has said so, Zimbabwe has said so. So it's an exercise in self-delusion."
Ambassadors in Harare were conspicuous by their absence from the event.
Although Mr. Mugabe offered to hold talks with the opposition the absence of the word "negotiations" was noticeable and analysts said he intends to remain in office as long as possible.
"It is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall as diverse political parties hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimize our difference and enhance the area of unity and co-operation," Mr. Mugabe said.
Election observers from the Southern African Development Community said that the poll failed to reflect the will of the people.
Almost 400,000 Zimbabweans defied the threat of violent retribution by Mr. Mugabe's thugs to vote against him or spoil their ballot papers, official results released on yesterday show.
According to the Zimbabwe Election Commission's figures, the turnout of 42% was almost exactly the same as the first round.
But many polling stations were virtually deserted throughout election day. Papers were spoiled.
With 21,127 votes in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city and an opposition stronghold, Mr. Mugabe lost to the combined total of 13,291 votes for Mr. Tsvangirai and 9,166 spoiled papers.
Only a few independent observers were accredited for the election.
And the Zimbabwe Election Support Network — which mounted the most comprehensive monitoring exercise in the first round — pulled out in protest.
Consequently, no unbiased verification of the figures is possible and the true tallies may never be known.
For weeks, Zanu-PF militias have terrorized Zimbabweans, warning them they will launch Operation Red Finger, which will target anyone whose digit is not marked with ink to show that they cast a vote.
They will also target anyone who checks show to have backed Mr Tsvangirai.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Chavez revolution at risk

Corruption will end with "Chavez Roboilusion"

Chávez revolution at risk
By Benedict Mander in Barinas

Financial Times, 06 de junio de 2008


“There are three things you can’t hide: a cough, a pregnancy and money,” says Wilmer Azuaje, an ambitious 31-year-old politician running to be mayor of Barinas, the capital of a sprawling cattle-ranching state of the same name in Venezuela’s far west.
The issue of money in Barinas may prove crucial come November’s nationwide state and municipal elections. In running for office, Mr Azuaje is not only going against his political peers – President Hugo Chávez’s United Socialist party (PSUV), from which he was expelled last month after announcing his candidacy – but against the Chávez family, which has been the unofficial ruling clan of Barinas for a decade. The opposition has long accused the Chávez family in the state of malfeasance, and there is a current parliamentary investigation into whether members of the family used public money to accumulate a series of farms.
“Is this what they call socialism?” says Mr Azuaje. “President Chávez has to keep his family under control. They are making him look bad before the eyes of the world.”
Hugo Chávez was born in Barinas, and many of his relatives have influential positions here. His father, Hugo de Los Reyes Chávez, won the state governorship in 1998 a few months before President Chávez came to power in Caracas. Most locals believe that the president’s brother, Argenis Chávez, Barinas’s secretary of state, is also managing day-to-day affairs after the governor suffered a recent stroke. The governor’s wife, Elena, runs a state charity. Of their other sons, Aníbal Chávez is mayor of a town, Sabaneta, where the president was born; Adelis Chávez is a manager of Banco Sofitasa, which services many of the banking needs of the state government; and Narciso Chávez was once tipped to run for mayor of the state’s Bolivar municipality. The only one of the president’s brothers hitherto rarely linked to local politics is the eldest, Adán Chávez, but on Sunday he too joined the state’s political dynasty when a PSUV primary election chose him as the party’s candidate to replace his father as governor of Barinas state.
Accusations of official corruption in the state are numerous and not always directed at the Chávez family. Venezuela’s national assembly opened an investigation in March into claims that Argenis and Narciso channelled at least $3m of state funds to accumulate 17 farms through front men. The brothers have publicly denounced the accusation. Opposition parties have also launched a civil suit alleging embezzlement and kickbacks connected to a million-dollar project to build a sugar refinery in Sabaneta, although no member of the Chávez family is named in the case.
Sitting outside the radio station where he conducts a weekly programme, Argenis Chávez says the attacks against his family are politically motivated and groundless. “These accusations are doing a great deal of damage to our revolution,” he says. “They say I am the owner of shopping centres, that I have a fleet of Hummers, that I own lots of land – they want to kill me politically. But behind [Mr Azuaje’s campaign] is the opposition: it’s not my head they want but the president’s.”
There are few direct indicators of public opinion in Barinas. A recent rally against corruption and nepotism organised in Barinas city by Mr Azuaje drew about 5,000 people, although government supporters argue that many will have been drawn by the presence of famous musicians.
David Hernández, a PSUV member who is running against Aníbal Chávez to be mayor of Sabaneta, says people have lost faith with the president’s family “although we still support the president himself – for now”.
On the national level, local pollsters Datanalisis argue that corruption has become an issue of increasing concern. They suggest that in November the government could lose at least half a dozen of the 24 state and district governorships, 20 of which it currently controls. Hugo Chávez was swept to power on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment, promising to clean up the crooked practices of the past. A decade on, Mr Chávez himself admitted this year that corruption remains one of the biggest problems facing his “Bolivarian revolution”. Confronting it, however, may prove difficult. “The president says we must denounce corruption, inefficiency and bureaucracy,” says Mr Azuaje. “But if you actually go ahead and do so, they accuse you of being a traitor and a CIA agent.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/790d0664-337a-11dd-8a25-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Venezuelan President Chavez' family accused of corruption

Power+Money=Corruption=Hugo Chavez+Hugo's Family
vdebate reporter

Venezuelan President Chavez' family accused of corruption
Posted on Mon, Apr. 28, 2008
By TYLER BRIDGES

tbridges@MiamiHerald.com

RAUL ROMERO/FOR THE MIAMI HERALD
Hugo de los Reyes Chavez, the governor of Barinas state and father of President Hugo Chavez, at a ceremony honoring him in the city of Barinas. His wife Elena Frias de Chavez is to the left.
BARINAS, Venezuela -- Group after group -- seven in all -- climbed onto the modest stage, each one bearing a plaque honoring a man known throughout this western plains state as ``El Maestro.'' Hugo de los Reyes Chávez, father of Venezuela's president, is winding down a 10-year tenure as Barinas' governor.
But by the time the two-hour ceremony had ended in a sweaty gymnasium here, half of the party loyalists in red T-shirts had departed.
It was a symbol of the trouble the Chávez family is facing outside the gymnasium. One of President Hugo Chávez's brothers is no longer assured of winning the election in November to succeed their father, a hometurf defeat that would badly wound the president and his socialist ``revolution.''
Besides the governor, four of President Chávez's five other brothers play a key role in the state.
Argenis is secretary of state and the real power in Barinas since a stroke enfeebled El Maestro, analysts say.
Aníbal Chávez is the mayor of Sabaneta, the town where the president and his brothers were born.
Adelis Chávez works for Banco Sofitasa, which handles the banking needs of the state government, and he was responsible for building a soccer stadium.
Narciso Chávez is politically active behind the scenes in Barinas.
Adán is the one brother who doesn't live in Barinas, but he is the president's minister of education and is seen as the one most likely to run for governor, given the corruption accusations tainting the other brothers.
Barinas residents have become fed up with what they see as the heavy-handed and arrogant ways of the Chávez family, analysts and average citizens alike say.
One example that rankles widely: The governor and his wife travel in a caravan of SUVs with a police escort that halts all traffic to let them pass.
Governor Chávez spent millions of dollars to build a sugar refinery that has yet to open, and millions more for a new soccer stadium that remains unfinished, a year after it was inaugurated for the America's Cup tournament, analysts said.

Gehard Cartay, who was Barinas' governor 1993-96, said the state government spends its money in secret and no longer seeks public bids for big infrastructure projects. Even Governor Chávez's salary is hidden, he added.
''They are not the same poor family as before,'' Cartay said. ``It's hard to hide wealth in a small state like Barinas.''
An ambitious congressman from Barinas has broken with President Chávez's political party by trying to capitalize on the disenchantment, at a time when the president has lost public support nationally as well as his aura of invincibility after suffering his first electoral defeat when voters in December rejected expanding his power.
The congressman, Wilmer Azuaje, has launched his campaign for governor by accusing the elder Chávez and two of the president's brothers of using public funds to buy ranches in Barinas and using straw men to hide the purchases.
''Everybody knows this has been going on,'' said Angel Díaz, whose brother Frenchy, a local mayor, is also a candidate for governor. ``That the accusations came from someone within the Chávez camp has been a bombshell.''
Elena Frías de Chávez, wife of the governor and mother of the president, is known for her flashy jewelry and for reputed visits to a plastic surgeon. She had a quick response when asked about the accusations.
''It's all about envy,'' she said on her way into the gymnasium ceremony. ``These people are uneducated. They want to pull us down to their level. They are pitiful lowlifes. They're not used to a single family holding such power.''
No one disputes that El Maestro -- a nickname dating to his days as a schoolteacher -- and his children wield enormous power in Barinas, which is both a state and a city.
Barinas could be an underdeveloped version of West Texas, with its cattle ranches, country music and stifling heat. Open-air thatched roof restaurants serve meat carved from flanks of beef cooked slowly on poles around a campfire.
Barinas is one of Venezuela's poorest states.
Hugo was born in a shack with a dirt floor in Sabaneta. The family's home in the city of Barinas, where they moved when Hugo was a teenager, was a modest upgrade.
Older residents remember him dreaming far more about pitching for the San Francisco Giants than trying to turn his country into a Socialist paradise.
Hugo de los Reyes Chávez was a state leader with Copei, Venezuela's center-right political party.
About 30 years ago, he bought a ranch called La Chavera and raised pigs and chickens.
''It was a very simple place,'' recalled Antonio Bastidas, a neighbor of the Chávez clan and now a political foe. ``I helped them slaughter the pigs and chickens. They earned just enough to keep it going.''
La Chavera has doubled in size to 150 acres, now has milk cows and is a state-of-the-art ranch, said Bastidas. Asked how the elder Chávez paid for this, Bastidas replied, ``Well, he didn't win the lottery.''
Congressman Azuaje has been more direct in his comments. He has accused the governor and Argenis and Narciso Chávez of secretly buying up to 17 ranches in Barinas. He notes that records on one of the ranches, La Malagueña, list the longtime watchman at La Chavera as having paid $400,000 to buy it.
Locals seem to believe that the ranch belongs to the Chávez family. On the way to La Malagueña, Azuaje repeatedly pulled over on the two-lane country road to ask small-time farmers if they knew how to get to the ''Chávez ranch.'' Seven of eight people told him it was just a little farther down the road.
The governor and his sons ''see Barinas as their own personal hacienda,'' Azuaje said. ``They're exploiting their last name. But Barinas doesn't belong to them.''
Azuaje has presented ownership documents on five of the ranches to the national prosecutor and a congressional committee.
He would not have been welcome at the gymnasium, where 2,000 of the Chávez faithful gathered for El Maestro's annual state of the state speech.
''He's a good person,'' said William Herrera, who, like several others interviewed, said he worked for state government. ``He listens to the people and is accessible.''
But the good will seemed to seep out of the gymnasium while the elder Chávez read his speech in a monotone so uncaptivating that even his sons soon ignored it to talk with seatmates.
''I haven't lied,'' Hugo de los Reyes Chávez said at one point. ``I haven't violated any ethical principles.''
In Caracas, party leaders have called for an investigation of Azuaje and for his expulsion from the party.
One party stalwart said on a television show that Azuaje frequented prostitutes and abused drugs. Azuaje promptly tested negative for cocaine and marijuana and displayed the results on his own show.
The congressman has been careful not to implicate President Chávez.
The president has refrained from attacking Azuaje, instead saying that his brothers deserve the right to defend themselves.
Azuaje, 31, has been a political leader in Barinas since 2000 and was elected to Congress in 2005.
He likes to drive fast, with one hand on the wheel of his SUV and the other dialing his cell phone or changing the channels on the small dashboard TV. His 20-year-old girlfriend was a candidate for Miss Venezuela last year.
Azuaje said he had no choice but to go public after receiving information about the ranches.
''The president says that revolutionaries have to tell the truth,'' Azuaje said. ``If you don't denounce corruption, you are an accomplice.''
Others ascribe less pure motives.
''It's like pirates fighting over the booty,'' said Jesús Alfonso Sánchez, a law professor and former congressman. ``They are turning on themselves. Everybody's talking about it.''
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/513132.html

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The corruption of democracy in Venezuela‏

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Even poor are losing in Venezuela

Venezuela’s Marxist dictatorship is destroying property rights across the country. We’ve noted in the past how it’s happened in the countryside, at sugar farms, on nature reserves, among the large and small corporations, and in apartment and office buildings. But these aren’t the only places – the destruction of property rights also is happening in the poorest neighborhoods.
vdebate
In an unexpectedly good
article (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1668) Alex Holland, a writer at Venezuelanalysis, a Chavista propaganda organ, unwittingly describes how even poor shantytown dwellerss with desperate need for title-deed ownership are being badly affected by collectivization, which is destroying the weak property rights these urban poor once had. The writer explains the horrible dynamic with perfect clarity and honesty and then ineptly defends it, making the Marxist propaganda easy for us to gloss over. Evidently, the facts on the ground were just too big for this writer.
Here is how it happens:
People who live in the urban barrios, those ramshackle red brick houses that starkly encircle Caracas on mountain after mountain cannot just get title deed but must join a 100-200-strong collective called an “Urban Land Committee” or, CTU, first. If they don’t join one of these, they get no title deed and are shut out of the system. The system came into being based on a 2002 decree by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.
There are over 5,200 of these collectives, averaging 147 houses in each, representing more than a fifth of Venezuelans, or 5.7 million of Venezuela’s 25-million strong population. The author notes that the explicit aim of them is social “change.”
Then the issue of who the land really belongs to is brought up.
In a loaded passage, the article says many of the slum houses are on land that is vaguely described as belonging to other people. Some houses are said to be longstanding squats that no one did anything about. That’s one justification for ascertaining who has a right to property. The other is of numbers. Large numbers, as in collectives, not length of stay, or effort to get title deed, or tax payments, or investments, just numbers, are the other criteria for determining who has a right to occupy a property.
The article describes a planned takeover of a “mansion” by a group of 23 homeless families, due to the mansion being occupied by a lone woman who apparently got it somehow from the army. This woman is said to not have title deed (any more than squatters do) but since there are more of them (at five per family, that should be about 120 people, quite a number even for a“mansion”) they are getting ready to take it over. No word on how the woman feels about it.
The author then speaks of the fears the so-called rich have for such occupations of private property moving from the poor areas to inside the better parts of the city. Based on the news, the actions in the barrios encourage takeovers in other parts of the city. The question of who decides who gets taken over and who gets left alone is left up in the air.
Somehow the title-deed system is flawed all over Venezuela but only the poor, and only in collectives, have any right to declare title deed. A shantytown dweller without title deed is a good guy deserving of title deed or whatever Chavismo understands as such, but a rich guy in the city without title deed is a thief whose property needs to be confiscated accordingly. There is literally no recognition of rule of law grounded in inviolable property rights.
Venezuelanalysis writes:
This was about “democratizing ownership,” Martinez argued. As part of this “democratizing” process, (chief collectivization chief Ivan) Martinez did admit that the government does not consider all property rights to be as sacred as others.
No kidding!
According to Hernando de Soto, (who’s cited disdainfully in this article), the only purpose of property rights is their inviolability. That’s what makes them a basis for rule of law. Without inviolable property rights, there will never be rule of law, but only arbitrary rules and confiscations, all of which create uncertainty and a disincentive to invest.
Meanwhile, what goes on in the CTU collectives is scrutinized as well. Venezuelananalysis gushingly writes:The CTUs are about people debating, agreeing, and taking action collectively about things that directly affect every aspect of their daily lives.
The writer didn’t ask what happens when someone disagrees. What happens to someone who doesn’t want to go along with something? Can they count on giving up title deed because they’ll be out of the collective? The right to dissent is highly suspect in such a setup given that it’s tied to one’s title deed. How freely can anyone speak in such circumstances?
Discussions about water and electricity are mentioned as one thing – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s against water and electricity so it’s hard to see what’s to discuss or why a meeting is necessary. But the author gives away the game by explaining that the discussions are more likely to be Marxist indoctrination, as in “social charters.” It doesn’t say what happens to people who don’t agree with the indoctrination.
What’s more, maps are made of the barrios, which is ok in itself, but obviously, given the collectives running these things, are more likely for coercive security purposes from the state which has its hands on everything.
Meanwhile, these CTU collectives are cursed with the usual curse of Marxism- meetings upon meetings, ten-hour-long indoctrinations each week, plus higher level meetings up at least two levels after that. With a setup like that, it’s clear that most slum dwellers are trapped in a forced meeting for indoctrination, something that prevents them from doing more productive things if they can. The author claims that party politics is not discussed but what’s more likely is that the topic is off limits, and what goes on in Chavez’s MVR party is concealed. Instead, they get indoctrination like this:Topics discussed beyond the need to physically improve the barrio range from a desire to encourage social production to transcending the capitalist system entirely.
But the CTUs are sources of handouts, the only handouts accessible to these urban poor. Naturally, they are for collective projects, as decided by the collective nomenklatura, ever mind the dissenters. Some of the funds are also for individual houses, such as “repairing an old lady’s house” the author says, though in reality, they are just as likely to go for that extra fourth floor on the house of the collective chief. The point is, it’s discretionary, inherently disadvantageous to the dissenters and inherently advantageous to the barrio leader and his select cronies.
Of course it’s a money-pit. The state financer, called Banfonades, is reported even in the Chavista media as being bankrupt and mismanaged, with vast funds disappearing. Its funds may well have gone to support “housing” for Chavista elite in places like Miami.
What’s more, the government administration of the funds has resulted in long delays and inefficiencies. Barrio dwellers tell the writer that life is exactly the same as before, dismissing the claim that the people have become beggars of the state. That doesn’t sound like improvement – it sounds more like housing money in Miami. The writer describes housing protests to the government for its inefficiency. Obviously, it’s another hallmark of a Marxist regime right there. The writer didn’t say if the barrio dwellers ever got any relief for their protest.
There is a single good point the Chavistas make, which is that the slum collectives should not be cleared for big Stalinist housing projects that were so characteristic of blighted Paris during its 2005 riots.
But that doesn’t help the existing slums if people cannot own their own houses no matter what their political views, cannot buy them or sell them as they please, cannot make improvements without dependence on government financing and are forced into collectivist indoctrination sessions to partake of any benefits, the most basic of which is title deed. Private property under these conditions is nothing more than slum housing and given the fact that these slums are on hillsides instead of high-rises, amounts only to a more organic way to get a view.
A.M. Mora y Leon 02 13 05

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Antonini isn't the only "testaferro" from Venezuela

Antonini isn't the only "testaferro" from Venezuela.

Financial Crime Consultant, for World-Check
17 August 2007
The $800,000 detected and seized by Argentinean customs authorities from Venezuelan Guido Alejandro Antonini Wilson has generated a firestorm of public disgust, both in Argentina as well as in Venezuela. It has provided a rare public look at the darkest side of Latin American election politics, illegal cash payments designed to influence the outcome of presidential elections, made by the leaders of another nation, in this case, Venezuela. As this article is about trade-craft, the actual money laundering tactics seldom seen, but effectively employed, today we open a door to the truth, and detail the story of another Venezuelan "Testaferro" (bagman), and how he engineered "regime change" in another South American country. Antonini is, unfortunately, but one of many who move illegal cash to corrupt fair and free elections and topple elected governments.
Let's turn back the clock a couple of years. Ecuador was in turmoil; the legitimate government there under extreme pressure from several quarters. A renegade Ecuadorian colonel, interested in the installation of a radical leftist government, makes a plea to the Venezuelan leadership, the " Bolivarian Elite.": assist me in putting a government similar to that which you have into power. His wish was granted, and the dirty little game commences.The testaferro de jour, selected for the job, was a Venezuelan insider: Pastor Bismarck Arraez. According to witnesses, he immediately obtained $2m in government funds, and traveled to Ecuador via commercial aviation. Meanwhile, the colonel traveled to the same destination via another flight, and ensured that the money Bismarck was carrying was passed through customs without incident. Perhaps Ecuadorian customs officials can explain how this happened.The $2m was turned over to the colonel by Bismarck, and went to the financial support the of radical candidate, and to the leftist trade unions, whose members were soon out in the street, en masse, creating chaos and calling for the resignation of the government. The rest, as you know, is history. A radical leftist government, instantly allied with the foreign government that financed its ascension, came into power. Bismarck is known to have also traveled to Peru and to Mexico. What exactly was he doing in those countries? We cannot say, but perhaps the customs and immigration services of those nations might want to see how frequently he was a visitor, and the purpose of his trips. Who did he see whilst there? We do not yet know the identity of the individual who performed those services in Nicaragua, but our investigation is continuing.These illicit payments can serve many functions:

  • Fix elections, fund extensive bribery of public officials and bureaucrats.
  • Allow favoured candidates to purchase votes.
  • Pay for high-profile television and media advertising.
  • Fund expensive dinners and public functions of the candidate.
  • Bribe military officers who can order troops or police to interfere with the exercise of voters' rights.
The number of testaferros operating in Latin America today, plying their dirty trade, is unknown. The only way to shut them down is to arrest and convict them for money laundering. Will this happen to Antonini?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Political Clashes Shake Venezuela’s Strained Oil Industry

Interesting comment in this article"
“The longer Venezuela’s new partners wait to negotiate with seriousness, the more vulnerable Chávez becomes,” said Roger Tissot, director for Latin America at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington.
Political Clashes Shake Venezuela’s Strained Oil Industry
The New York Times
CARACAS, Venezuela, July 22
Venezuela’s national oil company is being shaken by claims of corruption and by internal dissent, indicating fissures within the institution largely responsible for financing President Hugo Chávez’s widening array of social welfare programs and foreign aid projects.The problems at the company, Petróleos de Venezuela, have been compounded by a rare acknowledgment by Rafael Ramírez, the energy minister and president of the company, that it cannot hire enough drilling rigs, raising concern over its ability to halt declines in oil production.
“Our sovereignty is at risk if we allow Petróleos de Venezuela to remain in this situation,” Luís Tascón, a pro-Chávez lawmaker, said in a telephone interview. “We cannot allow this company to remain an indecipherable black box.” Mr. Tascón has summoned Mr. Ramírez to the National Assembly to respond to accusations of corruption against senior executives.
Mr. Ramírez has emerged as a focus of criticism amid claims of illegal deals with oil-services companies on his watch. The attacks on him are viewed as part of a power struggle among Mr. Chávez’s supporters, with ideological loyalists clashing with the relatively less radical technocrats in charge of the strained oil industry.
The tension within Petróleos de Venezuela follows other feuds within political institutions under Mr. Chávez’s control that began earlier this year when several political parties in his coalition resisted his move to gather supporters into a single Socialist party.The armed forces also experienced an internal uproar after Gen. Raúl Isaías Baduel delivered a speech as he prepared to step down as defense minister this month saying that Mr. Chávez’s Socialist-inspired transformation of Venezuelan society should not be contaminated by Marxist orthodoxy.
But the depth of problems within Petróleos de Venezuela, which is responsible for about half of total government revenues and three-quarters of Venezuelan export revenues, illustrates how the feuds within Mr. Chávez’s coalition may weaken his ability to carry out his plans.
In comments that jolted global energy markets last week, Mr. Ramírez, the energy minister, acknowledged that Petróleos de Venezuela had hired 40 percent fewer drilling rigs than its target for this year, in part because of new rules requiring contractors to donate 10 percent of the value of their contracts to social welfare projects. While difficulty finding drilling rigs is not limited to Venezuela at a time of growing exploration internationally, Petróleos de Venezuela is also grappling with internal labor disputes as the company is strained by plans to create an assemblage of new subsidiaries charged with activities like farming, shipbuilding and manufacturing.
Union leaders, sensing vulnerability among senior executives and complaining that management had reneged on various employment benefits, said they were planning protests at production facilities across Venezuela this week. Work stoppages could make the company’s production difficulties more acute.
Speaking before the National Assembly last week, Luis Vierma, vice president of exploration and production at Petróleos de Venezuela, described the company as being in an “operational emergency.” A company spokesman did not respond to requests for interviews with Mr. Ramírez and Mr. Vierma.Venezuela, with some of the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East, officially claims to produce almost 3.1 million barrels of oil a day, but institutions like the International Energy Agency in Paris put output at 2.37 million barrels a day, down about 230,000 from a year ago.
Other energy analysts say output problems are potentially even more broadly troubling. The country’s oil exports fell 15 percent while overall production dropped 7 percent in the first quarter of this year, said Ramón Espinasa, a chief economist at Petróleos de Venezuela in the pre-Chávez era and now a respected consultant, citing both the difficulties with hiring rigs and a surge in domestic fuel consumption driven by subsidized prices.
Combined with lower global oil prices during part of this year, Venezuela’s income from oil exports may decline by about 24 percent in 2007, to $45.6 billion compared with $60.4 billion last year, by Mr. Espinasa’s estimate.
Part of the strain on Petróleos de Venezuela relates to Mr. Chávez’s efforts to assert greater control over the oil industry this year, following decrees by the president enabling the takeover of oil projects from companies including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Chevron.That has raised fears that employees of those companies who have been critical of Mr. Chávez’s actions could be fired. A report last week in Tal Cual, an opposition daily newspaper, cited documents showing how Petróleos de Venezuela had evaluated the political sympathies of engineers at Sincor, a venture whose control was recently ceded to the government from Total of France and Statoil of Norway.
Several engineers deemed disloyal to Mr. Chávez were fired, according to the report.With newer oil fields in the Orinoco Belt facing high production costs and technical challenges because the oil there is high in impurities, a smooth transition to government control is needed to keep production levels from falling.“We’re finishing a complex process,” Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, said in a telephone interview, referring to the nationalizations.“We remain committed to supplying oil to the United States,” he added.
Venezuela remains one of the leading suppliers of oil to the United States, and the volume of oil bound for the United States has remained steady. Petroleum exports to the United States in April were 1.4 million barrels a day, the most recent figures available from the Department of Energy. Mr. Chávez is betting that new ventures with national oil companies from China, Iran, Vietnam and Belarus will allow Venezuela to lift production. Yet while production costs soar and uncertainty persists as to treatment of foreign investors, companies in most other countries have been hesitant to invest heavily in Venezuela.
“The longer Venezuela’s new partners wait to negotiate with seriousness, the more vulnerable Chávez becomes,” said Roger Tissot, director for Latin America at PFC Energy, a consulting firm in Washington.
So far, Mr. Chávez has not publicly intervened in Petróleos de Venezuela. Instead, he seems to be placing his faith in a recent increase in oil prices, which hit an 11-month high of $78.40 a barrel in London trading last week.
“Oil is going straight to $100; no one can stop it,” Mr. Chávez said last week during a visit to Nicaragua.

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