Saturday, April 26, 2008

Winner of the 2008 Milton Friedman - Yon Goicoechea - Venezuelan

Yon is a 23 year old student fighting against Chavez. He is going to school to be a lawyer. Thanks Yon for loving our country!!!! You are just amazing!!! You way to talk make the people want to listen to you. You are everything Chavez is not: you are intelligent, handsome, good manners, fighting to have a better country, going to have your lawyer degree.........
I also want to say that there are other students that are also great, they are: Stanlin Gonzalez, Freddy Guevara, Geraldine Alvarez, etc.

vdebate reporter

Winner of the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty

Sent: Friday, April 25, 2008 7:05 AMTo:

Subject: Winner of the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty
I’m writing to let you know that the recipient of the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is Yon Goicoechea, leader of the pro-democracy student movement in Venezuela. Under Goicoechea's leadership, the student movement organized mass opposition to the erosion of human and civil rights in Venezuela and played the key role in recently defeating Hugo Chávez's bid for a constitutional reform that would have turned the country into a dictatorship. For more information about Yon Goicoechea and the student movement, please visit our website at,z5ff,1u46,aihw,4qf,gl5d,4iky
Yon Goicoechea will be awarded the Prize on Thursday, May 15 at the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty Biennial Dinner at the Waldorf - Astoria Hotel in New York City. To attend the Milton Friedman Prize Award Dinner, please register online at,z5ff,1u46,d9g7,fr4d,gl5d,4iky or call 202-218-4606.
We are expecting it to be a terrific affair with featured guests including Rose Friedman; CEO of FedEx, Fred Smith; and Mary O’Grady of The Wall Street Journal.
We look forward to hearing from you and hope to see you at the Dinner.
Yana Vinnikov
Cato Institute 202-218-4617

Venezuelan Student Movement Leader Awarded$500,000
Milton Friedman Liberty Prize
Washington, D.C.
The Cato Institute has announced that Yon Goicoechea, leader of the pro-democracy student movement in Venezuela that successfully prevented President Hugo Chávez’s regime from seizing broad dictatorial powers in December 2007, has been awarded the 2008 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.
A 23-year-old law student, Mr. Goicoechea plays a pivotal role in organizing and voicing opposition to the erosion of human and civil rights in his country. In his commitment to a modern Venezuela, Goicoechea emphasizes tolerance and the human right to seek prosperity.
Venezuela’s student movement emerged in May of 2007 in response to a government-ordered shutdown of the nation’s oldest private television station, RCTV. In the face of ongoing death threats and continual intimidation due to his prominent and vocal leadership, Mr. Goicoechea has been indispensible in organizing massive, peaceful student protest marches that have captured the world’s attention.
By December of 2007, the student movement was credited with defeating a proposed constitutional reform that would have concentrated unprecedented political and economic power in the hands of the government.
“Yon Goicoechea is making an extraordinary contribution to liberty,” said Edward Crane, President of the Cato Institute. “We hope the Friedman Prize will help further his non-violent advocacy for basic freedoms in an increasingly militaristic and anti-democratic Venezuela.”
Renowned Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa remarked, “Freedom and complacency are incompatible and this is what we are seeing now in countries like Venezuela where freedom is disappearing little by little, and this has produced a very healthy and idealistic reaction among young people. I think Yon Goicoechea is a symbol of this democratic reaction when freedom is threatened.”
Established in 2002 and presented every two years, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is the leading international award for significant contributions to advancing individual liberty. The Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman passed away in November of 2006.
The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty's Biennial Dinner and award presentation will be held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on May 15, 2008.
Yon Goicoechea is a fifth year law student at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. He was chosen to receive the award from a public, worldwide nomination process. The members of the 2008 International Selection Committee are:
Kakha Bendukidze– Head of the Chancellery, Republic of Georgia
Edward H. Crane – President, Cato Institute
Francisco Gil Díaz – Former Minister of Finance, Mexico
Rose D. Friedman – Co-Founder, Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation for School Choice
Karen Horn – Director, Berlin Office, Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (Germany)
Charles G. Koch – Chairman and CEO, Koch Industries Inc.
Andrew Mwenda – Research Fellow, Advocates Coalition for Development (Uganda)
Mary Anastasia O’Grady – Member, Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal
Fareed Zakaria – Editor, Newsweek International
Cato Institute1000 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20001

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Witness say he was paid in Venezuela

Isaias Rodriguez is behind this case, he knew about the payment to Vasquez. He is guilty, and he has been using on his favor, the Venezuela Justice System.
vdebate reporter
The Boston Globe 10/04/2008

Witness says he was paid in Venezuela
By Ian James
Associated Press Writer / April 9, 2008
CARACAS, Venezuela—A man once considered the star witness in the case of an assassinated prosecutor has recanted testimony that helped convict three men and implicated opponents of President Hugo Chavez.
Giovanny Vasquez said in an interview televised Wednesday that he believes the former attorney general, Isaias Rodriguez, was fooled by prosecutors working under him. Vasquez's lawyer, Morly Uzcategui, said Tuesday night that his client knows nothing about the case but testified against suspects after receiving $500,000 from a government official.
In Vasquez's interview, which was taped Tuesday and shown on the opposition-leaning channel Globovision, he said the former attorney general was apparently unaware. "I have good faith he didn't have anything to do with it," Vasquez was quoted as saying on Globovision's Web site.
Chavez responded Wednesday night, calling the allegations an attack on legal authorities "by the same ones who ordered the brave prosecutor Danilo Anderson killed."
"They attack the institutions," Chavez said, "taking up the investigation into the terrible murder again in a perverse way."
Rodriguez once called Vasquez his key witness in the 2004 murder. Anderson, who was killed in a car bombing, had been investigating the roles of government opponents in a failed 2002 coup against Chavez.
The former attorney general -- now an alternate judge for the Supreme Court -- said the case is being manipulated as part of a U.S.-backed media campaign against Chavez. According to the state-run Bolivarian News Agency, Rodriguez said he expects disinformation about the case will be part of a "script" with political aims.
Based in part on Vasquez's testimony, a judge convicted three former police officers in 2005 and sent them to prison. The men denied involvement.
Vasquez's testimony also was originally cited in cases against other suspects, including banker Nelson Mezerhane, retired Gen. Eugenio Anez Nunez, ex-police officer Fernando Jesus Moreno Palmar, Cuban-born Salvador Romani and journalist Patricia Poleo, a prominent Chavez critic.
In late 2006, authorities froze criminal proceedings against most of those suspects, citing a lack of evidence.
Vasquez presented his new testimony to prosecutors Tuesday. Uzcategui, his lawyer, was quoted by the newspaper El Universal as saying his client "provided evidence showing the (first) investigation... was a montage."
The Colombian-born witness went along with it "due to money issues and later due to pressures against him, his relatives and his life," Uzcategui said, according to El Universal. "They delivered $500,000 in cash to Vasquez for having lent his help for this."
The source of the alleged payment was unclear, though the lawyer said it came from a Justice Ministry official.
Vasquez said he has received threats, and his face was blurred to prevent easy identification in the interview, which Globovision said was taped by Somos, a smaller regional station.
In an earlier interview taped in 2006 and released this week, Vasquez mentioned the $500,000 payment, saying he later handed over $200,000 under an agreement with a prosecutor who was taken off the case.
He also said he was once flown to the Venezuela's La Orchila island by the military intelligence agency. His lawyer said Vasquez was there a month "to prepare him" for testifying.
Uzcategui said the 2006 interview was among evidence presented to prosecutors. It is unclear why it was not made public previously.
Associated Press writers Jorge Rueda and Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mark Weisbrot and misinterpretation of Venezuela's evidence

How Not to Defend the Revolution: Mark Weisbrot and the Misinterpretation of Venezuela's Evidence
By Francisco Rodríguez
01.04.08 Wesleyan University Assistant Professor of Economics and Latin American Studies, Dr. Francisco Rodríguez, was kind enough to send his reply to Chavez's favorite 'economy-expert' Mark Weisbrot, an economist,
we've been told, whose grasp of economic matters is deficient, to say the least.
However this is not the first time, nor will it be the last, when it's proven, beyond doubt, that Chavez's multi billion dollar propaganda campaign just can not get him sycophants clever enough to spin reality to acceptable levels.
Abstract: Mark Weisbrot (2008) has claimed that under the Chávez administration in Venezuela the share of pro-poor spending has increased, inequality has declined, poverty has fallen rapidly, and there has been a massive reduction in illiteracy. All of these conclusions are based on the use of heavily slanted data and on the misinterpretation of the existing empirical evidence. Weisbrot uses estimates of social spending that are upward biased by the inclusion of large infrastructure projects, debt refinancing, and even military spending; his inequality data is distorted by the inexplicable exclusion of households that received no income; his econometric estimates on illiteracy actually show the exact opposite of what he is arguing for. Weisbrot confuses basic economic concepts and offers a bizarre interpretation of events leading up to the 2002 currency crisis. Once one corrects for Weisbrot’s biases, the evidence paints a consistent image of an administration that has not effectively prioritized the well-being of the Venezuelan poor.
In a paper published in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs (Rodríguez, 2008), I argued that there is little evidence that the government of Hugo Chávez has given priority to the well-being of Venezuela’s poor. In recent days Mark Weisbrot (2008) published a rebuttal on the website of the Center for Economic Policy Research - a Washington thinktank that he co-directs - arguing that some of my conclusions were “altogether wrong, and others grossly exaggerated and/or misleading.” In particular, Weisbrot argued that I am mistaken in asserting that the share of pro-poor spending has not increased under Chávez, that inequality had risen, that the government had not taught 1.5 million persons how to read and write, that the rate of poverty reduction has been slower than normal given Venezuela’s economic growth, that other health and human development indicators show a deterioration in the living standards of the poor, and that the 2002 recession was not caused by the country’s political crisis. On each of these, Weisbrot argues the exact for the exact opposite conclusions to those that I have drawn.
I welcome the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion of the evidence regarding the well-being of the Venezuelan poor under Chávez. Indeed, many of the points raised in Weisbrot’s paper as well as in this response have been discussed previously in academic fora. The broad dissemination of both papers thus offers an extraordinary opportunity to involve a broader group of policymakers and academics in the discussion and analysis of Venezuela’s social and economic policies.
As I will show, Weisbrot’s critiques are generally invalid, relying on erroneous reading of the evidence or use of severely biased indicators that do not accurately reflect the evolution of the Venezuelan economy or the well-being of the poor. For example, I will show that Weisbrot’s estimates of social spending are upward biased by the inclusion of large infrastructure projects, debt refinancing, and even military spending in what he contends is pro-poor spending, that his inequality data is distorted by the inexplicable exclusion of households that received no income, and that his econometric estimates on the effect of the Robinson program on illiteracy actually show the exact opposite of what he is arguing for. Weisbrot’s other criticisms are based on a misinterpretation of the concept of elasticity and on the questionable interpretation of existing health indicators and of the evidence leading to the 2002 recession.
Before delving into these differences, I would like to emphasize one basic point of agreement with Weisbrot. Official Venezuelan statistics are far from the ideal of what we would need in order to properly evaluate the performance of the Chávez administration. Well-designed impact assessments of the government’s social programs are either inexistent or have not been made public by the administration. The raw data and methodological descriptions necessary to replicate official calculations are only made available with severe lags, and often not at all. Many series that are vital to the analysis of the government’s policies are not public, and it is not uncommon for different entities to produce contradictory numbers. These weaknesses cause an inherent ambiguity in the interpretation of the evidence regarding the Chávez administration, a fact that helps to underline the usefulness of a serious academic debate on how to read the data.
In the rest of this note, I will take each one of Weisbrot’s criticisms and show why they are invalid. In most cases, I will show that he has misinterpreted the evidence or used severely biased indicators, and that when we correct for these biases we come to conclusions which are opposite to what he contends. In a number of issues, our disagreements reflect alternative possible interpretations of ambiguous data, and it is useful to lay out the sources of these differences in interpretation for readers to make up their own minds. All in all, I will argue, the image that emerges from a close reading of the evidence is still one in which there is little evidence that the Chávez administration has prioritized or produced favorable effects on the well-being of the poor above and beyond what we could have expected any other government to do.
1. Has the share of pro-poor spending gone up?
In my article, I argued that government spending figures show no evidence that the Chávez administration is giving greater priority to the categories of spending that benefit the poor. As an example, I cited the fact that the average share of the central government’s budget allocated to health, education, and housing during Chávez’s first years in office was 25.12 percent, essentially identical to the share in the previous eightyear period, 25.08 percent. Weisbrot has countered with three pieces of evidence: that the share of social spending – a broader category - in total spending has increased markedly since 1998, that the absolute amount of resources received by the poor has also increased significantly, and that my calculations exclude the contributions by PDVSA to social projects, which he claims summed to $13.3 billion, or 7.3 percent of GDP, in 2006.
Before looking at the data in detail, it is relevant to think a bit about what we should be looking for. Let us start from the following fact: the Venezuelan state is undeniably much richer today than it was nine years ago, to a great extent (if not completely) due to the ten-fold increase in oil prices that has occurred since 1999. As a result, the Venezuelan government has substantially increased its spending levels, and therefore is indeed spending more in real terms on just about any type of expenditures. This means that all categories of spending can be expected to have increased in real terms since Chávez reached office, be they social programs, infrastructure projects, military spending, or growth of the public bureaucracy.
But the absolute level of pro-poor spending is not what should concern us if we are interested in evaluating a government’s priorities. Precisely because the government has experienced such a huge windfall, we want to study how it has allocated it among different possible objectives. To use an intuitive metaphor, if you want to know how much your rich uncle cared about you, you’d like to compare how much of his inheritance he left you with what he gave everyone else. If all of your siblings got a million dollars in his will, while you received the old man’s poodle to take care of, it would be hard to argue that you were his favorite nephew. Thus, of all the pieces of evidence thrown about by Weisbrot, the ones that we should study closely are those that reflect the relative distribution of government spending among different categories of spending.
Read the rest of the paper

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