Polar started out making beer but has since diversified into all sorts of foods one of the most popular being Harina P.A.N., precooked corn meal for making arepas. They now export the stuff made in Colombia. Lorenzo Mendoza, the current head of Polar is probably the most successful Venezuelan businessman but no friend of the government. I doubt he would lead a revolt but he would probably accept an economic post in a new government.
Monday is May Day, International Labor Day, typically a day for parades by workers and speeches by labor unions and politicians. My cousin showed me a video taken today by friends of hers of a dozen or so 18 wheelers hauling field hospitals marked "Humanitarian Aid" on the freeway through Caracas.
Are they expecting something or is this psychological warfare?
My cousin used to work for Polar. Her retirement plan includes a monthly basket of food products made by Polar. She got a call warning her that the basket will be delayed this month because the Bolivarian Circles (Chavez brown shirt thugs) vandalized their warehouse trashing what they could not haul away.
I've been saying for over a decade that we won't be rid of these vandals until there is blood in the streets. It could happen any time, the pressure is getting to be unbearable.
Estoy tratando de averiguar como anda la confrontación entre la Asamblea Nacional y el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.
El centro de Caracas está trancado, sin servicio de metro. Al regresar a mi casa vi algo de los gases lagrimógenos o de gas pimienta. El el este donde estuve esta mañana todo anda normal y en calma. El solo indicio fue los anuncios del metro de las estaciones que no están prestando servicio.
PNB ataca a opositores con gas pimienta en Los Cedros Abr 4, 2017 9:57 am Publicado en: Actualidad
Este martes en horas de la mañana la oposición venezolana se concentra en Los Cedros, en la avenida Libertador para emprender marcha hasta la Asamblea Nacional donde comenzarán el proceso de remoción de los magistrados del TSJ.
Efectivos de la Policía Nacional Bolivariana (PNB) lanzaron gas pimienta a los manifestantes para intentar dispersarlos.
A través de la red social Twitter se dio a conocer la noticia, asimismo reportaron que la PNB no permitirá ningún tipo de concentración.
El concejal de Chacao, Alfredo Jimeno infomó que un grupo de diputados fue rociado con gas pimienta en la avenida Libertador.
Back from the brink? Venezuela reverses its congressional ‘coup’ but tensions remain
BY JIM WYSS
Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Saturday reversed a controversial decision that had stripped congress of all its powers, sparked fears of a coup and brought an anvil of international pressure down on the beleaguered socialist administration.
President Nicolás Maduro praised the court’s decision and said the “controversy had been overcome,” but the whiplash changes left many in the region uneasy — particularly since the theoretically independent court seemed to be following the president’s orders.
During an emergency meeting of the Mercosur bloc of countries Saturday, the foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay issued a statement asking Venezuela to follow its own constitution and guarantee “the effective separation of powers.”
Opposition governor and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles went further, saying the court couldn’t undo the damage by issuing “clarifications.”
“You can’t resolve this coup with a ‘clarification’,” he wrote on Twitter. “Nothing is resolved.”
The firestorm began Wednesday, when the Supreme Court — stacked with ruling-party figures — declared that it was assuming all legislative functions under the premise that the opposition-controlled congress was illegitimate for being in contempt of previous court decisions.
The move raised alarms around the region as it drew comparisons to former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s 1992 decision to dissolve that nation’s congress. The Organization of American States has scheduled an emergency meeting Monday, several Latin American countries recalled their ambassadors and the opposition took to the streets.
The decision even opened divisions within Maduro’s usually lock-step administration, with cabinet members and high officials saying the move was a violation of the constitution.
The backlash prompted Maduro in a late-night speech to ask the courts to review their decision in order to “maintain constitutional stability.”
On Saturday, the Supreme Court complied, publishing two “clarifications” of its rulings.
Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno in a press conference Saturday reaffirmed that the court would not strip the National Assembly of its functions or deny legislators their parliamentary immunity.
However, the courts still don’t recognize the legitimacy of congress, and the administration is likely to keep ignoring lawmakers as its done since the opposition took control of the body in 2016.
Wednesday’s contentious decision that sparked the troubles was embedded in a narrower ruling that allows the executive to sign joint-venture petroleum contracts without congressional approval.
By all accounts, the cash-strapped government needs foreign financing to make interest payments and stay afloat, and congress had threatened to block new debt. According to local media, that part of the ruling was maintained. (The Supreme Court’s website where the decisions were initially published, was offline Saturday.)
Opposition leaders celebrated their victory, transforming their planned morning protest into an outdoor political rally welcoming the move. Hundreds of people joined them at their gathering in a wealthy area of eastern Caracas.
Several high-profile opposition lawmakers cut international trips short to participate in the impromptu celebration.
But the tensions are unlikely to subside any time soon. Lawmakers have threatened to retaliate by encouraging street protests and demanding the impeachment of judges who participated in the ruling.
Late Friday, Maduro suggested the entire mess was part of a larger plot, saying the country was the victim of a “political, media and diplomatic lynching.”
“Dark forces,” he said, “want to get their hands on our Fatherland.”
Por la presión internacional, Nicolás Maduro debió dar marcha atrás con su golpe de Estado
El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia emitió dos nuevas sentencias que devuelven las competencias a la Asamblea Nacional. Este viernes el mandatario pidió a la corte revisar el fallo que disolvió el Parlamento 1 de abril de 2017
El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) de Venezuela revirtió este sábado su decisión de asumir las funciones del Parlamento de amplia mayoría opositora, anunció la corte.
En dos nuevos fallos fechados el 1 de abril, el TSJ decidió devolver las competencias legislativas a la Asamblea Nacional. Las dos sentencias, la 157 y la 158, modifican los fallos 155 y 156, con los que el Supremo ponía límites a la inmunidad parlamentaria y asumía las competencias legislativas del Parlamento, provocando un amplio rechazo internacional.
La corte anuló además la decisión que le confería al presidente Nicolás Maduro amplios poderes para legislar en materia de delincuencia organizada y terrorismo, informó la corte.
"Se suprime la cautelar (…) de dicho fallo", señaló el TSJ, en alusión a los poderes que había otorgado a Maduro para revisar leyes contra la delincuencia organizada y financiamiento al terrorismo y la corrupción, así como el código penal y el código de justicia militar.
La medida fue derogada de oficio tras un acuerdo entre los poderes públicos -excepto el Legislativo- cuyos representantes se reunieron hasta la madrugada de este sábado convocados por el presidente Nicolás Maduro, quien este viernes había pedido a la corte revisar el fallo que disolvió el Parlamento.
La propia fiscal general de Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, había calificado la decisión de los jueces de "ruptura del orden constitucional".
La sentencia 158 suprime el apartado 4.4 de la sentencia 156, que facultaba a la Sala Constitucional del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia a tomar funciones de la Asamblea Nacional.
El apartado 4.4 de la sentencia 156 El apartado 4.4 de la sentencia 156 En ese punto se leía: "Se advierte que mientras persista la situación de desacato y de invalidez de las actuaciones de la Asamblea Nacional, esta Sala Constitucional garantizará que las competencias parlamentarias sean ejercidas directamente por esta Sala o por el órgano que ella disponga, para velar por el Estado de Derecho".
La Sentencia 157 reza en cambio: "Se Aclara de Oficio la sentencia N° 155 de fecha 28 de marzo de 2017, en lo que respecta a la inmunidad parlamentaria. Se suprime dicho contenido. Se suprime la cautelar 5.1.1 de dicho fallo".
En ese fallo del martes pasado, el Tribunal Supremo declaraba que los asambleístas carecían de inmunidad por estar en desacato.
"La inmunidad parlamentaria sólo ampara (…) los actos desplegados por los diputados en ejercicio de sus atribuciones constitucionales (lo que no resulta compatible con la situación actual de desacato en la que se encuentra la Asamblea Nacional)", indicaba la sentencia, ahora anulada por la nueva decisión del tribunal.
El Mercosur activa la cláusula democrática por la "falta de separación de poderes" en Venezuela
Los estados parte consideraron que el régimen de Nicolás Maduro rompió el “Orden democrático”. El lunes reiterarán su posición ante la OEA 1 de abril de 2017
La canciller argentina Susana Malcorra anunció, junto a sus pares de Uruguay, Rodolfo Nin Novoa, de Brasil, Aloysio Nunes, y de Paraguay, Eladio Loizaga, que el Mercosur activó la cláusula democrática en Venezuela por "la falta de separación de poderes" bajo el régimen de Nicolás Maduro.
El documento firmado por los cuatro cancilleres insta "al Gobierno de Venezuela a adoptar inmediatamente medidas concretas, concertadas con la oposición, para asegurar la efectiva separación de poderes, el respeto del Estado de Derecho, los derechos humanos, y el respeto de las instituciones".
Además, exhorta al régimen bolivariano a "respetar el cronograma electoral, restablecer la división de poderes y garantizar el pleno goce de los derechos humanos, las garantías individuales y las libertades fundamentales y liberar a los presos políticos".
El canciller brasileño, Aloysio Nunes, agregó que "la democracia es un pilar fundamental de la creación del Mercosur. Un país que se coloca al margen de la democracia no puede continuar a lo largo del tiempo siendo miembro del Mercosur". "Es un proceso que podría llevar a la expulsión, pero espero que no suceda", agregó.
Por su parte, Malcorra aclaró que el comienzo de la aplicación de "la cláusula democrática del Mercosur no implica la expulsión del estado involucrado. Implica un seguimiento de cerca de la situación, la búsqueda de soluciones, un diálogo, una ayuda para asegurar que los principios democráticos estén totalmente vigentes".
Respecto de la suspensión de Venezuela del Mercosur, que se confirmó el diciembre de 2016 por su incumplimiento de acuerdos económicos, Malcorra explicó que, antes de que eso sucediera, el país gobernado por Maduro "pasó por un proceso de revisión de cumpliento de sus compromisos en lo que tiene que ver en sus aspectos económicos. El Mercosur llegó a la conclusión de que no lo había hecho, y por eso se llegó a la suspensión con la expectativa de que avance en el cumpliento y su participación se restaure en su totalidad".
Malcorra diferenció esa suspensión de Venezuela por motivos económicos de esta decisión del Mercosur de comenzar el proceso de aplicación de la cláusula democrática: "En este caso estamos haciendo referencia a otros mecanismos a los cuales Venezuela sigue suscribiendo, como el tratado de asunción. Esos mecanismos son los que nos inspiran a acompañar a través de procedimientos establecidos en los protocolos".
Por último, los cuatro cancilleres confirmaron que el próximo lunes llevarán estos mismos argumentos a la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) para que ese organismo comience con el mismo proceso en paralelo, que en su caso se denomina carta democrática.
Discurso del diputado Julio Borges, presidente de la Asamblea Nacional, el 30 de marzo de 2017.
En el hilo en inglés escribí que la democracia venezolana existe solo con la anuencia de los militares. Nótese que Julio Borges le ruega a las FFAA que se cambien de bando, del gobierno a la oposición. Es factible si la oposición les ofrece un mejor negocio. Todo gira alrededor del bozal de arepa que señaló Rómulo Betancourt hace unos sesenta años.
Crafty Dog, I'm fine, thanks for asking! Yesterday I went for a medical checkup (doing OK) and only found out about our new troubles in the evening when I heard a very loud "cacerolazo" (people banging on pots and pans to signal their opposition to the government).
The NYT article you linked is correct as far as it goes. I haven't had a TV set in 25 years and my last radio broke down some four or five years ago. My source of information is the WWW but Venezuelan news are censored and muzzled so it takes some doing to find out what is really happening. I chanced upon the live broadcast of the President of the National Assembly explaining the issues from the opposition side's point of view. The truth is that everyone pussyfoots around the core of political reality in Venezuela,
A democracy by the consent of the military.
For a democracy to work all parties have to be willing to accept the rules of the game. A most telling example is that the British call (or called?) the opposition "Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." The elephant in the china shop is the military, a good reason for the secretary of defense and the commander in chief to be civilians. In Venezuela both rules are broken. Some sixty years ago the then leader of the majority party asked his followers who their most dangerous enemy was. He got a chorus of standard replies: the Yankees, the capitalists, etc. "Wrong! Our biggest danger comes from the military" was his reply. From that meeting sprang up the policy known as "el bozal de arepa" (the bread muzzle). Politicians would allow the military to buy as many toys as needed to keep them happy and in their forts. In Venezuela the secretary of defense has always been a general and this separations of powers broke down completely when Chavez, a military commander, won the presidency. Venezuela has been a de-facto military dictatorship since 1998.
Why am I making the above emphasis? Because the President of the National Assembly last night practically begged the military to side with the opposition. The fly in the ointment is that the "el bozal de arepa" has been made so extensive that the military now controls the most lucrative activities in Venezuela from drug trafficking to food imports. When Maduro needed a "Tzar" to turn around the economy he didn't call on our most successful businessman but on a general.
The dismantling of the democracy started as early as 1998 when civilian gun permits were revoked in the name of public safety but with the real purpose of eliminating armed resistance by the people. A second and even more powerful blow was the packing of the Supreme Court with Chavez acolytes. The method was simple, they doubled the number of magistrates and appointed friends to the new posts. Now there was a new balance of power, a seemingly democratic one but dictatorial in practice.
This latest coup d'état was orchestrated with the help of the illegally packed supreme court and it will be enforced by the military. The mood in the streets is mostly how to survive another day. People have lost faith in both government and opposition.
Also, it's good to have a firsthand account of what is happeneing in Venezuela captianccs, thank you. It interests me a great deal, because here too, there have been things that have been going on, and Mexico is socialist in nature, and I'm not certain that we're not all that far behind you, especially with the American elections looming, the importance of the American economy here in Mexico... strange days indeed.
Show me a country in America (pole to pole) that's not socialist/populist to some point or other. It's just that some are more to the left than others but all recur to markets to save them when they have screwed the economy sufficiently.
I am curious though, are people as a whole, accustomed to violence in Venezuela, as far as having become desensitized to it, as with here?
What I know about Mexican violence is what I read in the news and good news is not news. From what I have read it seems to me that Mexican violence is mostly drug cartel wars and who the hell cares if they kill each other? Venezuelan news are highly censored, it's a crime to speak badly about the Glorious Revolution (shades of the former Soviet Union?). Based on what I observe, it seems to me that Venezuelan violence is more petty crime related although there is a lot of it.
BTW, when I read American news on Yahoo it seems that all white cops do is kill blacks and all men do is grope and rape women.
I make it a practice to walk the streets of Caracas, of "MY PART" of Caracas and to ride the subway. During the years I have been doing it I have not had any major incident. My cousin keeps telling me how dangerous it is. I learned a long time ago that this is not a city where you want to be ostentatious. And the people I meet during my walks are mostly rather pleasant. I don't think this headline would be of interest:
Old Man Walks the Streets of Caracas and No Harm Comes to Him.
Should the Supreme Court uphold the state courts' decisions,
It's a given that the rubber stamp court will do the government's bidding. It's a given that talks with the government only help the government, remember Jimmy Carter talking with Chavez after the election he came to observe? It's been 18 years that the so called opposition leaders have been totally useless. Forget about a political change in government, the buggers are going to die of old age like the Castro brothers and most other dictators.
Chamberlain talked, Nero fiddled, and neither solved the problems. We have 18 years of experience in the opposition's impotence.
BTW, did Stratfor mention the the pope is a Peronista or at last a sympathizer? Hitler also made a pact with the Vatican....
People might be sick and tired of the government but the people are not willing to rise up to gain their independence. Just last week I had a talk with a mother who said exactly the same thing that a mother said to me in 2004, "I don't want my children killed." Ask Crafty Dog why he took up martial arts. It was the need to use force in dire circumstances!
PDVSA just paid their bonds. The government knows who needs to be appeased and it's not the people. On the other hand, the formal economy disrupted by the Chavistas is being replaced by an informal one. Branded coffee is nowhere to be seen but homemade coffee is to be had in many places. Branded household products like detergents are not to be seen but a store near my home sells all manner of them, just bring your own container. During the Weimar Republic my family was selling wine wholesale in Berlin, just bring your own bottle. What else is new?
The government is letting the economy work well enough that the people are not ready to take up arms. And soldiers on the streets are dressed in very clean, shiny and brand new uniforms -- just in case. Make no mistake, this is a military dictatorship and, at least in my view, Maduro and his gang are just puppets.
The story of Chile’s success starts in the mid-1970s, when Chile’s military government abandoned socialism and started to implement economic reforms. In 2013, Chile was the world’s 10th freest economy. Venezuela, in the meantime, declined from being the world’s 10th freest economy in 1975 to being the world’s least free economy in 2013 (Human Progress does not have data for the notoriously unfree North Korea).
Last week I watched Thom Hartmann talk about "The Crash of 2016." In the Q&A he was asked about libertarians. As part of his response he cited the deaths caused by the Chicago Boys! He is either completely ignorant about Chile, which I doubt, or a great liar. Chile was one of the few great economic successes in LatAm in the last half century. Listen to his distortions at 56:05 (last question)
Sorry, I can't read that much crap in one sitting. But I do have an observation, I like the flag the article is flying, it's our true flag with seven white stars representing the seven provinces that made up Venezuela during our war of independence. Not that piece of crap that Chavez created adding an extra star supposedly for Cuba and making the horse on the national seal look forward instead of back.
Well, the guy is dead and soon his crap revolution will be dead too.
BTW, it's long been the view south of the border that the Monroe Doctrine was not "America for the Americans" but all of America, from pole to pole, for the United States Americans. When the Argentineans invaded the Falkland Islands, Reagan didn't protect the Americans of Argentina but helped the British from across the sea. Realpolitik is here to stay. Empire is empire. Not recognizing that reality is naive. But, as I told my friends in the 1960s, we have to chose between SOBs and I'd rather deal with the Americans than with the Russians. The Cubans chose Russia and they got half a century of penury. As soon as Chavez took us down that road Venezuela collapsed. It has nothing to do with imperialism and everything to do with markets. Remember what happened when Richard Nixon regulated gasoline in response to the Arab oil embargo? Long lines and plenty of violence.
Every time Socialism fails they sell out to Capitalism or die.
Maduro says Venezuela signs $4.5 bln in deals that include Canadian and U.S. miners
Reuters August 16, 2016 (Adds nationalities of companies, background)
CARACAS, Aug 16 (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday that Venezuela had struck $4.5 billion in mining deals with foreign and domestic companies, part of plan to lift the OPEC nation's economy out of a deep recession causing food shortages and social unrest.
Maduro said the deals were with Canadian, South African, U.S. and Venezuelan companies, but did not specify whether contracts had been signed or just initial agreements.
The socialist leader, whose popularity hit a nine-month low in a survey published this week, said he expected $20 billion in mining investment contracts to be signed in coming days and that 60 percent of the income Venezuela received would be spent on social projects.
Maduro hit back at critics from the left who accuse him of riding roughshod over environmental rules and indigenous rights in the Orinoco mineral belt in Venezuela's south in his rush to shore up his government's precarious finances.
Venezuela has rich veins of gold and exotic minerals like cobalt, but the reserves have mostly been extracted until now by wildcat miners because of a long history of failed ventures and government intervention in the industry.
Venezuela recently settled a long-standing dispute with Canadian miner Gold Reserve over the country's giant Las Cristinas and Las Brisas concessions.
(Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney)
It seems like CANTV is selling SPAM space (or their filters broke down).
The SPAM I'm getting via CANTV is all from top level domain .TOP and all the different domains are throw away domains created the day the SPAM was sent. Also, they all have a subdomain format (sub.domain.top) where the domain itself does not have an IP address. The accredited .TOP registrar is an outfit apparently in China.
Maybe CANTV's filters did break down or maybe China is collecting via SPAM
.Top domain apparently using spam to get to the Top BY ANDREW ALLEMANN — FEBRUARY 18, 2015 POLICY & LAW 8 COMMENTS
New TLD registry sends spam to people who have registered other new TLDs.
[Update: See statement from the .Top registry below.]
How do you get attention for your new top level domain name in a crowded field? One new top level domain name company has apparently resorted to sending lots of unsolicited email — and likely scraping Whois to do it.
.Top is currently ranked #9 in terms of registrations, surely helped by a 99 cent price tag at some registrars. The company behind it, Jiangsu Bangning Science & Technology Co., Ltd., is also raising awareness by sending spam to people who own other domain names.
Email Spammers Are Using Cheap .Top & .Pro Domains Konstantinos Zournas February 16, 2016
I checked the last 50 spam emails I received to see what domain names the spammers are using.
I have to say that this is not a scientific study in any way and maybe these spammers that are targeting me are using different domains than what other spammers are using. Nevertheless the results were impressing.
The domain names I found were used for the email address and the majority were also used for the websites the links in the email were pointing to.
So here are the results from 50 domains I checked:
What would be the best thing to happen to turn the situation around in Venezuela at this point?
Someone give me a magic wand and I redo Venezuela the way I like it.
Pragmatists have to replace the idealists. The road back is very painful. Internally the country has to become more productive and only private enterprise can do that. But LatAm capitalists need to be firmly regulated. In one of my prior lives (1965-75) I was a management consultant with very high access at BoD level. It was capitalism run amuck in 9 out of 10 cases. Dismantling price controls is very painful because prices rise faster than wages. Externally, the country has to adapt to the world economy to trade effectively. What should happen without delay is cutting the oil subsidies Venezuela gives many neighbors starting with Cuba..
There are fantastic amounts of money in play, not just the exchange control scam and the commissions from all the government contracts but also from the drug trade. Presumably the Venezuelan military is the largest drug cartel in the world and prime conduit of cocaine from Colombia to Europe. They are not going to give that up easily.
Exchange controls should be dropped entirely or eased out over a period of a year or less.
I don't particularly care who runs the country provided whoever it is takes a pragmatic view. I don't see the current opposition as capable of much leadership. For the past 17 years they have been outfoxed at every turn.
Support for Chavismo has been drying up locally and internationally. The government is slowly realizing that they have to generate income and cut subsidies if they are to survive. They see the Arab OPEC members doing the same thing. They raised the price of gas but it is still ridiculously low, now it costs me about 20 cents to fill the gas tank of my Toyota Corolla instead of just half a cent. I don't use my ISP's mail service which yesterday exploded with SPAM, all paid ads. It seems like CANTV is selling SPAM space (or their filters broke down). There is a lot more merchandise on the street which seems to indicate fewer controls. There seem to be more ships in Puerto Cabello, the main entry point for imports. The government announced LOUDLY that they were paying the interest on PDVSA bonds. One recently named Minister of the Economy who is an academic economist with zero practical experience but lots of harebrained theories was replaced by a more pragmatic person.
This might sound strange but it would be advantageous for the opposition if Maduro stayed in power until 2019 and was forced to improve economic conditions by removing price and exchange controls. The anger would be directed at Maduro and his follower would have an easier time completing reforms.
I hope Denny is well and has a plan in place to get through this, and I wish the best for all who have to deal with the man-made tragedy of the Venezuelan economy
Denny is very well, thank you very much. Denny has had a plan in place for over 30 years!
Viernes negro, black Friday, February 18, 1983.
I returned from a visit to the US the next day and discovered that the government had devalued the bolivar from 4.50 to 14.00 to the dollar. There was also a privileged exchange at 7 or 8 to the dollar, I don't remember which. Along with the devaluation came decrees to protect the poor from gouging capitalists like myself. I was selling Apple computers. We got them from the distributor at Bs. 7,000. The list price was Bs. 10,000 and we sold them with a 15% discount at Bs. 8,500. A 21.4% mark-up. The decree that bankrupted my business required me to sell my inventory at old prices, Bs. 10,000, the list price. There was no need to protect capitalists from capitalists, the distributor was under no obligation to sell old inventory at old prices. Do the math: 7000/4.5*14 = 21,778. I don't recall the price we were offered but it was higher than what I could my inventory for. Quite simply black Friday stole my working capital.
What I did to overcome the crisis is a long story but the stress finally got to me and I wound up in the hospital with a heart problem in 1984 or 85. Luckily insurance covered it. When my partners came to visit I told them that the government sons of bitches would not kill me. That's when the plan was born.
Venezuela has been officially socialist since January 23, 1958, the day Marcos Pérez Jiménez was deposed by the navy in combination with several socialist political movements that had been outlawed during the dictatorship.
Humans are gregarious and thrive best in a society that competes, trades and cares for the needy -- as far as possible. Neither extreme capitalism nor extreme socialism work. Somewhere in between we do best. I call this midpoint "pragmatic socialism." Pragmatic socialism has social safety nets but if everyone is in the net there is no one left to hold it up.
But there is a fly in the ointment! As Joseph Schumpeter wrote over 70 years ago (1942) in Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, the book where he coined the phrase "creative destruction," liberal democracy is not about governing as much as it is about winning elections. You only get to govern if you win the election or if you buy the elected.
While pragmatic socialism is OK, the safety net becomes an instrument to buy votes. The end is calamity. The right is not exempt, their safety net is for the banks and the wealthy, the so called "corporate socialism."
Denny has a plan
The issue is access to hard currency. Those who have it are doing fine. Those who don't depend on government handouts. And that is the game plan, subject the people to beneficence of the government. Mendoza didn't get dollars to import barley and Polar had to shut down. Cisneros got dollars and his brewery is doing just fine. The Cisneros have been buying politicians as far back as I remember, right, left, or center makes no difference, no ideology, just power and wealth matter.
With multiple exchange rates the government and its friends have access to hard currency which comes from the export of oil which is a government monopoly. The rest of us have to rely on converting our soft money into hard money in what is called "capital flight." That means investing outside your country which, in turn, means cutting investments in your own country. This is exactly what I proposed to do back in 1984 or 85, never again to invest in Venezuela, a country that has been good to me and my family and a people I like very much. But survival comes first.
The reality on the ground
There is so much more I could write but I'll cut it short showing how inexpensive Venezuela has become for those who have hard currency. The similarity with Weimar Germany is striking.
Some things are, indeed, in short supply. Amazon to the rescue! Packages under $100 come in duty free. So far I have used Amazon for Fruit of The Loom briefs and socks, underarm deodorant, bath soap, baking soda, Tums, fish oil and other supplements. People have been growing beards for lack of razors. Amazon has disposables at 70 cents a unit. Orders over $49 ship free. Orders under $100 are duty free. Figure expenses at 30%. Resell @ $2.00. Just a capitalist thinking out loud
My 19 year old GE washer dryer had a problem, the cycle selector switch jammed. I took out the switch and had it repaired. Labor $3.00. Parts $3.90. The fellow worked on it for about 15 minutes. Labor $12.00 an hour! This fellow is the owner of his repair shop. Had the rear brake linings changed on my Toyota Corolla. Parts and labor $21.00. Had the car washed, $2.35.
Last Friday I bought fruit from a street vendor: 7 bananas, 2 Kg (4.4 lbs); 5 hybrid mangos, 1 Kg (2.2 lbs); 6 smallish tangerines, 0.5 Kg (1.1 lbs). Total $1.60.
Soy sauce, 10 fluid ounces: $0.32 Worcestershire sauce, 10 fluid ounces: $0.20 Curry, 2 ounces, $0.65 Avocados $1.20 per kilo Potatoes $0.90 per kilo Chicken $3.25 per kilo
These prices are terrible for someone making the minimum $15 MONTHLY wage! If you have hard currency you are in the 1%.
Maduro “Announces” New Emergency Powers Decree May 15, 2016
Last Friday, President Maduro announced that he would extend the economic emergency powers decree (The same one that the National Assembly did not approve, but the Supreme Court said it did not matter) and announced that he would also decree a state of exception to “neutralize and defeat the external aggression against our country”
Now, you would think that given the importance of such a decree, the Government would have distributed a copy by now, but, no such luck, the details of the decree are unknown. Maduro will apparently issue it taking advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the prior economic power decree, in which the “High” Court simply scratched part of the Constitution (Art. 339 of the Constitution, for example) saying the Assembly did not have to approve the decree.
Some people are calling this a “coup”. I disagree. You can’t have a coup when you already staged one. I can’t even recall when this happened and one could argue when it was. It may have been when Chávez was never sworn in in Jan. 2013, as Chavismo suggested this was simply a “formality”. Or it may have been when Maduro took over from Chávez for the new term, despite the fact that the VP is named by the President and there is no proof that Chávez was even conscious at the time. Or it may have been when the Supreme Court twisted and violated the Constitution dozens of time, just to have the Government get its way.
So many coups and nobody has been counting them, but this was not it!
And the funny thing is that just last week, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister went to the UN to say there was no crisis in Venezuela, no emergency. Funny, no? the President not only extends the economic emergency decree, but also expands it to include a state of emergency.
And it just so happens that during a state of emergency, there can be no public gatherings like those the opposition has been promoting to protest the recurrent delays in the processing of the request for a recall referendum vote against none other than President Nicolas Maduro. Each step of the process has been delayed, over-interpreted and postponed, using vaporous interpretations by the Government-controlled Electoral Board. Which, of course has everything to do with trying to delay a recall vote until after Jan. 10th. 2017, when if Maduro is recalled, his personally-chosen active Vice-President would replace him and complete his term until Jan. 2019.
And thus, the threat is not from the outside, as Maduro wants you or someone to believe, but from the inside: the fear that the opposition will increasingly take to the streets to force a recall vote before the fateful date of Jan. 10th. 2017.
Thus, the guessing game begins as to who the VP will be in January. Opposition lore will have it be current VP Aristobulo Isturiz, “someone we can talk to”. Forget it! Aristobulo does not have the red credentials, nor the trust of Chavismo, precisely because the opposition can talk to him. It will likely be someone who is in the Cabinet, someone Maduro trusts. Perhaps Marco Torre, a loyal former military a perennial Cabinet member. Perhaps better a civilian, Jorge Rodriguez, loyal to Chávez and Nicolas. But who knows? There is still a lot of time before January and maybe not enough people will show up for a recall after that date*.
*Maybe I placed too much emphasis on who will replace him, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that there will not be much motivation to change Maduro for someone else. Remember that the opposition needs to get more votes to recall than Maduro got in his Presidential election.
I suspect that it is of little interest to the press outside the country and inside there is quite a bit of censorship to keep real news off the air. I know for certain that CANTV blocks certain IP addresses and with the frequent power cuts the local DNS service is extremely slow. About a month ago I reset the DNS IP addresses in my computer to stop using the local service and instead use a public DNS service in the USA. My Internet quality of service has improved and I can access Dollar Today, blocked by CANTV, directly, no problem: https://dolartoday.com
I signed the recall petition on April 29. The man on the street does not know who will replace Maduro if recalled and does not seem to care. If Maduro is recalled then the VP takes charge and that is another Chavista so there really is no change. I don't see what the opposition thinks it will gain with the recall.
There is a lot of discontent on the street but it does not go beyond a lot of muttering. People are busy trying to make ends meet. Strange as it may seem, life goes on. For over a quarter of a century no one dared increase the price of gas. The price I now pay has gone up over ten fold and nothing has happened. To me it feels like a lack of leadership. Despite the 2/3rd supermajority in the National Assembly (AN) the opposition is powerless. The supreme court is packed with Chavistas and it blocks the AN at every turn.
The Last Days of Nicolas Maduro Foreign Policy Magazine By Peter Wilson 10 hours ago
CARACAS — On Feb. 14, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro warned his countrymen that the economic crisis they’ve been suffering through for months could last through 2017. He spoke not long after the supreme court approved his declaration of economic emergency, justifying his need for special powers.
What many doubt, however, is whether Maduro himself will be in power to witness an economic turnaround, as the pressures mount for him to step down or be pushed aside. “Maduro is facing a crisis encompassing economic, political, social and cultural factors,” said Caracas-based political analyst Dimitris Pantoulas. “It’s a perfect storm.”
And the president seems at a loss. A former bus driver who rose to become the country’s foreign minister and then vice president before succeeding the late Hugo Chávez in 2013, Maduro is beset by infighting within his own cabinet and divisions within his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) that have left him scrambling to survive politically.
Maduro also faces a revitalized opposition calling for his resignation, soaring crime, a possible debt default, and now, water and power rationing exacerbated by El Nino. “The government is at the helm of a sinking ship, refusing to change course, and the opposition is content to stand by and let it happen,” says David Smilde, a sociology professor at Tulane University who has studied Venezuela for over 20 years.
Even though the president raised domestic gasoline prices 60-fold on Feb. 17 while devaluing the country’s currency by 37 percent, he also raised the country’s minimum wage and pledged to revise prices on goods and services set by the government. But he forecast no easing of government control over the economy, hinting that it would only increase. Those measures “will do nothing to resolve Venezuela’s problems,” Luis Oliveros, an economist at the Central University in Caracas, said in an interview. “They will cause more inflation, and more distortions.”
Maduro has only himself to blame. For the past two years, he has promised to overhaul his government’s economic policies to deal with crushing shortages that have turned toilet paper and hand soap into luxuries, and soaring inflation that has given Venezuela the dubious honor of boasting the world’s highest inflation rate.
It all could have turned out differently. On March 15 of last year, the outgoing assembly, where the PSUV held a majority, granted Maduro the power to rule by decree, effectively allowing him to implement new laws without congressional approval. But Maduro failed to enact any economic changes, fearful of the political repercussions that a currency devaluation or cutbacks in social spending would unleash. That inaction led voters to punish Maduro and his party in December, when the opposition won a crushing victory in legislative elections, giving them control of the National Assembly for the first time in nearly 17 years.
Hoping to blunt opposition initiatives, Maduro asked the new assembly to grant him emergency powers to right the economy. Its members refused, but their decision was overturned last week by the Supreme Court, where PSUV partisans hold a majority. That body ruled that Maduro didn’t need legislative approval to declare an emergency. And so emergency it is.
Maduro now has 60 days to take steps to right the economy. Oliveros and others maintain that the only way to resolve the country’s economic woes is to dismantle state control over prices, foreign exchange rates, and to cut subsidies and social spending, all of which Maduro refuses. Instead, he seems to opt for greater state control.
“We have to regain this country and remake its production, distribution, and retail systems,” Maduro said in a televised address on Feb. 12, arguing that greater government control was essential to blunt an “economic war” allegedly being waged against his government by the country’s business elite, and exiles in Miami and Spain.
Almost everyone agrees that Venezuela, which has been unable to develop what are the world’s largest oil reserves, is in deep trouble. Economists forecast that inflation could top 700 percent this year, and that the economy could shrink by an additional 8 percent after last year’s 10 percent contraction.
The country’s currency, the strong bolivar, now trades at more than 1,045 to the dollar on the black market, in stark contrast to the official exchange rate of 10 bolivars to the dollar. Production of crude — which accounts for about 95 percent of the country’s hard currency revenue — continues to fall, and the state oil company is slashing investments to save funds. And staring the country in the face is more than $13 billion in debt payments this year that have raised fears of a default that would cut Venezuela off from capital markets.
Angela Munoz, a 52-year-old housewife in the town of El Consejo, has had enough of Maduro and his promises. She wakes up at 4 a.m. every morning to be among the first in line outside her neighborhood supermarket in hopes of buying hard-to-find items like corn meal, flour, laundry detergent, or coffee. She often wakes up to find the water to her apartment has been cut off, thanks to Venezuela’s ongoing drought.
After spending her day looking for food, she hurries home before 6 p.m. to avoid the thugs who live in her neighborhood. She and her neighbors only have police protection until late afternoon, when the security forces withdraw. The police claim that they can’t defend themselves, let alone the community, against better-armed gangs.
Munoz can no longer find medicine for her 75-year-old mother, who suffers from hypertension and diabetes. Now, she fears that the government has done nothing to confront an outbreak of the Zika virus in her town. Her husband can’t use his motorcycle because he can’t find spare parts.
“Just when I think life can’t get any worse, it does,” Munoz moaned. “I had hoped things would get better when the opposition won control of the assembly. I thought that Maduro would have to work with them to find solutions. It’s obvious that he only wants to stay in power, and we have to suffer the consequences until he is replaced.”
Venezuela’s opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Round (MUD), has set a deadline of six months to force Maduro peacefully from office, either by a recall referendum or constitutional amendment that would shorten his term, which is currently due to end in 2019. “There is a huge majority who want change,” opposition leader and Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski warned on Feb. 17. “This is a crisis that is accelerating each day and the government doesn’t want to do anything to change it. Our only option is to change the government.” Capriles, who lost narrowly to Maduro in a special election in 2013, says the opposition should pursue both routes — the amendment and the recall, both — to ensure Maduro’s removal.
But the MUD has moved carefully, especially after the Supreme Court ruled that three opposition legislators couldn’t take their seats, while it studied allegations of voter fraud.
Those three lawmakers would have given the opposition a two-thirds majority, sufficient to rewrite laws, replace ministers, and recall Maduro. The court hasn’t said when it will make a final ruling on the trio. In the meantime, they are waiting to see what the court rules, and may have to run again in a special election.
While the court dithers, the assembly has been concentrating on smaller projects: granting property rights to recipients of government housing, raising pensions and benefits, and freeing political prisoners, while pressing the government to advance its economic proposals. The opposition is letting “the government stew in its own juices,” Smilde said. “The opposition is essentially letting the government spend what political capital it has resisting change, in order to push for an end to Maduro’s presidency.”
The fear of a social explosion may result in an internal coup against Maduro, as PSUV activists and the military high command seek to protect their positions and the riches they have accumulated under 17 years of chávismo, the social, political, and economic movement created by Chavez that sought to redistribute the country’s oil wealth but according to the government’s dictates. “Maduro may be offered up as a sacrificial lamb, [replaced by a] new leader put in place by the PSUV,” Yorde said. “A new government then might try to work with the opposition in a unity government.”
Whatever happens, change can’t happen too soon for Munoz.“I can’t imagine any changes being worse than what we have right now,” she said. “It’s time to turn the page.”
Queues, queues, queues, people stand in line for hours not to go to a show or buy an iPhone but to buy basic necessities that are in short supply. To make matters worse, the government has implemented various types of rationing which forces people to go shopping more often.
Two things the article does not mention: 1) scalpers, "bachaqueros." The bachaco is a large ant that can be seen carrying leaves and twigs bigger than they are to their nest. These scalpers become street vendors with customers who don't wish to waste their life in queues. They charge a very large markup because they are buying at ridiculously low controlled prices. 2) While there certainly are shortages, more every day, people willing and able to pay full price don't have to queue up. The queues are for controlled price items.
But clearly the people have spoken giving the opposition a 2/3 super-majority in the National Assembly. Belatedly the government is realizing that the situation is ready to blow up, not that they can do much about it having destroyed industry, having wasted and stollen fortunes, having ignored maintenance, and with oil at record low prices.
Are Venezuelans at the Breaking Point? Foreign Policy Magazine By Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez and Francisco Marquez Lara February 18, 2016 5:14 PM
There was a time when the word “Venezuela” conjured up oil wealth, beauty queens, and baseball players. Today all those things are overshadowed by flag-themed tracksuits, histrionically ranting leaders, and, above all else, lines, lines, lines. The dramatic collapse of the economy, thanks to chronic mismanagement and plunging oil prices, has made queues — las colas, as they are locally known — the most visible symptom of the country’s failed revolution. And they’ve gotten far worse under President Nicolás Maduro.
Since coming under government control in 2014, Ultimas Noticias, one of Venezuela’s highest circulating national newspapers, has become a wellspring of rosy observations. Last week, it published an article that succinctly sums up the tragic surrealism of everyday life in what was once South America’s wealthiest country. Noting that waiting in long lines has become an unavoidable part of everyday life (“whatever the reason”), and duly asserting that “life wasn’t made solely to satisfy our tastes, wants and preferences,” the author offered a series of helpful tips to make the best of queue-standing:
“Try to stay cheerful, friendly, and make fun conversation with those next to you in line as well as behind and ahead; read; make sure to bring an umbrella and a snack; do breathing exercises; meditate and focus creative energy on the general good…”
And if those suggestions weren’t uplifting enough, the author added a bit of advice on how to improve one’s relationship with the supernatural: “For those who are religious or philosophical, it’s a marvelous moment to take stock and gauge the advancement of your spirituality.”
Venezuela’s vigorous manufacture of such banalities is, of course, nothing new. A few years back, a well known pro-government blog argued that waiting in line is actually beneficial, because it makes people value their goods and protects them against impulsive purchases. That the tone has since changed from extolling hidden opportunity to counseling weary patience is telling: the public’s rising frustration has become impossible for the government to shrug off.
That hasn’t kept it from trying, and high-ranking regime officials increasingly struggle to manage the citizens’ exasperations. Urban Agriculture Minister Lorena Freitez recently offered a reminder that “[before socialism] we had full supermarkets but empty refrigerators” — the implication being that current shortages must be a kind of progress, if everyone has an equally limited access to food. For any Venezuelans unmoved by such interpretations, Congresswoman Jacquelin Farías from the ruling United Socialist Party responds with a call to stoicism. “Just leave your house with your little bag, and you go buy what you need, then go home,” she declared recently. “That’s revolution, and it’s what our president has asked of us, so let’s just enjoy these exquisite lines.”
Readers may be forgiven for finding hints of Kafka in such statements, but for those who actually have to stand in the lines, the situation is more reminiscent of Dante. And it’s not just the lines — the most basic services that underpin any modern society have fundamentally broken down. Even in the coddled national capital, Caracas, trash collection has been severely limited, electricity and water are heavily rationed (and often unavailable), and food and medicine are increasingly difficult to find even for those who do brave the interminable queues. Every day, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are peppered with desperate pleas for help in acquiring medications: often from anguished parents for their children. (Needless to say, Health Minister Luisana Melo’s recent conjecture that Venezuelans “use more medicine than anywhere else in the world,” and that scarcity could readily be solved if Venezuelan were to curb their “irrational” lust for pharmaceuticals, has not been warmly received.)
Lissette García belongs to what was once the Caracas middle class. The 48-year-old single mother of two has a steady job, but she worries she may lose it given the amount of time she spends in line each week. “Sometimes you wait in line for many hours only to find they don’t have the products you need,” she says. “It’s humiliating.” Increasingly she’s been asking her mother, 77, to spell her in the queues — though she worries about her mom braving the tropical sun, not to mention the company. “It’s frightening,” Garcia says. “You’re massed together with strangers from every part of the city, at all hours, and anything can happen.” She doesn’t just mean those standing in line with her. Caracas is, after all, one of the world’s most crime-ridden cities, and citizens stuck in slow-moving lines that stretch for blocks sometimes prove sitting ducks for the city’s many motorcycles gangs.
Aracelis Ibarra, a 74-year-old cancer survivor from a low-income part of town, has become the person sent to brave the lines for her family. “[The authorities] don’t respect one’s age in most places, so you wait there like everyone else,” Ibarra says. She worries that as scarcity has become more acute, and lines longer, people have become more aggressive. “People sell their spaces to others,” she complains, referring to the new cottage industry of professional queuers that has cropped up. These entrepreneurs sometimes even advertise their services in local newspapers. “[Other times people] cut in line or attempt to buy all the products, and that’s when fights break out,” Ibarra says. In the chaos that results from such situations, businesses are sometimes sacked and would-be shoppers injured, interactions that are sometimes caught on cell phone cameras and uploaded to YouTube.
Such frustrations represent a dangerous prospect for the government. Back in 2014, the country saw a rash of larger public disturbances that paralyzed much of the capital but were nonetheless primarily contained to middle class areas. The last large-scale citywide civil strife, known as the Caracazo riots, took place in 1989, when public resentment of IMF-backed economic reforms exploded in a burst of anarchy and looting that lasted a week, and killed many hundreds. The current government’s mismanagement of the economy and country’s subsequent economic collapse have made new reforms, similar to those that preceded the Caracazo, appear increasingly unavoidable. Given the vast supply of grenades, Kalashnikovs, pro-government paramilitaries, and narco-trafficking gangs in today’s Caracas, the damage and death toll of a new outbreak of mass violence would likely be even worse.
Meanwhile, in some ways, the misery of standing in line — which afflicts both the middle and lower classes — is uniting Venezuelans against their government. Since a particularly sought-after good may become ephemerally available on short notice anywhere in the city, desperate shoppers are often forced far outside their familiar neighborhoods. In this way las colas are bringing people from different social classes like García and Ibarra together, both physically and in shared frustration. Polls taken just before December’s legislative elections, when Venezuela’s opposition gained a congressional supermajority, showed that “scarcities” and “lines” represented the first and third highest ranked “national problems” (sandwiching “crime”) among potential voters.
So despite the government’s herculean efforts to mollify Venezuela’s frustrated people and keep class divisions high, time spent waiting in lines — useful though it may be for improving one’s spirituality — may also be forging an ever stronger and more unified consensus against an inept ruling party on its last legs.
Almost two years and ten months to the date of his election in 2013 and two months and 11 days after leading his party to an embarrassing defeat, Nicolas Maduro announced the first real economic measures of his almost three year old administration.
But the measures turned out to be miniscule…
In fact, what the Venezuelan President announced today was likely insufficient in April of 2013, when he was sworn in, when the parallel rate of exchange stood at Bs. 25 per US$, but may have had a bigger impact on the distortions in 2013 than it will have now. Chavismo continues to be trapped in its own distortion field, fearing adjusting the economy, but at the same time implementing a very meek adjustment which will likely be received badly by the population. If Maduro was going to take the blame for an adjustment, he should (and could!) have gone further than he did and the population would have not been able to measure the difference in impact on inflation and problems than this softer adjustment will have.
It took the Venezuelan President four hours of rambling to get to the real measures he proposed. He talked about the Economic War, created Productive (!!) Councils for each State in Venezuela and talked about a “new” Venezuela, as if Chavismo had recently been elected.
Some of the announcements had leaked, as Venezuela’s and PDVSA’s bonds, which had been strong in the morning, soared right before the speech, gaining as much as 12% in price for the day before the market closed, but before the detailed announcements had been made. Maybe it will be a matter of “buy on the leak, sell on the news”, now that the details have been revealed.
The first important announcement by Maduro was the first increase in the price of gasoline since Chávez was first elected in 1998. In fact, then candidate Chávez asked President Caldera to hold off on scheduled increases until after the election. Thus, the price of gasoline in Venezuela has stayed constant for over 17 years. While the rate of exchange has gone from Bs. 0.57 per US$ to Bs. 1,045 per US$, the price of gasoline had been kept constant at Bs. 0.097 per liter (US$ 0.000097 per liter or US$ 0.0004268 per gallon). So you get it, in this post in 2014, I filled my car in Caracas in 2014 with about 10 gallons of gas and paid the equivalent today of barely 4.2 cents in US$ for the ten gallons to fill up.
So, today Maduro increased the price of 95 octane gasoline from Bs. 0.097 per liter to Bs. 6 per liter, a 6,000-plus percent increase, but in the end:
Venezuela went today from having the cheapest gasoline in the world, to having the cheapest gasoline in the world.
How cheap? Well, if you consider a standard 14 gallon gas tank, at Bs. 6 per liter, you will be paying to fill up the tank a total of US$ 0.37 or all of 37 cents in US$. That is how cheap it will continue to be.
Obviously, this is a positive, but whatever positive there was in the announcement, was erased rather quickly with the announcement that the difference between the old and the new price will be placed in a “new” fund to support social programs. Thus, PDVSA will not benefit from the increase, the money will go into a non-transparent fund run by Maduro and the increase will likely be used in new expenditures, doing little to close the fiscal deficit.
And to top it all off, the 91 octane gasoline, was only increased to Bs. 1 per liter (one tenth of a cent). This gas has lead in it and currently 70% of the gasoline consumed in Venezuela is the higher no-lead grade, since it is basically free. Thus, I see two problems: One, people may start using the cheaper grade to save pennies, but damaging their car and creating more pollution. Two, the difference in cost of manufacturing the two gasoline types is small, so it makes little sense to have such a difference, if what you want is to get back some of the cost of producing it.
In the end, Maduro could have gone higher in both prices and made the two prices closer and the “people” would not have minded or would have blamed him for inflation as much as they will anyway. He would have also reduced the incentives for smuggling gas to Colombia, which remain quite high. (A liter of gas in Colombia runs around 1 US$, versus 0.6 US$ cents in Venezuela)
Next, Maduro announced that he will “simplify” the current foreign exchange system. He said there will be only two rates (There will be three, he ignored the parallel rate), eliminating one of the three “official” rates currently in effect. Thus, Maduro announced the devaluation of the Bs. 6.3 per US$ rate to Bs. 10 per US$ rate for essentials (food and medicine), while moving everything else to a floating (floating not free) which he said would start at the current Simadi rate (Bs. 202.9 per US$ today). In the end, all this does, is move the absurd travel allowance rate from Bs. 12 to Bs. 202.9 per US$, where it will continue to be a perverse subsidy for the rich that can travel.
This is probably the worst of the announcements made. With the parallel rate of exchange at Bs. 1,045 per US$ today, it simply reduces the profit of the arbitrageurs from Bs. 1,038 per US$ to Bs. 1,035 per US$, maintaining and sustaining the reasons for the huge corruption surrounding the foreign exchange office CENCOEX and the contraband of goods to Colombia and to a lesser extent Brazil and the Caribbean. This racket is dominated by the Venezuelan military.
Finally, Maduro announced a minimum salary increase of 20% from Bs. 11,557 to Bs. 13,720. (Divide by 1000 and you will gulp!) What can I say, people really need it, but in an environment of extremely high inflation and with no measures to really stop the process, in two months, another increase will be needed. And another one…
And the people will still be even further behind that they are today.
I could talk about the other non-announcements Maduro made, but by now, you have been as patient with me, as I was with Maduro today.
And that would be the antonym of miniscule. Which is that you have been enormously patient to get here! Thanks!
(Maduro also made a very vague announcement of a debit card for poor families, which sounded like Manuel Rosales’ Mi Negra card in the 2006 Presidential election, but he gave very few specifics of how much it will involve in Bolivars and who would be eligible and why)
Argentina used to be the leading economy in Latin America based on exports and industry until Peron and his wives ruined the country. Apparently economic sanity is returning to the country. Maybe to LatAm.
A morality tale in Argentina’s debt epiphany A newly elected president is near a deal to end Argentina’s long debt woes. The country’s 15-year saga provides a lesson for a world awash in red ink. Christian Science Monitor By the Monitor's Editorial Board 3 hours ago
One of the world’s longest sagas over a debt default may soon be coming to end. Argentina is nearing a final deal with foreign creditors – almost 15 years after it first defaulted on nearly $100 billion that it owed. A successful conclusion to the extended legal battle could offer a morality tale for a world awash in red ink.
What is the tale? It is that Argentines decided last year to elect a new president, Mauricio Macri, who, like a returned prodigal son, has quickly begun to shed many of the country’s profligate habits and plans to abide by the obligations of global financial rules.
“We have to be a predictable and trustworthy country,” he said. “Argentina wants to have a good relationship with the whole world.”
Largely cut off from world capital markets and foreign investments, Argentina’s economy has stagnated. Mr. Macri’s election was a turning point for the resource-rich South American nation, whose wealth per capita was once on par with Canada’s. While Argentina’s 43 million people have practical economic reasons to make good on the nation’s sovereign debts, the legal drama has also helped. Many of the creditors were able to convince a United States federal judge, Thomas Griesa, to impose tough restrictions on Argentina’s assets around the world.
It also helped that Judge Griesa labeled Argentina’s actions as “immoral.” In fact, Argentina’s snub of its creditors pushed the International Monetary Fund, which helps rescue countries in financial trouble, to stiffen its rules. “No More Argentinas” become a mantra at the IMF.
The issue of morality is often woven into today’s international struggles over debt collection or debt leniency. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the European Union has pushed Greece to curb its overspending and its lapsed tax collection before receiving loan bailouts. Greece is not alone in the EU. Many European banks remain saddled with nonperforming loans, which may total more than $1 trillion. And the official debts of Italy and Portugal are still at dangerous levels.
China could be dealing with the biggest case of moral hazard in financial obligations. The debt of its corporations, most of which are state-controlled, has risen to an estimated 140 percent of China’s gross domestic product. That is about double the debt-to-GDP ratio for US corporations. The possibility of massive debt defaults in China is a major reason for the global economic slowdown.
Argentina’s final solution to its debt may be unique but the uniqueness only shows that the legal and moral rules for debt resolution are not yet set in stone. The IMF has changed its rules in recent years as each financial crisis demands specific solutions. The IMF, for example, bent its rules to help Ukraine solve its debt woes despite the country’s apparent inability to pay. The action reflected the West’s concerns about Ukraine falling under Russian control.
This month, the IMF announced it had again reassessed its debt-rescue rules. This time the agency hoped to be able to send the proper signal to any country tempted to renege on debt obligations.
Debt is a necessary tool for individuals and countries to support each other. But it also is tied to virtues such as honor and respect. “There is a moral as well as a purely economic case for the global marketplace,” says Steven Weisman , author of a new book, “The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization.” To set rules for global commerce, he adds, requires the morality of global cooperation.
As Argentina returns to the fold of international credit markets, its story should elevate the search for the best legal – and moral – standards to honor debt obligation. It shouldn’t take a country some 15 years to figure out the right course.
Salas, a teacher with no practical experience, is a voodoo economist. Right after the election Maduro doubled down but since someone has told him to mend his ways. I wonder who the power behind the throne is, Cuba? China?
Venezuela replaces hardline economic czar after 1 month Associated Press February 16, 2016 10:28 AM
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's President Maduro has replaced his economic czar just five weeks after appointing the hardline leftist as the country grapples with increasingly bleak economic indicators and fears of default.
Maduro said Monday Luis Salas is leaving his post as vice president for the economy for family reasons.
He will be replaced with a more business-friendly figure, Miguel Perez, who had been serving as commerce minister. Perez previously led a business chamber and has said that Venezuela must simplify its byzantine exchange rate system.
Salas had sparked concern among the opposition by blaming the Venezuela's mounting economic problems on sabotage. Salas said the country was suffering from the world's worst recession and triple-digit inflation because business interests are colluding with the U.S. to sabotage the economy.
Critics of the socialist administration blame inflation on government spending without sufficient revenues, flooding the economy with currency.
Shortages and inflation have become top concerns among Venezuelan voters, many of whom spend hours each week waiting in line for goods that are increasingly impossible to afford.
Local media had reported in recent days that Salas favored suspending Venezuela's payments to foreign creditors.
Maduro, who recently secured decree powers to make economic policy, said he would deliver further news in the coming days. Rumors have been swirling for weeks that the government is about to make a major announcement like raising gasoline prices or formally devaluing the currency.
This I got to see to believe. CAP was kicked out of office when he raised the price of gas. At $0.95 a liter at the new official rate of BsF 10 per dollar, filling the tank will cost between BsF 400 and a BsF 1000 compared to today's 4 to 10 range. Although it's certainly the right economic move I doubt it will help raise Maduro's popularity.
For comparison, a kilo of potatoes (2.2 pounds) costs BsF 500.
Venezuela imposes gasoline hike, currency devaluation AFP 34 minutes ago
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday he would raise the price of gasoline and devalue the bolivar currency, as he faced growing pressure to ease an economic crisis.
The socialist leader said he would raise the pump price of premium gasoline from its current super-low level of $0.01 per liter to the equivalent of $0.95 at the fixed official exchange rate.
The move risks sparking protests in a country where citizens are struggling with soaring inflation and shortages of basic foods and goods.
"This is a necessary action, for which I take responsibility," Maduro said in a televised address.
Venezuela has the biggest known oil reserves in the world, but has suffered from the plunge in world oil prices over the past year and a half.
With the previous subsidies, a Venezuelan could fill a car with gasoline for the equivalent of less than a dollar at the state-fixed exchange rate.
A similar gasoline price hike in 1989 sparked deadly riots in the volatile nation.
Maduro also said the government would "simplify" the country's complex exchange rate regime from Thursday.
The current three-tier system of exchange rates will be slimmed down.
From Thursday there will be just two rates: a protected official rate for food and medicine imports and a parallel "floating" rate for other transactions.
Under the rate for food and medicine, the bolivar will weaken by 37 percent from 6.3 to 10 bolivars to the dollar.
Analysts will be watching closely to see what levels the bolivar reaches against the dollar at the floating rate.
Is Paris safe? Are American schools safe? The excessive worry about safety is paralyzing. Americans have lost their freedom to government security agencies like the ones guarding airports. There was a time when no one could ask you for an ID in America. No longer. Now you are not you but whatever a piece of plastic says you are. Humans have domesticated themselves. What a pity.
A long time ago my mom was knocked down by a purse snatcher in Caracas. She was mad as hell and she decided she no longer wanted to live in such a savage country. Maybe Canada. A week later she got a letter from her niece in Montreal with the news that she had been robbed!
The world is so safe and bland that now people jump out of airplanes without a parachute to get some excitement back in their lives.
Perhaps it is non of my business but why do you live in Venezuela?
It's my country and a lovely place it is!
What are sailors saying about Venezuela? I stopped collecting these stories in 2008 because Chavismo had practically destroyed the cruising industry long with everything else. It seems we are getting our country back.
Why is the government team afraid of the media all of a sudden?
Maduro's economic team pulled out at the last minute saying they would only participate if it was closed to the media, Ramos said.
Venezuela lawmakers to reject economic crisis plan AFP By Ernesto Tovar January 22, 2016 2:16 PM
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan opposition lawmakers vowed to reject on Friday President Nicolas Maduro's bid to decree a state of economic emergency, deepening a political crisis in the oil-rich nation.
Friday is the deadline for the opposition-controlled National Assembly to vote on Maduro's decree, which would give him special powers to intervene in the economic crisis.
A refusal to pass it will prolong a tense political standoff in the volatile South American state, where citizens are suffering shortages of food and goods.
The opposition speaker of the congress, Henry Ramos Allup, accused Maduro's government of failing to adequately inform lawmakers of the details of the decree so they could debate the plan.
"It would be totally irresponsible for the National Assembly to blindly approve a decree of such magnitude, scope and implications, without having any information because the government itself refused to provide it," he said on television.
He said earlier that lawmakers suspended a session of the assembly in which the government was due to defend the decree because the ministers did not show up.
Maduro's economic team pulled out at the last minute saying they would only participate if it was closed to the media, Ramos said.
Senior pro-government officials accused the center-right opposition, which this month took control of the assembly for the first time in 17 years, of trying to turn the session into a "media show."
View galleryThe chairs for the ministers summoned to a parliamentary … The chairs for the ministers summoned to a parliamentary session to explain the emergency decree rem … The decree, issued a week ago, would give Maduro 60 days of extraordinary powers to combat a deep recession and triple-digit inflation.
It allows for the administration to commandeer private companies' resources, impose currency controls and take "other social, economic or political measures deemed fitting."
The opposition as well as some businesses and unions have warned it is a threat to free enterprise and jobs.
- Tense political standoff -
Announcing the decree last week, Maduro admitted Venezuela was in a "catastrophic" economic crisis.
He called on the assembly to approve the decree and "help me navigate this crisis."
But he vowed to resist any shift towards what he called "neoliberal" policies.
View galleryVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks with … Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks with the president of the opposition controlled Natio … "You will have to come and overthrow me if you want to pass a privatization law. No, no and no!"
The same day Venezuela's central bank released its first economic growth and inflation statistics in more than a year.
The figures showed the economy shrank 4.5 percent in the first nine months of 2015.
Annualized inflation in September hit a painful 141.5 percent, fueled by crippling shortages.
Maduro said his emergency plan would allow the government to shore up its health, housing, education and food services.
He vowed to overhaul the country's system of production to shift it away from the oil revenue on which his social spending programs have relied.
Venezuela has the world's biggest known crude oil reserves but the price of oil has plunged over the past year and a half, slashing its revenues.
The opposition has branded the socialist policies of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez a failure.
It wants to scrap government's price and currency controls.
The head of the congressional commission examining the decree, lawmaker Jose Guerra, said the opposition would make its own economic proposals to the government.
"Our interest is in resolving the crisis, but it is not going to be resolved through the government's policies," he said Friday on television channel Globovision.
The commission opened a session about 1530 GMT on Friday to discuss the decree. The full assembly was due to convene later.
Analysts say the political deadlock threatens to worsen the hardship that drove voters to hand the opposition a landslide election victory last month.
They have warned of the risk of a repeat of violent street clashes that left 43 people dead in 2014.
The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.
Venezuela congress nixes Maduro request for emergency powers Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER January 22, 2016 5:58 PM
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition-led congress on Friday rejected President Nicolas Maduro's request for emergency powers amid a plunging national economy, the depths of which were dramatized by an IMF estimate that inflation this year will top 700 percent.
Ruling party and opposition lawmakers accused each other of trying to run the country into the ground in the first major congressional debate Venezuela has seen in more than a decade. Critics of the socialist revolution kicked off by late President Hugo Chavez took control of congress last month for the first time in 17 years.
Maduro had proposed an economic emergency decree that would give him expanded authority for 60 days. In the past, when it was dominated by first Chavez's and then Maduro's allies, congress made a habit of approving these kinds of exceptional powers.
The opposition argues that Maduro is responsible for raging inflation and chronic shortages dogging daily life here, and is promising to oust him within six months.
The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.
The South American nation already suffers from the world's highest inflation and a crushing recession. The IMF estimates that prices rose 275 percent last year in Venezuela, while the economy contracted by 10 percent.
Ahead of the final vote on his decree, Maduro announced he had approved a change that will allow the country's small export sector to use a more favorable currency exchange rate. He scolded opposition activists for "turning their back on the country."
"They're bent on the politics of sterile confrontation," he said as state television began promoting the slogan "irresponsible opposition."
Opposition leaders rejected the decree as a trap intended to make them look intransigent and unwilling to fix the economy.
"We're not closing any doors. On the contrary, today we opened the door to a serious discussion," majority leader Julio Borges said. "We're not looking to double down on the same policies that got us into this crisis. What we need is real change."
The government has lost control over the press. Independent reporters are now allowed into the National Assembly (parliament) and can report what happens. The two thirds landslide victory shows that people have had enough of the revolution and now they can get the juicy details as well. The end of Chavismo is now only a question of time.
Venezuela President Gets Rare Live TV Criticism By HANNAH DREIER, ASSOCIATED PRESS CARACAS, Venezuela — Jan 15, 2016, 10:44 PM ET
In a stunning display of Venezuela's tense new political order, President Nicolas Maduro suffered through a long scolding from the head of the country's new opposition Congress Friday after presenting his state of the nation address.
Congress leader Henry Ramos wagged his finger inches from the embattled president's head in a rebuttal that was broadcast live across the South American country — unprecedented media access for an opponent of the country's socialist revolution.
It had already been a night of firsts. Neither Maduro nor his predecessor the late President Hugo Chavez ever had to contend with a hostile audience for their state of the nation speeches. Critics of the administration took control of the institution last week for the first time in 17 years.
Maduro himself had mostly bad news to share.
Hours earlier, the Central Bank released key economic data for the first time in more than a year, showing an economy in shambles and for the first time acknowledging what analysts have long said: That annualized inflation has surged into triple digits.
Maduro described the numbers as "catastrophic" and devoted most of his three-hour speech to what he called a "monstrous attack" on the economy by business owners and other foes of the leftist government.
In his rebuttal, Ramos took a professorial tone as he laid out the opposition's view that Maduro himself is responsible for the crisis.
"If you don't want to hear this, close your ears or leave," he warned as Maduro sipped from a coffee cup and checked his watch in the next chair.
"If you give in to the desire to have more and more bolivars with the same number of dollars, your bolivars are going to lose value," Ramos said, referring to the country's plummeting currency.
The sight of an opposition leader lecturing the president on a live television feed all networks were required to carry shocked even ardent supporters of the sharp-tonged new congressional leader. Maduro rarely exposes himself to questions from independent reporters, much less questioning from political opponents. And few broadcast networks carry opposition events.
Maduro had taken an unusually conciliatory tone in his address, calling for dialogue even as he warned the opposition that it could easily get overconfident and lose the next election. He also vowed to block one of its key initial projects: Giving people who live in government housing the title to their homes.
"No, no and no, we will not permit it," Maduro said during one of the most dramatic moments of his speech. "You'll have to get rid of me first."
The opposition has pledged to do just that, issuing a six-month deadline to hold a recall election.
Maduro mentioned in passing that his newly appointed Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz had spoken this week with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and a high-ranking U.S. diplomat.
Ahead of his speech, Maduro declared an economic emergency giving him 60 days to unilaterally enact sweeping reforms. He later hand-delivered the decree to the head of Congress to be debated next week, but it's not clear that the government will wait for approval to enforce it.
Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves, has suffered enormously as the price of oil has crashed from above $90 a barrel two years ago to just $24 today. Analysts say that means Venezuela is dangerously close to just breaking even on the oil it produces, which accounts for 95 percent of export earnings.
The country's economy contracted by 7.1 percent during the quarter that ended in September 2015, and inflation reached 141.5 percent, according to the new Central Bank data.
Maduro echoed many Venezuelans' fears Friday when he said he hoped the coming year would see peace, "not senseless violence that could lead anywhere."
I can live with a pragmatic socialist but clueless ideologues are dangerous.
Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER 1 hour ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on his existing economic policies with the appointment of a young leftist hardliner to head the country's cratering economy, setting up a potential confrontation between the ruling socialist party and the newly powerful opposition.
Luis Salas, the new 39-year-old vice president for the economy, has scant administrative experience, but champions the same theories of price and currency controls that have defined Venezuela's leftist economic policy for 17 years.
Like Maduro, Salas says the country is suffering from the world's worst recession and triple-digit inflation because business interests are colluding with the U.S. to sabotage the economy.
He even goes further than Maduro in arguing that many of the country's problems are the result of being too capitalist.
A professor at the Bolivarian University, an institution created by the late president Hugo Chavez, Salas was relatively unknown before this week. But he has outlined his economic philosophy in a large collection of open letters and pamphlets.
"Inflation doesn't exist in real life," he wrote last year.
He added that prices go up not because of scarcity, but because of "capitalist economies that are driven by the desire for personal gain through the exploitation of others; by selfishness."
Along with shortages, inflation has become the No. 1 concern among Venezuelan voters, many of whom spend hours each week waiting in line for goods that are increasingly impossible to afford.
After the opposition swept Dec. 6 legislative elections, Salas wrote an open letter in which he attacked as "pragmatists" those people within the socialist camp who were floating the possibility of devaluation, a move that outside economists agree is a necessary first step for righting the economy.
Disbelief at the president's choice for a new economic czar echoed in opposition circles Wednesday night, with some speculating Maduro might be trying to drive the economy into the ground.
Since its landmark victory, the opposition coalition has been split between those who favor negotiation with the government and those who want to start to remove Maduro from office. The new appointment and the socialists' combative rhetoric since the new congress was seated Tuesday could silence opposition voices favoring dialogue.
Socialist supporters have supported appointment of the new economic czar. Some pro-government people rallied in downtown Thursday morning to protest the opposition leadership's removal of portraits of Chavez from the gold-domed capitol building.
Maduro named other hardliners to top spots Wednesday as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle he says is intended to protect the revolution during a new political era.
He also created a new urban agriculture ministry and announced that he and first lady Cilia Flores had taken up urban farming themselves.
"Cilia and I keep 50 chickens at our home. It's time to start building a new culture of production," he said.
The government deputies walk out, the press is allowed in. I love this part:
The opposition also opened the doors of the assembly to dozens of independent journalists, who had been barred from the legislature for years. In a scene few Venezuelans are accustomed to, one of them asked the unsuspecting First Lady (and elected legislator) Cilia Flores a question about two of her nephews, who are facing drug charges in a U.S. jail. Like other chavistas, who never take questions from independent media outlets, Flores seemed perplexed by the journalist’s gall, refusing to answer while fixing him with a malevolent glare.
An Ominous Opening for Venezuela’s New Parliament Foreign Policy Magazine By Juan Cristóbal Nagel 23 hours ago
The building that houses Venezuela’s single-chamber legislature, the National Assembly, is a small, gold-domed capitol built in the late nineteenth century. The hall where the debates take place is just big enough to fit the 163 legislators who were sworn in on Tuesday for a five-year term. Following a landslide win last December, a large majority of them belong to the opposition.
But 45 minutes after taking their oaths, the pro-government minority decided the quarters were too cramped, and promptly left the building. (Oddly, lawmakers from the ruling party hadn’t found anything objectionable about the chamber while they were still in the majority.)
The excuse was an alleged breach in the rules governing the debate, but it was the overall atmosphere that forced them to go for fresh air. For the first time in the 17 years since the late Hugo Chávez swept into power, the opposition has firm control of one of the branches of government. This proved too much for the chavista legislators to handle, and their walkout foreshadows the tensions ahead.
The ceremony itself was part pageantry, part Venezuelan soap opera. The building was surrounded by three rings of military personnel who briefly blocked opposition legislators’ access to their new workplace. Several Metro stations around the capitol were closed to the public. Chavista paramilitary gangs had threatened to block access to the building in order to “protect the Revolution.”
Once inside, the new majority quickly began enacting symbolic changes. One of the first was to take down giant pictures of Chávez and of President Nicolás Maduro that had presided over the main debate hall since the former’s death and the latter’s subsequent election.
The opposition also opened the doors of the assembly to dozens of independent journalists, who had been barred from the legislature for years. In a scene few Venezuelans are accustomed to, one of them asked the unsuspecting First Lady (and elected legislator) Cilia Flores a question about two of her nephews, who are facing drug charges in a U.S. jail. Like other chavistas, who never take questions from independent media outlets, Flores seemed perplexed by the journalist’s gall, refusing to answer while fixing him with a malevolent glare.
The incoming president of the assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, was respectful of his colleagues in the minority, giving each side their turn. This was a striking departure from previous practice. In the previous chavista-dominated legislature, some opposition legislators were physically assaulted, others arbitrarily deprived of their parliamentary immunity. On several occasions, parliamentary leaders stripped opposition members of their speaking rights.
Ramos, a bookish 73-year-old and one of the few Venezuelan politicians with roots in the pre-Chavez political era, struck a conciliatory tone. He urged lawmakers to bring the country together and find solutions to pressing economic problems. But he also vowed to push the government to implement urgent reforms.
The government is in no mood for dialogue. In the last few weeks, it has stacked Venezuela’s top court with party loyalists. These new judges promptly moved to trim the opposition’s two-thirds majority by blocking the swearing-in of three legislators pending the resolution of an election dispute in the Southern state of Amazonas. (The deputies in question did not attend yesterday, and it is unclear what consequences this will have on the opposition’s ability to exercise its supermajority) The court’s ruling was based on shaky evidence, as demonstrated by the fact that even the chavista-controlled election commission certified the two-thirds majority. However this particular conflict is resolved, efforts by government-friendly judges to undermine its opponents will continue.
Moreover, on Monday, the government stripped the incoming National Assembly of any oversight over the Central Bank, taking away its power to nominate candidates to the bank’s board and to force directors to reveal economic or financial information. Crucially, the government also gave the Central Bank freedom to finance the executive branch, thus allowing Maduro to bypass the legislature to fund his massive budget deficit.
Despite all this, the opposition is determined to press ahead. It has pledged to pass an amnesty law that will free political prisoners. It has also vowed to cut Maduro’s term short via some sort of referendum in case the government does not cooperate. The chavista courts will likely have something to say about all of this.
A clash between the two forces seems inevitable. The legislature can pass all the laws it wants, but the institutions who implement them – the courts and the executive branch – are all firmly in chavista hands.
This means that Venezuela is in the throes of a full-blown constitutional crisis. Nobody can predict how it will play out, but if history is any guide, the military will play an important role in the outcome.
In the meantime, the country’s economy is in freefall. As the two sides bicker, Venezuela suffers from the world’s deepest recession and its highest inflation rate. The price of oil, the country’s top export, is tanking. And the Maduro administration has no idea what to do.
Watching Venezuela is seldom boring, and the swearing-in of the new National Assembly proved it. But the entertaining theater makes it easy to forget that this is a country of 30 million people living through an economic maelstrom, a president with no answers, and now, a divided government. The showdown in the National Assembly suggests the Venezuelan tragedy has a few more acts before it finds its resolution.
In the photo, opposition legislators argue with pro-government legislators during the new Venezuelan parliament’s swearing-in ceremony in Caracas on January 5, 2016.
Workers remove Chavez’ giant poster from National Assembly building
While I am far away, I could not help but be glued to the events in Caracas today. While it was certainly not a smooth day, it was a great day for Venezuela. A day of hope and possibilities, a bright day for the future of democracy in the country. A very important day for Venezuela’s history and the image above clearly shows that change is in the air. The statues have yet to fall, but it’s coming. The beginning is here, let’s see how long it takes to get to a good point.
I will start with the most important signs of the day:
They got rid of the Chavez portraits. Demagoguery is no way to run a modern country. Maduro has done a great job of discrediting Chavismo.
Venezuela opposition sets out to oust government AFP By Maria Isabel Sanchez 27 minutes ago
Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition laid claim Wednesday to a big legislative majority that could empower it to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
The opposition has vowed to find a way to get rid of Maduro within six months.
It has taken control of the National Assembly for the first time since 1999, the year the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez came to power.
At its first regular legislative session on Wednesday, the opposition-controlled assembly swore in three anti-government lawmakers, defying Maduro who had secured a court injunction to suspend them.
The three extra deputies boost the total number of opposition seats in the legislature to a two-thirds "supermajority" that could enable them to remove Maduro by constitutional means.
The government side vowed to charge the opposition with contempt of court.
The number two in Maduro's leadership, former assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, said the swearing-in of the suspended deputies "flagrantly violated the constitution."
- Removing Chavez's portrait -
Opposition leaders earlier had portraits of the socialist government's hero Chavez removed from the assembly building.
"I don't want to see portraits of Chavez or Maduro. Take all this stuff away to the presidential palace, or give it away," the new speaker, Henry Ramos Allup, told workmen who were removing the portraits, in a video released by his staff.
He said his side would within six months propose a way "to change the government by constitutional means."
Maduro responded: "I will be there to defend democracy with an iron hand. They will not make me give ground or waver."
But on Wednesday, he announced a reshuffle of his government.
In elections on December 6, the opposition MUD coalition won a majority in the assembly for the first time in nearly 17 years.
Under Venezuelan law, with a two-thirds majority, the opposition could from next April launch measures to try to force Maduro from office before his term ends in 2019.
But it was not clear whether they will succeed in pushing ahead at odds with the court injunction.
The government side insisted any legislation passed with the votes of the suspended deputies would be null.
Cabello said the government would "paralyze" the assembly by withholding its budget from the treasury.
"No change of government is easy. Everything will depend on the situation in the country in a few months," said Juan Manuel Rafalli, an expert in constitutional law.
"I foresee great social conflict and enormous pressure for change."
- US 'interference' -
One of the first measures the opposition wants to pass is an amnesty for some 75 political prisoners, but Maduro has vowed to veto that move.
The US State Department backed the call for political prisoners to be released, with spokesman John Kirby calling Tuesday for a "transparent" resolution of the dispute.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez rejected that as "interference," in a Twitter message.
December's election result was widely seen as a protest by voters over the state of Venezuela's economy.
It threw up the toughest challenge to the president's authority and Chavez's socialist "revolution" since Maduro took over from his late mentor in 2013.
Venezuela has the world's biggest known oil reserves but has suffered from a fall in the price of the crude on which its government relies.
It is in deep recession, with citizens suffering shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation. Now they face the uncertainty of a political conflict.
"If the government uses its institutional control in a focused way, it could get its way in the short term," said analyst Luis Vicente Leon, head of polling firm Datanalisis.
"While the Chavistas and the opposition get involved in a political debate, the people will feel a great lack of solutions to their main problems."
Chavez was very much the product of the terrible mismanagement of our two old mainline parties AD and COPEI that ruled the country for half a century. Now they've elected an old combative ADECO to lead the opposition in the National Assembly. Big mistake.
The irony is that during all those years I voted for AD as the lesser evil. This old article of mine might be of interest:
August 6, 2006 Uslar Pietri, Venezuelan Democracy's Undertaker
Arturo Uslar Pietri was considered one of the leading Venezuelan intellectuals of the 20th century. He certainly was entertaining and educational on TV where he addressed his "invisible friends." He was also a failed politician who ran for president and lost badly. Carlos Andrés Perez (CAP) was of the opinion that, having failed to reach power via elections, Uslar Pietri was trying to reach a position of power through machination.
Combative Venezuela opposition leader will head congress Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER 10 hours ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An outspoken opposition leader known for embracing confrontation was chosen Sunday to head Venezuela's new congress when it opens in two days as a counterweight to the socialist administration.
The newly elected opposition majority voted to make Henry Ramos Allup the president of the National Assembly when it is seated Tuesday. The new session will be the first time foes of the administration have had control of any government institution in more than a decade.
Ramos, 72, is a divisive figure that government supporters love to hate as much for his acerbic tongue as for his leadership in the once-hegemonic Democratic Action party that co-governed Venezuela for decades before the late President Hugo Chavez won power in 1998 and began his leftist program.
Ramos' rival for the legislative presidency was Julio Borges, 46, a member of the Justice First party, a newer, moderate movement that won the biggest bloc of opposition seats.
Although Ramos hasn't joined in street protests against the government, he won with the help of opposition hard-liners who favor such demonstrations and other confrontation with President Nicolas Maduro's administration. Borges' party advocates a focus on negotiation and elections.
Ramos said the new National Assembly will show Venezuelans a more democratic way forward.
"We ask the people to watch us, to demand more of us, and keep an eye on what we do to make sure that we honor our commitment," he said.
Ramos' supporters praise him as an experienced operative well-positioned to wrangle the dozens of parties that make up Venezuela's opposition coalition and stand up to what is sure to be an offensive by the administration.
Skeptics say Ramos is too prone to spouting off and plays into the government's attempts to paint the opposition as entitled snobs nostalgic for the days when elites ran Venezuela.
The opposition won a crucial two-thirds legislative "super-majority" by a single seat in the Dec. 6 elections and it will need to corral every lawmaker to get through the most dramatic policies.
But policy and strategy disagreements within the opposition will make it hard to get the most high-stakes votes through, said R. Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the United States Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.
"I suspect that the government will also use a combination of personal inducements and legal intimidation to try to coopt some of the members of the new congress," he said.
The opposition has long been split between moderates and hard-liners, and the two sides have exchanged barbs since their coalition's landslide victory over the socialists.
Even as the scale of the victory was still settling after polls closed, some opposition members began talking jubilantly about taking steps to remove Maduro and rewrite the constitution while others cautioned that the voters wanted economic reforms rather than a political fight.
Justice First leader Henrique Capriles, a governor who narrowly lost to Maduro in the last presidential election in 2013, called the opposition's legislative victory a vindication of his party's focus on building electoral support district by district. His party won 33 of the opposition's 112 seats in the new congress.
In recent weeks, Capriles has lambasted opposition leaders who have advocated street activism, particularly a wave of protests that shut down parts of Venezuela in 2014 and resulted in dozens of deaths.
Carpriles said that if the opposition had continued to pursue open confrontation in the streets, the coalition would never have won congress. The street protest movement "must be named among our greatest national failures," he told the Venezuelan weekly Tal Cual.
Supporters of Capriles' chief rival, the imprisoned hardline opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, angrily rejected that criticism. Lopez's father, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, tweeted that he was glad Capriles is a governor and doesn't have a seat in the "new, brave congress." He also backed Ramos' leadership bid.
Lopez has been sentenced to more than a decade in prison in connection with his leadership of the 2014 protests, and he consistently polls as one of the nation's most popular leaders along with Capriles.
The government has so far showed few signs of willingness to negotiate. The outgoing congress filled the Supreme Court with newly appointed judges, and the court last week barred three opposition lawmakers from being sworn in.
Ramos on Sunday reiterated the opposition's pledge that all 112 lawmakers would take their seats despite the ruling, setting the stage for a showdown. Both the opposition and supporters of the administration are promising to convene at the National Assembly building Tuesday.
Government dirty tricks in the open, they are trying to block the opposition's 2/3 rd. supermajority by preventing three or more deputies from taking their seats. The so called Supreme Court is nothing but a Chavista rubber stamp having been stuffed with Chavista acolytes. One of the aims of the supermajority was to clean up the Supreme Court.
While I understand the desire of the winners to get their rewards I don't think that supermajority is a good idea either. Too much power makes any and all governments dangerous, precisely the reason the Founding Fathers insisted on separation of powers, checks and balances. I love gridlock, it keeps rulers in check.
Venezuela opposition: Court blocking of 4 lawmakers a 'coup' Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER December 31, 2015 9:56 AM
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition is calling a Supreme Court decision that bars four recently-elected lawmakers from taking their seats in the National Assembly part of a "judicial coup" and has vowed to uphold the voters' will when a new session starts next week.
The high court released a decision late Wednesday suspending the inauguration of four of the lawmakers declared winners after the opposition swept Dec. 6 legislative elections. Three are anti-government and one is a member of the ruling socialist party. The ruling comes in response to a challenge filed by supporters of the socialist party. The court did not explain the legal justification behind its decision.
The ruling could undermine the opposition's newly won two-thirds legislative "super-majority" and limit its power.
Opposition leaders are pledging that the barred lawmakers will attend the first session of the new congress on Jan. 5. Lawmaker Julio Borges, one of two favorites to be the next assembly president, said President Nicolas Maduro could not be allowed to overturn the will of the people.
"The National Assembly represents the sovereignty of the people, and the president is trying to violate that using a biased court," he wrote on Twitter. "On Jan. 5, we will swear in the National Assembly and preserve that sovereignty as the Venezuelan people and international observers look on."
The opposition won a landslide victory earlier this month, taking control of congress for the first time in more than a decade. The coalition captured 112 of 167 seats, giving it a crucial two-thirds majority by one seat. That super-majority would allow government critics to censure top officials and could open the door to recalling Maduro or even rewriting the constitution.
Opposition coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba released an open letter Wednesday asking international bodies including the United Nations and the European Union to help stop the government from stealing back control of the legislature.
"The country, the region and the world face a judicial coup d'état attempt against the decision the Venezuelan people made at the ballot box," he wrote.
The ruling has not provoked popular unrest in the middle of weeks-long winter vacations. In Caracas, the streets were unusually empty, save for groups of people launching fireworks and drinking rum in anticipation of the new year.
But Tuesday's swearing in ceremony could be a tinderbox. Government supporters have promised to rally outside the National Assembly, and the opposition is calling for government critics to join all 112 elected deputies in a march to the building.
The hardline members of the opposition who led a wave of bloody 2014 street protests are calling for a show of force.
"The best response to this moribund regime is to show in the streets how many of us there are on Jan. 5," opposition leader Freddy Guevara said.
George Gilder was/is a brilliant fellow but he is no investor and the Gilder Days ended badly because he didn't have an exit strategy and I was too green to know that one need such a strategy. Yes, I'm still investing and learning but now I'm entirely self directed so I have no one but myself to blame or congratulate for my results. I post about investing as captainccs at The Motley Fool. Investing is a fascinating world!
Venezuela's soccer chief fighting extradition to US Associated Press 2 hours ago CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's longtime soccer chief is fighting his extradition to the U.S. from Switzerland and asking to be judged in his home country on charges of corruption at soccer's governing body.
Lawyers for Rafael Esquivel told Venezuelan newspaper El Universal Wednesday that they've asked prosecutors to request his extradition.
Esquivel was arrested in May in Zurich as part of the U.S. and Swiss investigations into corruption at FIFA. In seeking his extradition to Venezuela his lawyers may be betting that the 69-year-old could benefit from his political connections in the socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro or receive a more lenient punishment such as home arrest if he pleads guilty.
Venezuela's soccer federation, which Esquivel led since 1988 until the time of his arrest, declined to comment.
The Venezuelan National Guard is corrupt to the core.
Venezuelan officials accused of taking drug pay-offs in U.S. indictment Reuters By Nate Raymond 1 hour ago WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior Venezuelan officials facing U.S. drug trafficking charges are accused in an indictment of taking payments from narcotics traffickers and alerting them to drug raids, according to a person with knowledge of the case.
Nestor Reverol, the head of Venezuela's National Guard, and Edylberto Molina, a former deputy head of the anti-narcotics agency and currently a military attache posted in Germany, are named in the indictment that prosecutors are preparing to unseal, people familiar with the case told Reuters.
In addition to tipping traffickers off about raids, the two are charged with taking other steps to hinder anti-narcotics investigations, the person told Reuters on Wednesday.
Reverol, the former head of Venezuela's anti-narcotics agency, would be one of the highest-ranking Venezuelan officials to face U.S. drug charges. He could not be reached for comment.
He has previously rejected U.S. accusations that Venezuela has failed to curb illicit drug shipments and has touted the National Guard's success in cracking down on the flow of cocaine from neighboring Colombia.
Venezuela’s embassy in Berlin did not respond to an email requesting contact information for Molina. The diplomat has been a general in the National Guard, which is the branch of the armed forces that controls Venezuela's borders.
A National Guard official did not immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment. An Information Ministry official said the ministry had no comment on Reverol.
The indictment pending in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, which the people said was expected to be unveiled in January, comes as the United States investigates the suspected involvement of senior Venezuelan officials in the cocaine trade.
The National Guard issued a series of Tweets in Reverol's defense on Tuesday night using the hashtag #NestorReverolSoldierOfTheFatherland and saying he should be praised for capturing more than 100 drugs bosses.
In televised comments on Wednesday, Socialist Party leader Jorge Rodriguez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of drug trafficking in Venezuela and said the accusations were an "aggression" against the country's armed forces.
“There are two countries, one that produces drugs and another that shoves it up its nose. One produces and the other consumes, and neither of those two countries is Venezuela," he said, referring to Colombia and the United States respectively.
The U.S. Justice Department and the DEA have declined to comment on the case.
U.S. prosecutors have unsealed indictments charging at least five former Venezuelan officials with drug trafficking crimes over the past four years, according to records from Florida and New York district courts.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dismisses charges of official involvement in drug trafficking as an international right-wing campaign to discredit socialism in Venezuela.
Two other former officials with the National Guard have been indicted on U.S. drugs charges in recent years.
One of them, former captain Vassyly Villarroel Ramirez, was indicted in 2011 on cocaine-trafficking charges. The U.S. Treasury put Villarroel on its drug "kingpin" list in 2013, and Venezuela arrested him in July on drug trafficking charges.
Lawyers for Villarroel could not be reached for comment.
Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were arrested in Haiti last month and indicted in federal court in Manhattan on cocaine trafficking charges. They are scheduled to next appear in court on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Stuart Grudgings)
The number of seats is 167, not 165 as I reported earlier and 2/3rds of 167 is exactly 112. There are three levels of majority to approve different kinds of laws and appointments. Earlier the discussion was about wether maduro could stifle a simple majority by the opposition but the supermajority sweeps away those fears. Having the supermajority means that the opposition can start dismantling the rubber stamp supreme court which has been one of the enforcers of the Chavista dictatorship. The Chavista dictatorship tried hard to wear sheep's clothing and in many ways it succeeded. That is now over.
I worry when any party has absolute majority in all three powers, executive, legislative and judiciary. It's a recipe for extremism and abuse. Our democracy started to go wrong when AD controlled both the presidency and the legislature. Not only was it a rubber stamp congress but it went so far as to give the president powers to rule by decree thereby taking congress (themselves) out of the game. The result was a poor presidency that ended with Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) being removed on trumped up charges. From there to Chávez was just continual decline as people got fed up with the so called democrats who, by the way, were also socialists.
When Chávez got the National Assembly to give him the same powers congress had given CAP, the opposition cried foul. But the example had been set by the so called democratic powers decades earlier. In fact, many of the things Chávez did which the opposition criticized, had already been done during the democracy. My friends hated me for pointing this out.
I'm not defending Chávez in any way, I'm condemning democracy without working separation of powers. I love split governments, gridlock, it's safer that way.
The election and the aftermath has been very quiet. The Chavista thugs (Círculos Bolivarianos) didn't take to the street. Maduro recanted on his previous threat to take power by force if they lost the election. Evidently electoral fraud was minimal or non-existent. Yesterday I was talking to an ex-sergeant of the national guard who had been dismissed early in the Chávez years when Chávez was padding the military in his favor. He commented that someone must have put the fear of god into top government people for this to happen. I really don't know how things happen at those levels and rumors are as abundant as flies.
My hope is that many of the Chavista mismanagements, to give them a kinder name, will be reversed, like selling under-priced oil to other socialist governments, we can't afford it and we don't need to buy their votes at the UN or at the OAS. That was Chávez's motivation. But I also hope that it does not turn into a witch hunt. We all must live in the same house.
Julio Borges, the fellow pictured below, is a good candidate for president of the National Assembly. He ran for the presidency of the republic but he just does not have the public personality to create enough of a following.
Venezuela opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly
Associated Press JOSHUA GOODMAN December 8, 2015
Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, who was reelected to Congress, gives thumbs up as he arrives for a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, one day after congressional elections. Venezuela's opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide in Sunday's election, stunning the ruling party and altering the balance of power 17 years after the late Hugo Chávez was elected president. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition won a key two-thirds majority in the National Assembly in legislative voting, according to final results released Tuesday, dramatically strengthening its hand in any bid to wrest power from President Nicolas Maduro after 17 years of socialist rule.
More than 48 hours after polls closed, the National Electoral Council published the final tally on its website, confirming that the last two undecided races broke the opposition coalition's way, giving them 112 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly that's sworn in next month. The ruling socialist party and its allies got 55 seats.
The publication ends two days of suspense in which Maduro's opponents claimed a much-larger margin of victory than initially announced by electoral authorities, who were slow to tabulate and release results that gave a full picture of the magnitude of the Democratic Unity opposition alliance's landslide.
The outcome, better than any of the opposition's most-optimistic forecasts, gives the coalition an unprecedented strength in trying to rein in Maduro as well as the votes needed to sack Supreme Court justices and even remove Maduro from office by convoking an assembly to rewrite Hugo Chávez's 1999 constitution.
Although divided government should foster negotiations, Maduro in his first remarks following the results showed little sign of moderating the radical course that voters rejected.
Even while recognizing defeat, the former bus driver and union organizer blamed the "circumstantial" loss on a right-wing "counterrevolution" trying to sabotage Venezuela's oil-dependent economy and destabilize the government.
On Tuesday, Maduro visited Chávez's mausoleum in the 23 of January hillside slum where the government suffered a shock loss in Sunday's vote. Accompanied by members of his top military command, he accused his opponents of sowing discrimination and class hatred, cautioning workers who voted for the opposition that they would regret their decision to abandon support for the government.
"The bad guys won, like the bad guys always do, through lies and fraud," said Maduro. "Workers of the fatherland know that you have a president, a son of Chávez, who will protect you."
Hardliners in the notoriously fractious opposition seem similarly inflexible, preferring to talk about ending Maduro's rule before his term ends in 2019 rather than resolving Venezuela's triple-digit inflation, plunging currency and the widespread shortages expected to worsen in January as businesses close for the summer vacation.
Moderates however are calling for dialogue to give Maduro a chance to roll back policies they blame for the unprecedented economic crisis. But with most Venezuelans bracing for more hardship as oil prices, the lifeblood of the economy, hover near a seven-year low, even they recognize the window for change is small and closing fast.
"If Maduro doesn't change we'll have to change the government," Gov. Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in 2013 presidential elections, told The Associated Press. "But the opposition's response to the economic crisis right now can't be more politics."