Governments are the same the world over, inefficient because the people who work there have no incentives to be frugal, quite the contrary. Take American public education, where did all the loan money go? To teachers? No, to school administrators. Yesterday I read about Japan, same thing. It's all about the Tragedy of the Commons.
Things That Make You Go Hmmm... by Grant Williams
“Everything makes sense once you realize Japan is a communist country.”
Aki Wakabayashi’s book Komuin no Ijona Sekai (The Bizarre World Of The Public Servant) sprang from her 10 years working at a Labour Ministry research institute and lifted the lid on some of the peccadilloes of Japan’s civil service.
Wakabayashi told of being scolded for saving her department ¥200 million, as her effort put that amount in jeopardy for the following year’s budget allocation; of senior managers taking female subordinates on first-class, round-the-world trips to “study labour conditions in other countries”; and of the mad dash by all departments to spend unused budget before year-end — the collective result of which saw monthly total expenditures by government agencies jump from ¥3 trillion in February to ¥18 trillion in March.
The facts unearthed by Wakabayashi are remarkable:
(Japan Times): The national average annual income of a local government employee was ¥7 million in 2006, compared to the ¥4.35 million national average for all company employees and the ¥6.16 million averaged by workers at large companies. Their generosity to even their lowest-level employees may explain why so many local governments are effectively insolvent: Drivers for the Kobe municipal bus system are paid an average of almost ¥9 million (taxi drivers, by comparison, earn about ¥3.9 million).
School crossing guards in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward earned ¥8 million in 2006. (Such generosity to comparatively low-skilled workers may explain why in the summer of 2007 it was discovered that almost 1,000 Osaka city government employees had lied about having college, i.e., they had, but did not put it on their resumes because it might have disqualified them from such jobs!) Furthermore, unlike private sector companies, public employees get their bonuses whether the economy is good or bad or, in the case of the Social Insurance Agency, even after they lose the pension records of 50 million people (2008 year-end bonuses for most public employees were about the same as 2007, global economic crisis notwithstanding).
In addition to their generous salary and bonuses, public servants get a wealth of extra allowances and benefits. Mothers working for the government can take up to three years’ maternity leave (compared to up to one year in the private sector, if you are lucky). Some government workers may also get bonuses when their children reach the age of majority, extra pay for staying single or not getting promoted, or “travel” allowances just for going across town. Perhaps the most shocking example Wakabayashi offers is the extra pay given to the workers at Hello Work (Japan’s unemployment agency) to compensate them for the stress of dealing with the unemployed.
I don't understand why we don't have contracts that limit the amount available and the entity that accepts the contract must meet those limits.
You would wind up with a lot of unfinished projects and bankrupt contractors. The solution is to go back to basics, get government out of where it does not belong. As Ayn Rand suggested, the proper roles for government are limited to security, defense and the arbitration of disputes.
Hay que tener bolas para ir en busca del progreso a un país fracasado, Bielorrusia.
Abandonada la comuna agroindustrial “William Lara” (foto) abril 28, 2014 2:53 pm
Filas de viviendas sin terminar la comuna agroindustrial “William Lara” en Guárico / Foto Meridith Kohut / Bloomberg
La comuna agroindustrial “William Lara”, que contribuiría “con el fortalecimiento de la seguridad y soberanía alimentaria del país” presenta hoy un estado de abandono, según reseña la agencia Bloomberg en su trabajo de investigación periodística “Chavez’s Farming Utopia Withers as Pet Projects Abandoned” (en inglés). ”El presidente muerió y el proyecto murió con él“, dijo a Bloomberg Eumir Pérez , ex coordinador de la comuna William Lara. “El gobierno está demasiado ocupado en mantenerse en el poder, luchando contra la guerra económica de los capitalistas. Ahora nadie sueña grande“. Un año después de su muerte , los últimos 30 trabajadores de la comuna se dedican a la remoción de los equipos.
La comuna de 300 millones de dólares es uno de los muchos proyectos en los que el gobierno ha despilfarrado los 50 mil millones de dólaes que Venezuela recibe cada año a partir de las exportaciones de petróleo , dijo Anabella Abadi , analista de la consultora política pública ODH Grupo Consultor . El informe anual 2013 de la Contraloría General de la República dice que hay 4.381 proyectos de infraestructura pública en Venezuela sin terminar, un cuarto de ellos iniciados antes de 2006.
El contrato de desarrollo de la comuna se le adjudicó sin licitación a la constructora biolorrusa Belzarubezhstroy, conocida como BZS. Comenzó los trabajos de la comuna William Lara en el año 2011 y estaba programado para terminar el proyecto a finales del año 2012 , según el informe anual del Ministerio de Agricultura de ese año. El plan preveía la construcción de 500 casas , una escuela, silos de grano , campos de deportes , tiendas, una subestación eléctrica , una fábrica de leche y un matadero.
Reseñaba que durante un Consejo de Ministros, efectuado este jueves en el Palacio de Miraflores, en Caracas, el presidente Hugo Chávez manifestó que esta unidad forma parte de las cinco comunas agrícolas altamente especializadas que fueron planificadas el año pasado en un proyecto conjunto con el gobierno bielorruso.
Chávez informó que la Comuna Agroindustrial Socialista Willian Lara dispondrá de 300 millones de dólares, recursos que aportará el Fondo de Desarrollo Nacional (Fonden).
La comuna está ubicada en la ribera sur del río Guárico, en un área en forma de triángulo e integrada por zonas de San Juan de Los Morros-El Sombrero y Calabozo. Se trata de 7.817 hectáreas “que hace un año eran un latifundio abandonado y ahí están, una de las mejores tierras no sólo del Guárico sino de Venezuela”, expresó el Mandatario.
Chavez's Farming Utopia Withers as Pet Projects Abandoned By Anatoly Kurmanaev Apr 28, 2014 11:11 AM GMT-0430
Photographer: Meridith Kohut/Bloomberg Rows of new farm equipment, imported from Belarus, sit unused at the "William Lara" agro-industrial commune in the... Read More
The harvesters imported to overcome food shortages are gathering cobwebs near a burnt corn field in central Venezuela. A short distance away is the shell of a fertilizer plant and rows of empty red-roofed bungalows.
This is the William Lara agricultural commune, the first of five such projects that former President Hugo Chavez said were going to reverse a 11-year rise in food imports and put products back on the nation's shelves. One year after his death, the last 30 workers on the site are removing equipment, surrounded by 4,300 soccer fields-worth of cleared land baking in the savanna heat.
"The president dies and the project dies with him," Eumir Perez, William Lara's former coordinator, said in an interview in Calabozo, a town in Guarico state 60 miles (97 kilometers) from the project. "The government is too busy staying in power, fighting against the capitalists' economic war. No one dreams big anymore."
The $300 million commune is one of the many projects on which the government has squandered the $50 billion Venezuela receives each year from oil exports, said Anabella Abadi, an analyst at public policy consultancy ODH Grupo Consultor. The national comptroller office's 2013 annual report says there are 4,381 unfinished public infrastructure projects in Venezuela, a quarter of them started before 2006.
The projects include 100 kilometers of an elevated train line from Valencia, Venezuela's third biggest city, to Cagua that was halted in 2010, and Steel City -- a town with houses, shops and steel plants in Bolivar state, which remains flatland.
Work on William Lara, the rural version of the Steel City, stopped last year after about $120 million was spent on clearing the land and building the first 176 houses.
The construction will resume after the government figures out a way of bringing water to the site 125 miles south of Caracas, Agriculture Minister Yvan Gil said.
"This is a technical problem, that our specialists are working to resolve," Gil, 41, said in an interview in his Caracas office on April 10. "The project is advancing."
Perez said construction began without checking water availability and now a dam would have to be dug to make the project viable.
Spokesmen for Maduro's office and the Information Ministry declined to comment on project delays in Venezuela.
Chavez set up off-budget funds that are not subject to parliamentary oversight to finance infrastructure projects. The funds have spent $112 billion since 2005, including the resources for the William Lara project, according to the Finance Ministry's annual report.
"These are part of this government's unfulfilled promises," Abadi said in an interview in Caracas.
Ribbon-cutting ceremonies at new housing blocks and playgrounds helped Chavez's hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro win election in April 2013, while failing to revive industry, said Abadi. Non-oil exports fell to 4 percent of the total in the first nine months of 2013 from 19 percent 10 years earlier, according to central bank.
The decline of local industry and dollar shortages pushed inflation to 59 percent in March and emptied shelves of basic goods such as milk and soap, fueling two months of protests that have left at least 41 people dead.
Venezuela's dollar bonds trade at the highest risk premium in the world, with investors demanding 10.41 extra percentage points to own the country's notes instead of U.S. Treasuries. The country's bolivar slumped 88 percent against the dollar when the government opened a new currency market last month to ease trading restrictions.
Chavez's plans for agricultural communes began with a visit to Belarus in 2007, when his counterpart Aleksandr Lukashenko took him on a tour of projects dating from the Soviet Union's 1930s collectivization, said Perez, who now advises the president of Venezuela's state agriculture fund.
Belarus shares similar economic problems with Venezuela. The country, which former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the "last dictatorship in Europe," has seen its currency weaken 70 percent against the dollar since 2011 and has the world's third fastest inflation after Venezuela and Iran, according to its central bank.
Belorussian construction company BelZarubezhStroy, known as BZS, began work on William Lara in 2011 and was scheduled to complete the project by the end of 2012, according to the Agriculture Ministry's annual report for that year. The plan envisaged 500 houses, a school, grain silos, sports grounds, shops, a power substation, a milk factory and a slaughterhouse. The project is named after a Guarico governor and Chavez ally who died in 2010 when he drove his car into a river.
Setting an Example
The commune would "set the example for the development of agro-industry of Venezuela," Chavez said in July 2012 after meeting a Belorussian delegation.
Farmers from the nearby towns of Calabozo and El Sombrero never came to the project amid the water and funding shortages. Meter-high dry grass now covers acres of fields cleared of stones and spindly dwarf trees, as new gravel roads snake across the featureless terrain. Some corn fields were burnt to chase away rodents because local workers weren't sure how to use the Belorussian machines to harvest the crop.
Agriculture and food supply were at the heart of Chavez's poverty reduction campaign during his 14 years in power, including land redistribution, farm credits and investment in rural infrastructure, Agriculture Minister Gil said.
Grains and corn production has doubled in the past 15 years as a result, he said. "Very few countries in the world can say this."
Higher grains volumes have failed to make up for the stagnant production of more expensive products such as milk and beef, said Alejandro Gutierrez, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of the Andes in Merida. Venezuela imports 70 percent of its food today, compared with about 50 percent in the late 1990s, according to the National Agriculture Industry Association, known as Fedeagro.
"Production hasn't kept up with demand, pushing the country's food security to critical levels," Gutierrez said by telephone on April 21.
A decade of price controls on basic goods has exacerbated the situation. A kilogram of meat costs 8 bolivars (12 U.S. cents at the black market rate) and rice is 3 bolivars a kilogram in the Mercal state supermarket chain, fueling hoarding and smuggling to neighboring Colombia and leaving shelves bare.
More than one in four basic goods was out of stock in Latin America's fourth-largest economy in January, the most since records began, according to the central bank. The bank stopped publishing up-to-date scarcity data last month.
"The legacy of this government is a very low rate of execution," Jose Guerra, economics professor at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, said by phone April 21. "They have tried to do too many things at the same time, causing inefficiency and waste."
Habla el hermano del ex capitán de la GNB torturado abril 23, 2014 10:16 pm Publicado en: Actualidad, Regionales
La esposa y el hermano del capitán retirado de la GNB Juan Carlos Nieto, conversaron esta noche en CNN, donde expusieron al mundo la detención/secuestro sufrido por Nieto a principios del mes de abril.
Recordemos que el capitán retirado, fue fue detenido por funcionarios de la Dirección General de Inteligencia Militar en el centro comercial Plaza Las Américas, una detención que posteriormente se convirtió en secuestro. Nieto fue torturado por sus captores, quienes lo malograron colocándole electricidad en testículos y tetillas.
El hermano de la víctima, Javier Nieto, denunció al Gobierno por las torturas que recibió Juan Carlos. “El Estado se desnuda en su talante terrorista y criminal. Esto es un secuestro gubernamental, el Estado hace uso de su aparato jurídico para disponer de toda su maquinaria para detener a alguien que piensa distinto”.
“A los culpables hay que llamarlos por su nombre para que sepan que algún día responderán ante la justicia. El General Rivero Marcano, el Ministro de Interior y Justicia Rodríguez Torres y la cabeza del régimen, Nicolás Maduro, deberán responder ante la justicia”, apuntó.
Nieto aseguró que la persecución que tienen contra los oficiales se debe a pensar distinto. “La persecución a nosotros y al resto de oficiales es debido a que hemos expuestos con firmeza nuestro desacuerdo a un Estado que utiliza los recursos de la nación para armar bandas, llamados los colectivos, para asesinar”.
Además añadió “Tampoco nos aceptan que mostremos, según la Constitución, un desacuerdo contra la injerencia cubana en la Fanb”.
“Nunca creímos en proyectos, aceptamos la democracia y respetamos a presidente elegido democráticamente. Pero cuando un general nos dice que tenemos que ser amigos de la Farc y el ELN por cuestiones ideológicas, no lo aceptamos. Hemos sido objetos de persecución por eso”, finalizó.
El racionamiento es admisión involuntaria del fracaso económico del chavismo y es un fracaso ideológico. Durante las elecciones presidenciales del año 1997, la última elección libre de fraude, tuve oportunidad de observar los candidatos comunistas por la tele.
El candidato Henrique Salas Römer, ex-gobernador del estado Carabobo, proponía la necesidad de mejoras en la administración de los bienes del estado. Un reportero entrevistando a un candidato comunista cuyo nombre no recuerdo le preguntó sobre esta propuesta de campaña. El comunista informó que el gobierno no se trataba de administración sino de política. Esos son los que hoy manejan es país, no con administración sino con ideología política.
La escasez se debe al control de precios. Con la escasez viene el acaparamiento cada uno tratando de prevenir la falta de tal o cual producto en el futuro imediato. Una tarjeta de racionamiento, que el mercado negro va a ignorar, es mas burocracia para entorpecer aun mas lo poco que queda del libre mercado.
Ayer no encontré ni uno solo de los seis artículos que traté de comprar en la farmacia. Ni siquiera aspirina. Varios de los medicamento son prescripciones de por vida y la solución para la escasez es comprar para varios meses cuando hay. Este es acaparamiento que el gobierno pretende evitar pero se olvidan que la escasez la causaron ellos mismos.
Señores chavistas, la política no se come, ni alimenta ni cura.
Lomas de Niquel as apparently not fared well under its new management. An investigation last year by former planning minister Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper Tal Cual found that, after one year of government management, Lomas de Niquel's furnaces were "operating at minimum capacity for lack of electrode paste, an important input to produce nickel," that they were unable to sell the nickel abroad "because it does not meet international standards," that "heavy equipment stood idle due to lack of oil and filters," and that "the purchase of supplies, spare parts and raw materials is paralyzed by lack of money."
Anglo American Files Suit Against Venezuela at ICSID Venezuela now has 28 cases pending against it – the most of any nation in the world. Argentina, which had previously held the number one spot, now has only 24 cases listed as pending.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Global mining company Anglo American PLC has become the latest corporation to file suit against Venezuela over its treatment of investors.
The World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has accepted a request for arbitration against Venezuela filed by Anglo American’s lawyers, powerhouse law firms Baker & McKenzie and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
According to the ICSID docket, Venezuela now has 28 cases pending against it – the most of any nation in the world -- after a rash of expropriations and nationalizations by Venezuela's late firebrand President Hugo Chavez. Argentina, which had previously held the number one spot after defaulting on $100 billion in debt, now has only 24 cases listed as pending.
Anglo American, one of the world’s largest diversified miners, had held a 91.4% share in the Loma de Niquel mine in Venezuela until 2012 when the Chavez government cancelled 13 concessions and refused to renew 3 others. “Despite attempts to enable a continuation of operations, our last application for renewal was refused and the concessions and permits granted by the government expired on 10 November 2012,” the company explains. “As of 10 November 2012, therefore, Anglo American’s mining and production activities at Loma de Niquel ceased permanently.”
Loma de Niguel had accounted for 13,400 metric tons of Anglo’s 29,100 tons of nickel production in 2011. The mine’s proved and probable ore reserves totaled 4.6 million metric tons at the end of 2011, Anglo American said in 2011's annual report, adding that it took an $84 million charge “mainly arising” from the Venezuelan concessions.
“The accelerated depreciation charge at Loma de Níquel has arisen due to ongoing uncertainty over the renewal of three concessions that expire in 2012 and over the restoration of 13 concessions that have been cancelled,” the company said at the time.
Anglo American, which had revenue of $33.063 billion last year, had been the largest investor in Venezuelan mining. In 2010, Anglo sold its 25.5% ownership in Carbones del Guasare S.A. which operates the Paso Diablo Mine to Peabody Energy. Paso Diablo is a surface operation in northwestern Venezuela that produced thermal coal for export primarily to the U.S. and Europe.
Lomas de Niquel as apparently not fared well under its new management. An investigation last year by former planning minister Teodoro Petkoff's newspaper Tal Cual found that, after one year of government management, Lomas de Niquel's furnaces were "operating at minimum capacity for lack of electrode paste, an important input to produce nickel," that they were unable to sell the nickel abroad "because it does not meet international standards," that "heavy equipment stood idle due to lack of oil and filters," and that "the purchase of supplies, spare parts and raw materials is paralyzed by lack of money."
Venezuela had been a member of ICSID since 1993, but Chavez formally removed the country from ICSID jurisdiction in January of 2012, saying he would not accept any further rulings from the arbitration court. However, clauses in bilateral investment treaties and individual contracts continue to give ICSID jurisdiction to hear cases against Venezuela.
Other companies with pending ICSID arbitrations against Venezuela include Gold Reserve Inc., Rusoro Mining Ltd., Tidewater Inc., Williams Cos. Inc., Koch Industries Inc., Owens-Illinois Inc., Tenaris SA, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.
ICSID is an autonomous international institution established in 1965 under the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (the ICSID or the Washington Convention) with over one hundred and forty member States. The Convention sets forth ICSID's mandate, organization and core functions. The primary purpose of ICSID is to provide facilities for conciliation and arbitration of international investment disputes.
New Age World Government is about the Elite (a self selected group of people) lording it over the rest of us for our own good. It is not only the Socialists who think this way. To a lesser extent, the Founding Fathers didn't trust the electorate and created the Electoral College to make sure no "mistakes" were made. And, of course, they didn't thrust women, poor people and other substandard specimens of Man to vote at all.
Sowell presents a devastating critique of the mind-set behind the failed social policies of the past thirty years. Sowell sees what has happened during that time not as a series of isolated mistakes but as a logical consequence of a tainted vision whose defects have led to crises in education, crime, and family dynamics, and to other social pathologies. In this book, he describes how elites—the anointed—have replaced facts and rational thinking with rhetorical assertions, thereby altering the course of our social policy.
Democracy has its limits and its dangers but for all that I would not replace it by a tyranny of the Elite. Yet some people welcome such tyrannies. Some are so stupid as to become suicide killers or martyrs for some celestial spaghetti monster. Or they go to their death like the ones did with "revered" Jones in Guyana. It does have a plus side, stupid dead genes don't reproduce.
"the tyranny in Venezuela has global roots, global backers"
Besides Sean Penn who are these global roots and backs?
In LatinAmerica the socialist governments of Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua at a minimum. In Africa, Mugabe. Putin loves to replace America in arms sales. China loves to buy our oil. Belarus is erecting the "dignified housing" projects in Caracas (their workers are transported in luxury air conditioned busses). Iran set up car and bicycle factories that so far have produced nothing but it is rumored that they are buying our uranium, there is a lot of traffic between our two countries. The countries that are getting cheap Venezuelan oil. And just about any nation that loves tweaking America's nose. Many American Democrats have recanted their support for the Venezuelan regime but Jimmy Carter is not one of them.
Socialism, as opposed to nationalism, is an international movement. There is very much of that "new age" idea of world government of world order. In Europe you see it in the huge powers Brussels has collected for itself. The guys in Brussels mostly are not elected but appointed (like the most powerful person in America the Fed chair[wo]man). Just imagine what the UN would to the the USA if it were not for the veto power. Countries can put criminals in jail but the UN won't sanction most criminal nations. How do you put North Korea in jail?
Dismembering frogs to find out what makes them tick is scientific.
Yesterday I almost found myself in a protest being dispersed by government assassins using tear gas and other means of violence. The protest had started out peacefully enough, the violence was started by the government assassins sadly misnamed Bolivarian National Guard and Bolivarian National Police. Clearly Bolivarian means wicked.
On the way home I passed a group of some six open trucks of Bolivarian National Guards waiting for their turn to crack skulls. They were smiling and apparently having a good time. If you take the time to have a good look you see that their vehicles are brand new as are their uniforms and weapons. There is no lack of dollars to buy protection for the illegitimate state but not enough to buy food for the people they swore to serve.
Machiavelli states that an unpopular Prince will tumble. Not if he has enough violence on his side which clearly the illegitimate Venezuelan state has. Some ten or twelve years ago several soldiers were killed with flame throwers during "exercises." It was claimed to be an unfortunate accident and the killers were never tried. In my opinion it was part of an indoctrination campaign to scare the soldiers into unquestioning obedience under threat of torture and death. At higher levels officials are allowed to commit crimes but these are zealously recorded. Should in time an officer refuse to follow orders the evidence against him is used for blackmail. Just recently a judge confessed to her childhood friend that she ordered Leopoldo Lopez jailed under order to do so and under threat to lose her job if she didn't.
One has to question where such well oiled machinery of repression came from. Did the local Chavistas dream it up or was it imported from Russia, Cuba and China? Again a bit of history is illuminating. In his early years as president a globe trotting Chavez visited every long lived tyrant he could find including Mugabe, Gadaffi, Saddam Hussein not to mention his dearly beloved Castro brothers. What was Chavez looking for? What had these failed states to offer? One must be naive to think anything besides how to stay in power come hell or high water.
A regime based solely on the ideology of staying in power cannot be removed with flower power and peaceful marches. Socialism in Venezuela is a red herring but there is not enough time and space here for a full discussion. As martial arts practitioners you must realize that the time comes to counter force with force. Against well armed military and police that means bloodshed, bloodshed that does not guarantee success, only suffering. A dozen years ago I didn't want foreign help but the realization that the tyranny in Venezuela has global roots, global backers, has made me change my mind. A little bit of help from our friends would be appreciated. Not that it's likely to come from the OAS or the UN which are dominated by petty tyrants.
Many in the opposition were wishing Chavismo would disappear with the death of Chavez. They may get their wish. Chavez was a smooth and charismatic operator, something which Maduro most certainly is not. Last year while riding on the subway I heard a Chavista lady saying that Maduro would be disaster because he was not like Chavez, whom she adored. Her words are turning out prescient. Many of us figured that the succession wars inside Chavismo would weaken the regime. I don't recall anyone predicting the violent protests that are taking place. I don't recall ever seeing urban warfare in Venezuela with Molotov cocktails. Never before had a judge admitted being pressured to jail a political opponent (it went viral on Twitter). While I would not bet on "The death of ‘Chavismo’" the odds are growing.
The death of ‘Chavismo’ in Venezuela
Under Nicolas Maduro, student protests against the late Chávez’s policies have boiled over into violent street battles
by David Agren
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
Caracas-based bond trader Russ Dallen looks for small signals with which to gauge Venezuela and its economy. He found one last year when he ran out of toilet paper and searched for it unsuccessfully in three stores. “I found this great Argentine wine,” he recalls, but no toilet paper. The government subsequently ordered 50 million rolls of the stuff, including some from Costco, which, according to Dallen, it bought retail in the U.S. and imported—all of which sold out in short order.
Such shortages are common in Venezuela, and spark discontent in the long lines that form at supermarkets running low on everything from paper products to corn flour to cooking oil. Inflation, meanwhile, registered at 56 per cent last year, among the highest rates in the world, although the unofficial tallies reach the triple digits.
For the past five weeks, anger has boiled over into deadly street protests, with 25 lives lost and the government cracking down hard. In one instance this month, a group of armed men on motorcycles fired into a crowd of protesters, killing three.
The backlash started with a protest over an attempted rape on a college campus in the city of San Cristóbal. Police forcibly broke up the protest and jailed a handful of students in faraway prisons, which provoked even more protests throughout the country. The situation quickly spiralled beyond outrage over a sexual assault and into a fight for the future of Venezuela and the consequences of 15 years of “Chavismo,” the political and economic policies of the late president, Hugo Chávez.
Students see limited opportunities in a country with a state-controlled economy and increased insecurity. “It’s about students realizing that for them it’s a very difficult path after university,” says Carlos Cárdenas, deputy head of Latin America forecasting with IHS in London. Protesting law student Agnly Veliz recently told Reuters, “What’s the point of graduating while the country is in chaos?”
President Nicolás Maduro, who won a tight 2013 election and claims Chávez has appeared to him in prayer as a “little bird,” has dismissed the protests as an attempt to overthrow his government and called the students “Nazi fascists.” But he sees a growing threat in the student protests to the “chavista” system and he has used the unrest as an excuse to censor the media. He pulled the plug on Colombian cable news channel NTN. Many Venezuelans took to Twitter, only have the Internet cut and the site allegedly blocked.
The regime Maduro inherited from Chávez, who succumbed to cancer last year, appears to be teetering after years of mismanagement. Chávez promoted “21st-century socialism” and showered money on the poor from what was treated as a bottomless barrel of petrobucks. He also gave oil to allies in the region—allowing them repay with beans, if they bothered to repay at all. “Chavismo is durable because it tapped into a deep history of economic divide in Venezuela,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “But the model is financially unsustainable.”
State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s output is down by nearly a million barrels per day since Chávez took office in 1999. Venezuela sells fewer barrels to the United States, which pays more than other customers but has needed less oil from Venezuela due the growth in North American production. Venezuela has borrowed some $40 billion from China since 2008, says Dallen—with some of the money going toward providing poor households with Chinese-made appliances on the eve of elections. Venezuela now sends the country 650,000 barrels per day as repayment—half of which are sold at steep discounts. “Venezuela borrowed beyond its ability to pay,” Dallen says, adding that enormous amount of reﬁned petroleum products are consumed domestically, with gasoline selling for just pennies a litre.
Maduro’s response to the protests has reinforced the former bus driver and union boss’s reputation as a brute—unlike Chávez, who maintained his own popularity (to the point there are St. Hugo shrines) while keeping the opposition off balance. “There were things that kept Chávez from being so overly authoritarian and openly violent: his rhetorical prowess and money,” says Francisco Toro, a Montreal-based author of the Caracas Chronicles blog. But with Venezuela’s troubles worsening fast, “it’s obvious that Maduro isn’t going to have either.”
The political opposition is split between hardliners supporting the students and those encouraging dialogue. Chávez could manipulate the opposition: “He knew how to push our buttons,” Toro says. But with Maduro, the crackdown may be a sign of what’s to come. “The point of increasing the pressure, from the government’s point of view, has been to create a new normal,” Toro says. “If you go out and protest, you will be repressed and thrown in jail.”
Published on Feb 28, 2014 A esta hora vecinos reportan que el General [R] Angel Vivas, ex preso político y crítico del Gobierno Bolivariano se encuentra fusil en mano, con chaleco antibalas, en su hogar resistiendo un inminente allanamiento.
Hasta ahora no se ha conocido si se cuenta con una orden judicial.
Vivas, denunció en su cuenta de Twitter que esbirros venezolanos atacan mi casa". Vecinos aseguraron que "no se quiere entregar y tiene una ametralladora".
Testigos del hecho indicaron que un grupo de funcionarios militares, con vehículos y motos llegaron a la casa de Vivas para arrestarlo luego de que Nicolás Maduro lo acusara de estar involucrado en el "entrenamiento" de personas que han puesto guayas en varios puntos de la ciudad.
También reportaron que la GNB trancó la Avenida El Paseo cerca de la embajada de la República Popular China y ellos respondieron con barricadas frente a los funcionarios con vehículos y basura.
El General Vivas denunció en el pasado la penetración de militares Cubanos en las Fuerzas Armadas de Venezuela,
Note: This photo was not taken in a slum, it's the old colonial center of the town of Petare. It was restored a very long time ago and is quite pleasant. I know the place because a friend lives nearby. In the greater Petare area there are big slums. The last mason to work in our building lives there.
Note: This is part of a slum in greater Petare area. We call the houses "ranchos." The only government in over 50 years that managed to reduce their number was General Marcos Pérez Jimenez, the "dictator" who was overthrown by the so called democratic parties in 1958.
PETARE, Venezuela (AP) — The two students venture into one of Latin America's biggest slums for the first time, feeling scared and somewhat awkward. Their mission: to broaden support for their anti-government protest movement in the low-income barrios whose working poor the late President Hugo Chavez championed.
"Our families didn't want us to come up here," says Fernando Viscuna, a 21-year-old international commerce major at the Instituto Universitario de Nuevas Profesiones. "But if you want a better country, it's got to be done."
He and Jhony Pulido, a curly-haired 22-year-old economics student at Andres Bello University, are earnest foot soldiers in an incipient bridge-building effort by students whose five-week-old protest movement has badly convulsed the country and triggered a firm government crackdown.
The students have no illusions. If anything is to change, they need allies in the very districts that Chavez converted into bulwarks of support by investing tens of billions of dollars in oil income in generous social welfare programs.
In two hours of knocking on doors and canvassing shop owners in the hilltop barrio of El Morro, accompanied by a local auto mechanics teacher allied with the opposition, the students get a polite but mostly cool reception.
Most people barely engage them. Some, like 79-year-old retired plumber Valentin Castillo, openly dismiss them.
"You're killing a lot of people, torching cars. You're against us, against everyone," Castillo says, raising his voice.
"Exactly. We agree with you. We're against the blockades, too," says Viscuna, trying to get in a word.
But Castillo doesn't buy it.
He mentions the slaying of National Guardsmen, the government's shock troops against protesters, by unknown gunmen — four have now been killed — and a motorcyclist who authorities say was killed by a steel cable stretched across a street by protesters.
"What are they looking for with this fight?" Castillo demands, doubting Viscuna's claim not to endorse violence or seek the overthrow of President Nicolas Maduro.
Some people the students meet say they, too, are fed up enough with worsening food shortages, crippling inflation and unchecked violent crime — the very maladies that precipitated the unrest — and would take to the streets, too, but for their fear of pistol-packing pro-government posses known as "colectivos" that have violently suppressed dissent. The colectivos have been implicated in at least six protest-related killings, only one in metropolitan Caracas.
Katherin Castillo, a 35-year-old single mother of five, and her neighbors are exhausted by the roulette that food shopping has become, of spending hours in queues outside state-run supermarkets in hopes that flour, milk, cooking oil will show up at subsidized prices.
On this morning, chicken is all Castillo has on offer at the storefront canteen where she serves cheap breakfasts.
"I would go out and protest. But I'm afraid," Castillo says after the students leave. "The colectivos are abusing their power, and a mother can't take risks."
The auto mechanics teacher who accompanies the students, Jorge Idrogo, says colectivos threw him to the street when he tried to protest at a busy Petare intersection on Feb. 17, his banner torn away while national police stood by idly. Such stories about colectivos abound.
Earlier this month, colectivos twice prevented students from entering Petare to explain themselves in assemblies with residents in two districts, says Idrogo, 35.
"It's the only way around the government media blackout," he says. State-run media portray student protesters as violent troublemakers bent on destroying the gains of 15 years of socialist-inspired advances.
Student leader Alfredo Graffe of Simon Bolivar University said the movement has held more than a dozen informational meetings in working-class districts since late February, but says it is only safe for students to visit by daylight.
In the lower middle-class district of Caricuao in Caracas' mostly pro-government west, colectivos have broken up all five student-organized protests since mid-February. In other parts of the proletarian west, students have dared not even try.
Which is why the handbill that Idrogo presses into people's hands as he works his neighborhood with the students, his wife and two young children, stresses the shared problems of all Venezuelans in simple language spoken by stick figures in comic book-like balloons.
"I've been robbed."
"I don't know when the water will come back on."
"They didn't get the guy who killed him."
"Two months without obtaining milk."
The handbills that the students distribute use fancier words and list demands: The government must acknowledge that its economic policies are bankrupting the country. It must halt censorship, reverse violent crime that has made Venezuela a world leader in murder.
But Venezuela's poor are, on the whole, more worried about losing the pensions, subsidies, education and basic health services gained under Chavez if the opposition were to come to power.
That's what University of Georgia sociology graduate student Rebecca Hanson says people tell her in the sprawling working-class district of Catia in Caracas' west, where she has been living on-and-off since 2009. "I think people are widely interpreting the protests as seeking to get Maduro out of office and nothing else."
On top of that, the students have not clearly articulated an agenda, says Luis Vicente Leon, director of the Venezuelan Datanalisis polling firm. And they're divided among moderates and radicals just like the main opposition parties.
"I'd say the majority are moderates, but they've been tainted by the radical battle at the barricades, and get blamed for it," says Leon. In all, at least 26 people have been killed in the unrest, by government count.
Ironically, many of the protesters who have battled riot police regularly in Caracas' upper class Chacao district in recent weeks hail from poorer barrios, where they say they don't dare protest publicly.
Those who have tried to organize peaceful marches in their home districts say the repressive response from armed, government-allied groups has been swift.
When colectivos broke up a Feb. 17 protest in the southwestern district of Caricuao, firing tear gas and blocking marchers with motorcycles as National Guardsmen stood by idly, a local colectivo leader approached the father of Jefres Henriquez, a 23-year-old student activist who lives there.
The leader knew both father and son because Henriquez had once worked at a children's summer camp that the colectivo runs.
"He showed my father a photo of me and said, 'We need to take action against your son,' said Henriquez.
So he fled, and didn't return for a week.
"When I got back, I got calls from colectivo members who said they wanted to meet with me," said Henriquez.
Fearful, he declined.
Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report.
BTW Denny, I want you to know, and I think I speak for the collective effort here, that your posts are greatly appreciated. I would chalk up the rather small number of rejoinders to the fact that we do not have much to add-- but note that the read to post ratio on the Venezuelan threads (about 150/1 on this one) is quite strong.
When one is not in the trenches or in the command post there is not much one can say beyond reporting what one perceives as the facts specially if the news are about a distant land. I'm not expecting replies to my posts, I'm quite happy that in a small way I'm able to overcome the tyrant's censorship. If the members of this forum were to rebroadcast these news to other forums and social networks, that would be highly appreciated.
Didn't you used to post on the infamous Gilder Tech Board yrs ago?
I most certainly did!
Do you ever feel in danger in Venezuela?
No more than elsewhere if you know how to stay out of unnecessary trouble. But on occasion one does feel a terrible pressure of not being in control. You have to remember that good news is not news and sells no papers. The lost Malaysian plane is getting hundreds of headlines but the thousands of flights that arrive safely get none at all.
Narrated in Spanish but the images need no translation. In America a video such as this would have a warning label.
I'm amazed that it has taken some people fifteen years to realize that peaceful elections is not the practical solution to dictatorship any more than prayers are the cure for cancer. Cancer is fought with deadly force, surgery and chemotherapy. Dictatorship is a social cancer that needs to be destroyed with deadly force.
To Those That Think Maduro Is Not A Dictator: ¿Qué Pasa en Venezuela? by Foro Penal Venezolano March 14, 2014
I am still amazed by the number of people that are still saying we should wait for elections, bla, bla bla. The video above proves beyond any doubt that Nicolas Maduro has become the Dictator of Venezuela. He has to go. Period.
And if you still have doubts, read Gustavo Coronel’s article “Approaching the Unthinkable” about Venezuela importing oil and you will realize that indeed, under Chavismo, all that oil underground will always stay there.
World Bank's ICSID Rejects Venezuela "Appeal" over ConocoPhillips
CARACAS -- In a 2-1 decision, the World Bank's arbitration panel, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), has rejected Venezuela's request for "reconsideration" of ICSID's September 2013 finding that it had jurisdiction and that Venezuela was liable for the expropriation of ConocoPhillips' investments in the Latin American nation.
ConocoPhillips originally brought the biggest case to date against Venezuela in December of 2007, seeking $30 billion in compensation for stakes in two Orinoco projects - Petrozuata and Hamaca - and two joint venture exploration agreements in the Gulf of Paria, all of which Venezuela expropriated in 2007.
After years of briefs and hearings -- including an attempt by Venezuela to disqualify one of the 3 arbitrating judges and the death and replacement of another -- on September 3, 2013, ICSID ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear the claim and that Venezuela had indeed breached its obligations under the Netherland's Bilateral Investment Treaty "to negotiate in good faith" to compensate ConocoPhillips for the expropriation and was therefor liable to pay damages for the expropriation.
In an unusual move that the majority of the panel ruled was not allowed, Venezuela sought to have the panel "re-consider" the jurisdiction and liability decision, after writing a letter 5 days after the decision, on September 8, 2013 (below), and claiming that new evidence had come to light via a U.S. Embassy cable leaked by Wikileaks that Venezuela had not stopped negotiating.
After examining the ICSID treaty and past rulings, "the majority of the Tribunal concludes that it does not have the power to reconsider the Decision of 3 September 2013," the majority made up of Judge Kenneth Keith, President, and L. Yves Fortier, CC, QC, wrote. "Section 3 of Part IV of the ICSID Convention sets out the Powers and Functions of the Tribunal, with nothing among its provisions even hinting at such a power."
The judge appointed by Venezuela, Egyptian Professor Georges Abi-Saab, dissented.
Abi-Saab, who replaced English barrister Sir Ian Brownlie after Brownlie died in 2009, has a law degree from Cairo University, an MA in Economics from the University of Paris, an MA in Economics from the University of Michigan, a Masters of Law (LLM) and SJD from Harvard Law School, and Doctor of Political Science from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, according to his biography.
"A strong case can be made for the existence of a general power of reconsideration by an ICSID tribunal of its interlocutory decisions (within certain limits or under certain conditions all the same) in a case still pending before it," wrote Abi-Saab in his lone dissent, that contained many typographical and grammatical errors. "However, if the answer to the question whether such a power exists or not were to be in the negative, there remains the possibility ... that the Tribunal possess a specific power for dealing with requests based on a particular or certain particular legal grounds."
The ICSID panel then ordered Venezuela and ConocoPhillips to move on to arguing over how much the award should be. ConocoPhillips, which says it invested over $4.6 billion in the oil ventures starting in the 1990s, is now reportedly seeking $6.5 billion for the siezed assets. Venezuela has offered $2.3 billion.
ConocoPhillips is to file their damages brief ("Memorial on Quantum") by May 19, with Venezuela's damages brief due 10 weeks later. After that, both sides will have another 8 weeks in which each will file Reply Briefs, with ICSID fixing a hearing for oral arguments after that.
Another U.S. oil giant, Exxon Mobil Corp, has been seeking up to $10 billion at ICSID also for the expropriation in 2007 of a large heavy crude project in the Orinoco region. In February of 2012, Venezuela was ordered to pay ExxonMobil about $908 million in compensation by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in lost contractual earnings because of the expropriations (decision below).
"The ICSID decision on the actual losses suffered by ExxonMobil from Venezuela's expropriation is expected soon," says Russ Dallen, an international lawyer and banker who follows the cases and studied under ICSID judge Sir Ian Brownlie at Oxford University. "Venezuela and ExxonMobil filed their final post-hearing briefs almost 2 years ago in May of 2012."
In the ConocoPhillips case, Venezuela may keep stalling for time, says Dallen. "Apparently, Venezuela now intends to try to disqualify the 2 judges that ruled against them on the panel -- even after they had already challenged one and lost."
In October of 2011, Venezuela filed a challenge to Canadian Judge L. Yves Fortier, QC, who had been appointed by ConocoPhillips. A tribunal heard the challenge and ruled against Venezuela 4 months later in February of 2012.
For the record, this is not yet the time for talks - Denny Schlesinger.
Protests and talks widen rifts in Venezuela opposition By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS (Reuters) - As violent protests in Venezuela alienate moderates in the opposition and show no signs of toppling President Nicolas Maduro, the socialist leader's call for talks is deepening divisions between his rivals.
The country's worst civil unrest in a decade has killed at least 20 people, including supporters of both sides and members of the security forces, since early last month.
Day after day, thousands of opposition supporters march peacefully in cities around the nation, demanding political change and an end to high inflation, shortages of basic foods in stores, and one of the highest murder rates in the world.
Then every night, hooded opposition militants emerge around a square in eastern Caracas brandishing rocks and Molotov cocktails, clashing with riot police and turning one of the capital's most affluent neighborhoods into a battlefield.
The violence is fueling tensions inside the opposition, with moderates scared it could spin further out of control and tarnish the cause of peaceful political change in the future.
Maduro appears to have weathered the worst of the demonstrations on the streets for now and is repeatedly offering talks, creating a new dilemma for opposition leaders.
So far, they have put tough conditions on any discussions, saying they refuse to be part of a "photo opportunity" and that they fear the government has no intention of addressing issues such as corruption, impunity and political prisoners.
The Democratic Unity opposition coalition said on Friday it would only sit down for dialogue with Maduro if the meeting were mediated by someone "of good faith" - and broadcast live.
"We're sick of violence. Everyone is being attacked," it said in a statement. "We're showing our hand to the public ... (We want) true dialogue, a clear agenda, and equal conditions."
But with pleas for talks coming from as far afield as the White House, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis, the refusal to attend any discussions to date has drawn criticism, including from within the coalition's ranks.
Opposition lawmaker Hiram Gaviria quit his party Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time) and the coalition on Friday over its ban on attending talks at the Miraflores presidential palace.
Gaviria blamed the unrest on the government, which he said had imposed a broken social and economic model and used 15 years of "hate speech" to undermine its opponents.
But he said he would meet anyone, anywhere, to try to avoid more violence, even if dialogue stood little chance of success.
"How many more deaths must there be before we talk and find understanding?" asked the legislator from central Aragua state. "There has to be dialogue."
The opposition was deeply divided for years until it showed remarkable cohesion ahead of the 2012 presidential election and again last year when a new vote was called to succeed socialist leader Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer.
The current protests, however, have reopened old rifts between those who advocate street action to force the president from power, and others with a slow-boil strategy of building support in the cities and states they govern while letting the dysfunctional economy weaken the government.
Maduro's critics, some of whom have vowed to stay in the streets until he resigns, are demanding the release of political prisoners, justice for victims of what they call repression, and the disbandment of armed pro-government militant groups that are accused of attacking opposition protesters.
Another opposition lawmaker, Ismael Garcia, said the majority of Democratic Unity were in favor of serious talks.
"Nobody has rejected dialogue, but there have to be very clear rules to the game, and we must work together," he said.
But it is not clear how opposition leaders want to handle the demonstrations. Though Maduro's opponents condemn the violence by a small but vocal minority, they continue to support street mobilizations that often lead to such clashes.
Plaza Altamira, site of the nightly battles with riot police, once enjoyed its reputation as one of the capital's nicest spaces. Now the street corners are piled with burnt trash and charred wires, broken bricks and shattered glass.
The barricading of roads by demonstrators has led to fist-fights, fatal shootings, more teargas, and incensed cries of "repression" from more shrill voices in the opposition.
While they understand the frustration, others disagree.
"Rejecting the barricades doesn't mean one supports the government," said local political analyst Luis Vicente Leon.
Maduro appears to have survived the short-term challenge to his rule. Coinciding with the emotional anniversary of Chavez's death, the protests have even given him a chance to unite the ruling Socialist Party against a common threat.
At an event to mark International Women's Day on Saturday, Maduro consoled the sobbing wife of a pro-government actor who described how they were screamed at in a Caracas restaurant by dozens of opposition supporters who walked in banging pots and pans and yelling that her husband was a murderer.
Maduro offered again to sit down with the opposition.
"If you want, we'll do a closed-door session first and tell each other everything we need to say, and then we'll speak to the country together," he said in a nationally televised speech.
He was worried, he said, that the opposition's leadership was crumbling and creating an unpredictable power vacuum.
"I don't say this as a joke ... it's very dangerous. Anyone could take over who has violent plans, and that would be worse."
In a sign of increasing confidence, an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour that many in the opposition had hoped would prove to be a disaster for Maduro, pleased the president so much that state TV has re-run it in its entirety two nights running.
The answer which most outraged his foes in the opposition: when Amanpour asked Maduro what kept him awake at night, and he replied that he slept "peacefully, like a child."
"It was a very good interview, forgive my immodesty," he told Saturday's rally. "But any of you, if you sat with Amanpour, would answer as well or better than me, because it's the truth of the people, the true story of Venezuela."
(Additional reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh)
Biden says Venezuela 'concocting' bogus stories By FRANK BAJAK 23 minutes ago
Demonstrators lie on the ground holding statistics about the people murdered in the 14 years of Chavista government, at a protest in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 7, 2014. Venezuela is coming under increasing international scrutiny amid violence that most recently killed a National Guardsman and a civilian. United Nations human rights experts demanded answers Thursday from Venezuela's government about the use of violence and imprisonment in a crackdown on widespread demonstrations. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden calls Venezuela's situation alarming in remarks published Sunday, suggesting its government is using "armed vigilantes" against peaceful protesters and accusing it of "concocting false and outlandish conspiracy theories" about the United States.
Biden's remarks, issued in writing to a Chilean newspaper in response to questions, drew an angry rebuke from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
"We reject their aggression," President Maduro told supporters at a rally the socialist-led government held at the presidential palace. "They were defeated in the OAS and now they want revenge."
The U.S. had strongly objected to a declaration of solidarity for Venezuela issued by the Organization of American States on Friday night.
Washington said the declaration contradicted the OAS charter, in part, by stressing non-intervention in Venezuela over guaranteeing that human rights and free speech are respected there. Twenty-nine states voted in favor of Friday night's declaration with only the United States, Canada and Panama objecting.
"The situation in Venezuela reminds me of previous eras, when strongmen governed through violence and oppression; and human rights, hyperinflation, scarcity, and grinding poverty wrought havoc on the people of the hemisphere," Biden told El Mercurio.
"The situation in Venezuela is alarming," he wrote. "Confronting peaceful protesters with force and in some cases with armed vigilantes; limiting the freedoms of press and assembly necessary for legitimate political debate; demonizing and arresting political opponents; and dramatically tightening restrictions on the media" is not what Washington expects from a signatory to international human rights treaties.
Rather than engaging the opposition in a "genuine dialogue," Biden added, "Maduro has thus far tried to distract his people from the profound issues at stake in Venezuela by concocting totally false and outlandish conspiracy theories about the United States."
Maduro claims student-led protests that ignited Feb. 12, mostly peaceful but including almost daily street clashes with security forces, are an attempt by the extreme right to overthrow him.
The demonstrations have been joined mostly by middle-class Venezuelans fed up with inflation that reached 56 percent last year, chronic shortages of some food staples, and one of the world's highest murder rates. But some poorer Venezuelans, students in particular, are taking part. The government says 21 people have died.
On Sunday afternoon in eastern Caracas, about 100 demonstrators threw rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannon. Some protesters tore a bus kiosk from the sidewalk and set it ablaze, providing authorities with an opportunity to repeat on state media its accusation that anti-government activists are vandals.
Despite a growing body of evidence to the contrary, Maduro on Sunday denied that armed paramilitary supporters of the government have employed violence against protesters.
"The only violent armed groups in the street are those of the right," he told the crowd.
In a statement issued by the presidency, Maduro also accused the opposition was "receiving financing from the United States" to undermine "a solid democracy that has had the popular backing in 18 elections over 15 years." He offered no evidence.
The statement said Venezuela was nevertheless interested in renewing" full diplomatic relations with the United States based on "mutual respect" and "non-intervention."
The two nations have been without ambassadors since 2010 and Venezuela has expelled eight U.S. diplomats in the past 13 months for alleged meddling.
Maduro, the hand-picked successor of the late Hugo Chavez, later met at the presidential palace with actor-activist Sean Penn and Haiti's prime minister. Penn is an ambassador-at-large for Haiti, where he runs a nonprofit aid group. He was shown on state television and made no public comments.
Biden and Maduro are both scheduled to attend Tuesday's swearing-in of Michelle Bachelet as Chile's president.
Bachelet, who was also Chile's president in 2006-10, recently said her administration will support Maduro's government and the Venezuelan people so they can "search for the democratic means to social peace."
Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas, Josh Lederman in Washington and Luis Andres Henao in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.
Caracazo se refiere a las protestas populares de 1989
Guaicaipuro Lameda: Estamos viviendo la misma situación del Caracazo
6 Marzo, 2014
Enrique Meléndez / especial Noticiero Digital / 6 mar 2014 / imagen cortesía La Patilla.- El general Guacaipuro Lameda dice que la situación explosiva que vive hoy el país se debe a cosas a las que la gente le teme y otras que le molestan. Y que en este berenjenal se parece al que se vivió previo al Caracazo de 1989.
“”¿No estamos viviendo la misma situación? Esa es la reacción natural de una sociedad, frente a un gobierno que no le satisface sus necesidades. No nos puede extrañar lo que está ocurriendo; ahora, lo que nos puede extrañar es que quienes están en esas altas posiciones de poder no lo comprendan o lo están utilizando para beneficio propio, lo cual es una co…emadrada”", indica el general Lameda.
A continuación la primera parte de la conversación con Noticiero Digital:
¿Qué piensa usted del clima de violencia que se ha desatado en el país? ¿Acaso al gobierno se le escapó la situación de las manos?
-El clima que vive hoy el país es la respuesta natural de una sociedad frente a la perturbación que vive, frente a la insatisfacción de sus necesidades. La sociedad venezolana venía de una cantidad de cosas que le preocupan y cantidad de cosas que le molestan.
-Por ejemplo, ¿a qué le teme la gente? La gente le teme a que la maten, a que la secuestren, a que la roben, a la persecución y a la represión por parte del Estado, y no sólo a la persecución política, a la persecución económica, a la persecución judicial, policial y militar; la gente le teme a perder el trabajo o a perder el negocio si es independiente; al problema de la confrontación con la violencia armada que incluye los colectivos; a la inseguridad jurídica: hoy está vigente una ley, pero mañana no; al abuso de poder.
-Eso por un lado, y por el otro, a la gente le molestan algunas cosas. Por ejemplo, ¿qué le molesta a la gente? Le molestan que le hayan restringido el poder de escoger sus bienes de consumo; el toque de queda autoimpuesto; la escasez: aquí falta todo menos balas; la impunidad: un muerto cada veinte minutos en Venezuela en manos del hampa; corrupción, burocracia e ineficiencia del Estado; discriminación política: apartheid; censura de la comunicación; el engaño, la mentira, la desinformación y el fraude como política de Estado; la encubierta invasión cubana: ya la gente se molesta, cuando le toca ir a un CDI, y el personal que atiende allí es cubano; inflación e inestabilidad económica, violación permanente a la Constitución y las leyes.
-De esto resulta que hay once cosas que le molestan a la gente y ocho cosas a las que les teme; de modo que si nos ponemos a ver, aquí tengo diecinueve cosas; eso que te las he dicho a vuelo rasante, quizás haya más de diecinueve, y ahora tú me preguntas por qué está pasando lo que se está sintiendo en las calles. ¡Esa es una reacción de la sociedad frente a estos temas! El régimen es incapaz de darle respuesta a estos diecinueve temas, y frente a esa incapacidad la gente se vuelca contra el régimen.
-Lo que está ocurriendo es una reacción natural dentro de una sociedad que se siente agobiada por una serie de necesidades insatisfechas, y no sólo que no están satisfechas, sino que se agravan.
¿Cómo compara usted esta situación con aquella que se vivía la víspera del “Caracazo”?
-Exactamente: una sociedad que se siente insatisfecha; con un gobierno que no le resuelve sus problemas. Aquí yo tengo un reporte de la Comisión de Servicios de la Cámara de Diputados de la década de 1990, y donde se habla unos casos irregulares en Caricuao y Altvista en algo que ocurrió dos años antes del “Caracazo”. En ambos casos, un grupo de vecinos, deliberadamente, organizados para enfrentar el problema de la inseguridad tomaron la justicia en sus manos, al aprehender, juzgar, sentenciar y ejecutar por la vía de la aplicación de pena de muerte a quienes calificaron como azotes de barrio.
-Este incidente fue consecuencia del hecho de que esos vecinos organizados, y quienes se valían de una serie de pitos y alarmas capturaron a dos malandros, y como no venía la policía; porque las patrullas ya no andaban por falta de cauchos, entonces procedieron de esa forma. Pero, ¿por qué las patrullas no tenían cauchos? Porque el dinero que se había destinado para la compra de los nuevos se había ido por los caminos verdes de la corrupción.
-¿No estamos viviendo la misma situación? Esa es la reacción natural de una sociedad, frente a un gobierno que no le satisface sus necesidades. No nos puede extrañar lo que está ocurriendo; ahora, lo que nos puede extrañar es que quienes están en esas altas posiciones de poder no lo comprendan o lo están utilizando para beneficio propio, lo cual es una co…emadrada.
¿Cómo ve usted la serie de pronunciamientos que circulan por la red de militares de un comando de resistencia que asegura que en lo más inmediato la fuerza armada en su conjunto le pedirá la renuncia a Maduro?
-Yo lo que veo es que las cosas todavía no han terminado de concretar. Todavía hay mucho miedo de decir las cosas, como son. El sistema está absolutamente distorsionado. El gobierno tiene un objetivo muy concreto, que se le fue de las manos la posibilidad de alcanzarlo, y ahora digamos que la lucha del gobierno, no es por el objetivo sino por el medio. Te lo explico: el objetivo del gobierno es generar una transformación ideológico-cultural en la sociedad venezolana.
-Ellos lo llaman comunismo, socialismo, chavismo, bolivarianismo, marxismo; todas las etiquetas que tú te imaginas. Pero los venezolanos tenemos que pensar de manera distinta; a mi modo de ver, es comunismo; como me lo dijo a mí de manera muy clara Jorge Giordani: “El comunismo es el sistema más perfecto para la organización de la sociedad, y lo que pasa es que quienes lo han tratado de establecer lo han hecho mal y nosotros los venezolanos lo vamos a hacer bien”.
-Ahora, ¿cómo se lo planteaban ellos? De acuerdo a lo que escuché cuando estaba adentro: la única manera de plantearse ese objetivo es manteniéndose en el poder; hasta tanto se produzca la transformación. No hay alternabilidad posible; porque la alternabilidad trunca el proceso. Entonces hay que mantenerse en el ejercicio del poder hasta tanto se logre la transformación ideológico-cultural.
-Ahora, en estos momentos, ellos se metieron en unas acciones prácticas para mantenerse en el poder que le hacen daño a la sociedad, y ahora no pueden salir del poder; porque las acciones tácticas que ejecutaron los convierten en delincuentes.
¿Cuáles son esas acciones?
-Corrupción, lesa humanidad, violación constitucional. ¿El ministro Giordani no dijo que se robaron 25 mil millones de dólares unas empresas de maletín? Yo te garantizo que ahí hay gente de los dos lados; de la oposición y del gobierno; gente que se dice de la oposición, a quienes le dieron una remesa de dólares, y con eso le paga la gorrita con la bandera de Venezuela a ambos lados. Lo que sucede es que hay gente de los dos lados, que no quiere que se publique la lista de las personas que se beneficiaron por esta vía.
-Entonces, cuando yo te digo que no se terminan de desnudar las cosas, es que estamos metidos en ese berenjenal; que está bien armado; para que sea un berenjenal. Entonces, los que están en el gobierno consideran que ellos están metidos en el medio, y del cual no pueden salir. Para ellos entregar el poder es un problema. ¿Tú crees que ellos se pueden quedar aquí, ejerciendo, como políticos? Ellos terminan defendiendo el medio, que es mantenerse en el poder para poder hacer el cambio ideológico-cultural.
There is another report of the same news by Reuters and it says the exact opposite of what happened. Not strange at all. Reuters published doctored photos during the Israeli Palestinian confrontations to show Israelis to be baby murderers. Don't ever trust Reuters, they are highly biased.
2 dead as Venezuelans clash at protest barricades
By JORGE RUEDA and EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A National Guardsman and a civilian were killed Thursday as gangs of government supporters on motorcycles rode into east Caracas neighborhoods to remove street barricades placed by opposition protesters.
The pitched battle in a mixed industrial and residential district heightened tensions on the same day the Venezuelan government expelled foreign diplomats for the second time in a month.
More than 100 men on motorcycles carrying pipes and rocks swarmed Los Ruices in the incident, trying to force their way into some buildings. Residents screamed "murderers, murderers" from rooftops and the motorcyclists taunted them from below, urging them to come down and fight.
Venezuelans fed up with food shortages and unchecked violence have been staging nearly daily street protests since mid-February, snarling traffic with barricades of garbage, furniture and burning tires. At least 21 people have been killed in related violence, by government count, in the country's worst unrest in years.
President Nicolas Maduro's administration shows no signs of crumbling from several weeks of nearly daily demonstrations, but the country appears in a stalemate. Protesters are mostly from the middle and upper classes although they do include poorer Venezuelans who don't protest in their home districts for fear of pro-government paramilitaries.
Sucre Mayor Carlos Ocariz said residents of Los Ruices reported hearing gunshots after motorcyclists began dismantling the barricades. Some apartment dwellers began banging pots and raining down bottles to express their anger, he said. In the melee, a 24-year-old motorcycle taxi driver was shot dead.
"I'm not going to be irresponsible and accuse anyone," Ocariz said. "I condemn the violence and the shots must be investigated, but I also reject the brutal repression" of security forces.
When National Guardsmen arrived to secure the area, a 25-year-old sergeant was shot through the neck and killed. Ocariz said that according to district police, who report to him, in both cases the men's wounds seemed to indicate the shots came from above.
Pro-government motorcycle gangs who reside in slums served as street-level enforcers for the late President Hugo Chavez and continue to menace opponents of the ruling socialists. The opposition claims they are bankrolled by the government.
Maduro, meeting with U.S. actor Danny Glover, said on state TV that the slain motorcyclist, Jose Gregorio Amaris, used his motorcycle as a taxi and was clearing debris in order to do his job.
He called those who build street barricades "vandals who hate the people" and said a second motorcyclist was seriously injured.
Among opposition demands is that the government disarm the motorcycle-riding paramilitaries, called "colectivos."
A day after Maduro said he was breaking diplomatic relations with Panama over its push for Organization of American States-sponsored mediation in the crisis, his government expelled Panama's ambassador and three other diplomats, giving them 48 hours to leave.
Last month, Venezuela expelled three U.S. diplomats, accusing them of conspiring with the opposition, a claim that Washington denied.
Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Venezuela also had suspended debt negotiations over $1 billion owed to Panamanian exporters.
In the latest development affecting what the opposition calls a full-scale government assault on freedom of expression, a newspaper critical of the government said it was the target of a criminal defamation suit filed by National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.
Editor Teodoro Petkoff wrote in the paper, TalCual, that the Caracas judge overseeing the case had ordered him and three other executives as well as columnist Carlos Genatios not to leave the country without permission.
Cabello accused the newspaper of printing something he claimed never to have said: That if people don't like crime they should leave the country.
A conviction would carry a prison sentence of two to four years.
Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman and cameraman Marko Alvarez contributed to this report.
Not since 2002 has there been so much political violence on the streets. Back then it was led by the PDVSA employees upset that Chavez had fired their CEO. Later Chavez said he did it to incite them to have an excuse to fire them which he did. This time around the protest is much more grass roots, led by students. Back then threatened opposition leaders quickly went to exile. Now they are staying and defying the state to arrest them. Back then the protest were peaceful. Now there are burning barricades. Back then the Chavista militia were called Circulos Bolivarianos, now they are called "colectivos," the same armed thugs on state supplied motorcycles. When they fire on protesters the Bolivarian police and the Bolivarian national guard just watch. Venezuelans never lose their sense of humor.
Today the violence was at a high point. Even though the press is censored there are plenty news and pictures on Twitter. Today every citizen with a cell phone is a reporter. If you follow me on Twitter @captainccs you'll get to see a lot of them. I retweet them as often as I can.
Provea acusa a Maduro de incitar confrontación pueblo contra pueblo
El Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos (Provea) responsabilizó al presidente Nicolás Maduro por las posibles víctimas que se produzcan por su llamado a la confrontación pueblo contra pueblo.
Este miércoles, Maduro llamó a los colectivos armados a “apagar candelitas” y confrontar manifestaciones y protesta
La policia y la guardia miran como los "colectivos" disparan a la gente y no hacen nada. Son todos cómplices de la dictadura castro marxista comunista que es la que está gobernando a Venezuela.
Colectivos amenazan con meterse a edificios de Los Cortijos en una hora
Motorizados en Los Ruices, se enfrentan a los habitantes de la zona | Cortesía @suprema1984
Los grupos se presentaron para derribar las barricadas de los manifestantes. En el intercambio entre vecinos y miembros de los colectivos, un motorizado fue herido en la clavícula, lo que recrudeció el ataque de los colectivos. El alcalde Carlos Ocariz confirmó el fallecimiento de un funcionario de la guardia nacional en los hechos
EDGAR LÓPEZ/EL NACIONAL WEB 6 DE MARZO 2014 - 01:24 PM
Los ataques de colectivos armados a vecinos de Los Cortijos, a la altura de la avenida Francisco de Miranda, comenzaron luego de que un motorizado resultara herido en la clavícula. Dos funcionarios de la Guardia Nacional Bolivariana resultaron heridos en los enfrentamientos y uno falleció posteriormente, confirmó en su cuenta en Twitter el alcalde Carlos Ocariz.
"Lamentablemente anunciamos el fallecimiento de un efectivo de la guardia nacional en los enfrentamientos", escribió después de la 1:00 de la tarde.
Los miembros de los colectivos son más de 500, rompieron las rejas de los edificios de la zona para meterse y quemaron un carro. Algunos gritaban consignas a favor de Hugo Chávez. Ni la Policía Nacional Bolivariana ni la GNB se lo impiden.
Los motorizados advierten que “si en una hora ellos (GNB y PNB) no hacen nada, nosotros nos metemos”, en los edificios.
“Para ir a la guerra tenemos que oír una sola voz, la del comandante”, grita un motorizado al resto. Y agrega: “Aquí somos disciplinados en el amor a Cristo”.
Los otros motorizados le responden: “Chávez vive, la lucha sigue. Algunos aseguran que José Vicente Rangel Ávalos se presentará en Los Cortijos.
Desde tempranas horas de la semana, los vecinos, que se encontraban protestando en el lugar, fueron sorprendidos por los motorizados quienes con piedras y objetos contundentes los replegaron hacia los edificios, desde donde también lanzaban botellas y otros objetos. En el lugar, se presentaron efectivos de la Policía de Sucre y efectivos de la Policía Nacional Bolivariana.
La protesta estudiantil comenzó en el Estado Táchira y los eventos se aceleran. Ante la represión aumetó la protesta y las barricadas. Ayer el gobernador Vielma Mora, quien es chavista hasta la médula habiendo tomado parte en el golpe de estado con Chávez, dijo estar en contra de la represión:
Solo hay libertad de publicar lo que al gobierno le convine
Gobierno de Venezuela revoca credenciales a equipo de CNN
(CNN Español) – El viceministro de Comunicaciones de Venezuela le comunicó este jueves a nuestra corresponsal en Venezuela, Osmary Hernández, que se le revocaba el permiso de trabajar como corresponsal acreditada.
De la misma forma le fue comunicado a nuestra presentadora Patricia Janiot y a su productora, quienes se encontraban haciendo un programa especial que se emitió el jueves, que se les retiraba el permiso que se les había otorgado para trabajar y les preguntaron que cuándo se iban.
El presidente Nicolás Maduro anunció el jueves en cadena de televisión que se iniciaría el proceso de retirar del aire la señal de CNN, pero no hemos recibido notificación oficial del órgano regulador.
CNN en Español ha reportado ambos lados de la tensa situación que vive Venezuela, aún con acceso muy limitado a funcionarios del gobierno. Este jueves, Patricia Janiot estaba tramitando un entrevista con el presidente Maduro. Esperamos que el gobierno reconsidere su decisión. Mientras tanto seguiremos informando sobre Venezuela de la forma justa, acertada y balanceada que nos caracteriza como empresa periodística
Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana se pronuncian sobre Venezuela febrero 21, 2014 4:33 pm Publicado en: Actualidad, Internacionales
Los Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana expresan su rechazo ante los hechos ocurridos con ocasión de la manifestación pacífica convocada por organizaciones estudiantiles el 12 de febrero pasado en Venezuela. En este sentido, el grupo de Los Amigos lamenta la perdida de vidas humana y los heridos, y hace pública su enérgica condena a la detención de más de 100 estudiantes, algunos de los cuales han denunciado que sufrieron atentados a su integridad física.
Especialmente preocupante es el allanamiento a la oficina de un partido político sin orden judicial, así como la detención del coordinador del partido político Voluntad Popular, Leopoldo López. Dicha situación configura una criminalización de la actividad política de los sectores de oposición, lo cual es inaceptable en una sociedad democrática.
Igualmente preocupantes son los obstáculos existentes para que los medios de comunicación informen sobre los acontecimientos, incluyendo las amenazas de penalidades que conduce a la autocensura, la eliminación del aire de un canal televisora internacional y la falta de papel para la prensa escrita.
En virtud de estos graves hechos, el Grupo de Amigos de la Carta Democrática:
1. Condenan la represión de las manifestaciones pacíficas y la detención arbitraria de estudiantes venezolanos;
2. Condenan la detención arbitraria de dirigentes políticos;
3. Requieren la inmediata liberación de todas las personas todavía detenidas, en los términos en que el derecho a la libertad personal está garantizado por la Constitución venezolana, el Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos de Naciones Unidas, y otros instrumentos internacionales que obligan a Venezuela, sin perjuicio de que quienes hayan sido inculpados por hechos de violencia o vandalismo, sean sometidos a los procedimientos legales para determinar su responsabilidad, con las debidas garantías al debido proceso;
4. Requieren una investigación independiente exhaustiva y transparente de los hechos de violencia así como de las denuncias de abusos contra estudiantes detenidos;
5. Llaman al Gobierno de Venezuela a respetar y garantizar las condiciones necesarias para la realización de las actividades políticas por parte de la oposición y los sectores sociales que lo adversan, como está garantizado en la Carta Democrática Inter-Americana;
6. Recuerdan a todos los venezolanos y venezolanas que el ejercicio de su derecho constitucional a protestar deber ser pacífico, tolerante y respetuoso del pluralismo de una sociedad democrática.
Urgimos a los líderes políticos buscar urgentemente soluciones y mecanismos que prevengan una escalada del conflicto en el país.
El Grupo de Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana lo integran ex Presidentes, ex Primeros Ministros, ex miembros de gabinete, expertos y promotores de los Derechos Humanos del hemisferio, que procuran incrementar el reconocimiento y cumplimiento de la Carta Democrática Interamericana, así como prevenir que tensiones políticas se conviertan en crisis que amenacen la estabilidad democrática. Los Amigos de la Carta Democrática visitan países para analizar conflictos políticos, animar a la ciudadanía y a los gobiernos a utilizar los instrumentos internacionales para proteger sus democracias y resolver conflictos constitucionales. Asimismo, formulan recomendaciones a la Organización de Estados Americanos para aplicar la Carta Democrática con un carácter preventivo y constructivo. El Centro Carter actúa como la secretaría de los Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana.
Amigos de la Carta Democrática Interamericana
Diego Abente Brun Ex Ministro de Justicia y Trabajo Paraguay
Cecilia Blondet Ex Ministra para la Promoción de la Mujer y el Desarrollo Humano Perú
Jorge Castañeda Ex Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores México
Joe Clark Ex Primer Ministro y ex Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores Canadá
John Graham Presidente Emérito, Fundación Canadiense Para las Américas (FOCAL), Canadá
Osvaldo Hurtado Ex Presidente Ecuador
Torquato Jardim Ex Magistrado del Tribunal Superior Electoral Brasil
John Manley Ex Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores Canadá
Barbara McDougall Ex Secretaria de Estado para Relaciones Exteriores Canadá
Andrés Pastrana Ex Presidente Colombia
Sonia Picado Presidenta Instituto inter-americano de Derechos Humanos Sergio Ramirez
Ex Vicepresidente Nicaragua
Sir Ronald Sanders Miembro del Grupo de Personas Eminentes del Commonwealth 2010-2011
Eduardo Stein Ex Vicepresidente Guatemala
Alejandro Toledo Ex Presidente de Perú
Fernando Tuesta Soldevilla Ex Director Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales Perú
Joaquín Villalobos Fundador del Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), Firmante de los Acuerdos de Paz de El Salvador en 19
En Venezuela siguen las protestas (Fotos) febrero 20, 2014 11:19 am Publicado en: Destacados, Nacionales 21104
Los enfrentamientos entre manifestantes y las fuerzas de seguridad recrudecieron el jueves en Venezuela, mientras opositores al presidente socialista Nicolás Maduro quemaban basura en improvisadas barricadas en Caracas y en otras ciudades del país.
Reuters/ Andrew Cawthorne y Eyanir Chinea
Al menos cinco personas han muerto en hechos directamente relacionados con los enfrentamientos, y una más falleció de causas naturales al no poder llegar a un hospital a causa de los bloqueos, según el Gobierno, mientras se reportaban decenas de heridos y detenidos en el país.
Policías y militares dispararon gases lacrimógenos y perdigones contra jóvenes armados con piedras y bombas molotov.
Hombres armados en motocicletas recorrieron barrios de la ciudad la madrugada del miércoles, mientras se escuchaban detonaciones, según testigos de Reuters. El jueves por la mañana, vecinos de algunos barrios comenzaban a acumular objetos para bloquear las calles.
Ante la falta de cobertura de los hechos de violencia por parte de las radios y televisoras locales, los venezolanos recurrían a las redes sociales para enterarse de la situación, entre reportes de fotos e informaciones falsas.
Miles de venezolanos han salido a las calles desde hace tres semanas para manifestarse contra la alta inflación, la escasez de productos básicos y la elevada inseguridad.
En un barrio del este de la capital, manifestantes mostraban el jueves por la mañana un cartel que rezaba “me declaro en desobediencia civil”.
Testigos reportaron helicópteros volando sobre la capital del país de 29 millones de habitantes.
“ZONA DE GUERRA”
La situación también había empeorado en las capitales andinas de San Cristóbal y Mérida, en el occidente del país, donde el Gobierno suspendió temporalmente el porte de armamento.
Residentes reportaban que San Cristóbal, en el estado de Táchira en la frontera con Colombia, parecía una “zona de guerra” y que el transporte público no funcionaba, y que ni los bancos ni el comercio abrieron sus puertas.
En el estado central de Carabobo, cercano a Caracas, una dependencia del Gobierno reportó que manifestantes opositores quemaron vehículos de mantenimiento.
En Caracas Bernardo Pulido, abogado del líder opositor Leopoldo López, quien encabezó las protestas antes de entregarse el martes a las autoridades, dijo que podría ser acusado de delitos como daños e incendios y asociación para delinquir.
Los delitos podrían conllevar a penas de cárcel de hasta 10 años. López, un economista de 42 años educado en Harvard, está siendo retenido en una prisión militar cercana a la capital.
La esposa de López, Lilian Tintori, dijo a través de la cuenta de Twitter de su esposo: “El cambio está en cada uno de nosotros, no se rindan”.
En la víspera, durante una reunión de líderes norteamericanos en México, el presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, hizo un llamado a su contraparte venezolana a oír a su pueblo y liberar a los detenidos.
“Todas las partes tienen que trabajar conjuntamente, abstenerse de la violencia y restaurar la tranquilidad”, dijo Obama. Estados Unidos es el principal comprador del petróleo venezolano.
(Con reporte adicional de Carlos García, Girish Gupta y Carlos Carrillo en Caracas, Javier Farías en San Cristóbal, escrito por Tomás Sarmiento; Editado por Pablo Garibian)
Obama: Gobierno venezolano debe oír reclamos del pueblo Jefe de Estado aprovechó una cita bilateral desarrollada en México, además, para criticar la decisión de Nicolás Maduro de expulsar a tres funcionarios diplomáticos.
POR VICTOR JAQUE 19 febrero 2014 El presidente de Estados Unidos, Barack Obama, condenó este miércoles la violencia desatada en Venezuela durante una ola de protestas contra el Gobierno y llamó a las autoridades a liberar a los manifestantes detenidos.
Después de una reunión de líderes norteamericanos en México, Obama sostuvo que el presidente Nicolás Maduro ordenó días atrás la expulsión de tres diplomáticos estadounidenses con falsas acusaciones.
El presidente estadounidense dijo que el Gobierno de Maduro trata de desviar la atención sobre las carencias del país.
"El Gobierno debería de concentrarse en atender los reclamos legítimos del pueblo venezolano", dijo en una rueda de prensa tras una reunión para celebrar los 20 años del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN).
Maduro asegura que las manifestaciones, que comenzaron hace tres semanas y han cobrado la vida de al menos cinco personas, son un intento de la oposición de sacarlo del poder con el apoyo de Washington.
"Hacemos un llamado al Gobierno venezolano para que libere a los manifestantes que han sido detenidos y que entablen un diálogo verdadero", dijo Obama. "Todas las partes tienen que trabajar conjuntamente, abstenerse de la violencia y restaurar la tranquilidad".
This is from yesterday, I didn't get a chance to post it earlier.
The reason I find it significant is because Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in. Previous "opposition leaders," facing similar situations, went into hiding or exile leaving the opposition leaderless. This could evolve into making Lopez the true leader of the opposition, something that until now has ben sorely lacking.
In Venezuela Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez Turns Himself In
February 18, 2014
It was certainly a day to remember. Despite the Government banning the opposition march and prohibiting marches, Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in in a demonstration which was simply massive. His handover was perfectly choreographed, leaving images that have a highly emotional content and guaranteeing that this day, whatever may happen was a victory for the Voluntad Popular leader.
I mean, there are very few things missing from a picture like this one:
Lopez being pushed into the National Guard tank, white flowers in one hand, flag in the other and screaming at his supporters. Really, can it get any more dramatic than this?
And this was after Lopez had given a fiery speech to his supporters hanging on the statue of Jose Marti in Plaza Brion of Chacaito at the end of which his wife was lifted up by the crowd to say goodbye to him right before he turned himself in. How can anyone not be moved by this image?:
And it was Lopez who, from the inside of the military vehicle, used a megaphone to ask people to move aside to let the vehicle through. Lopez was calma calm and at times it seemed as if the guardsman taking him looked more scared than he did.
And the show of support was nationwide, as students organized protests in all major cities, all of them with huge crowds, all ending at the Palaces of Justice of each State with the students handing in their demands.
I went to the march, leaving somewhat late, but was surprised when a couple of Kilometers away from the march, the street was still full of people walking towards Chacaito. And when I got to Chacaito it became difficult to get through because it was so crowded. Once in the intersection with the main Country Club Avenue, I was surprised by the sea of people coming down from that direction. It turns out it was the people from the West of Caracas, who, because the march was not allowed beyond Chacaito, had to come via Libertador Avenue to where Lopez turned himself in. From there, we turned South towards Las Mercedes, went under the Autopista and then climbed back on it, only to find that the students had not only blocked it, but occupied it all the way to the Cienpies Distributor. There were people everywhere, in front, below, above. And there was lots of police and guardsman, but they they were clearly given the order to do nothing, despite our fears that we could be gassed any minute.
This is an overall picture from above, two blocks away from where Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in:
And at this time, 7:37 PM , students are still out in the streets blocking the way
I am still surprised the Government went ahead and jailed Lopez. To accuse him of being a terrorist, when there are pictures showing that it was the Government’s intelligence police who shot the students on Feb. 12th. is somewhat dumb. By jailing him, not only does he become a martyr, elevating his stature within the opposition, but also creating another political prisoner and another reason for the students to fight.
Maduro also loses credibility, when it was him that suggested Lopez was responsible for the deaths of the students, not the Prosecutor, raising doubts, once again, abut the separation of powers in Venezuela. To make matters even worse, it was the Head of the National Assembly, Diodado Cabello, who took Lopez to his arraignment. What is Cabello doing there? He does not belong to any of the braches of Government that should be involved. The Government later said it was to protect Lopez’ life from the “right wing”, a silly excuse, more so, given that Lopez is also labelled as “right wing”.
Because while all this was going one, Maduro was holding his own march, despite his ban on demonstrations, where he said Lopez was being taken directly to jail (Ughh?) by helicopter, showing the President does not even understand legal procedures. In his speech, Maduro rambled, attaching President Piñera of Chile and Santos of Colombia, for involving themselves in Venezuelan affairs.
But more importantly, you just don’t go jail an opposition leader like Lopez on trumped up charges, without raising suspicions that this is simply autocracy at work. Lopez now becomes a hot potato for Maduro: Keep him in jail he becomes a symbol, release him, you look weak (and somewhat dumb!). He will actually be charged with murder, a silly charge if there ever was one.
Lopez seems to have scored a victory sooner than he thought when he started going out to try to gather the protests under his wing. Even Capriles went to the demonstration, as all opposition politicians showed up at the demonstration to show their support.
For now, the students remain on their own, a random band of disorganized protesters that have kept the Government in check for ten days. They will not go easily away and now they have one more prisoner to defend.
There is an ongoing protest about two blocks from my house
Beauty queen the latest victim in Venezuela unrest
By Tomas Sarmiento and Deisy Buitrago
14 minutes ago
CARACAS (Reuters) - A local beauty queen died of a gunshot wound on Wednesday in the fifth fatality from Venezuela's political unrest, as imprisoned protest leader Leopoldo Lopez urged supporters to keep fighting for the departure of the socialist government.
Tensions have risen in Venezuela since Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops on Tuesday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The latest included college student and model Genesis Carmona, 22, who was shot in the head at a protest on Tuesday in the central city of Valencia. She died later in a clinic.
"How long are we going to live like this? How long do we have to tolerate this pressure, with them killing us?" a relative, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
"She only needed one more semester to graduate," he added of Carmona, who had been studying tourism and had won the 2013 Miss Tourism competition in her state.
Three people were shot dead in Caracas after an opposition rally a week ago, and a fourth person died after being run over by a car during a demonstration in the coastal town of Carupano. There have been scores of arrests and injuries.
State TV channel VTV said the mother of one its employees died while being rushed to hospital in Caracas. VTV said she suffered a heart attack while the ambulance carrying her was stuck in gridlock due to opposition supporters blocking roads.
Lopez has urged his supporters to keep fighting for the departure of Maduro's socialist administration.
"Today more than ever, our cause has to be the exit of this government," he said, sitting by his wife in a pre-recorded video that was to be released in the event he was jailed. (http://t.co/uJGiXVm0AV)
"The exit from this disaster, the exit of this group of people who have kidnapped the future of Venezuelans is in your hands. Let's fight. I will be doing so."
There was sporadic trouble across Venezuela again on Wednesday. Rival groups scuffled outside the Caracas court where Lopez was due, while student demonstrators also blocked a highway in the capital, burning trash.
In western Tachira state, security forces and protesters fought in the streets for about two hours, with two students injured, various vehicles damaged or destroyed, and local monuments charred, witnesses said.
In southern Puerto Ordaz city, pro- and anti-government marchers fought in the street, witnesses said, with police firing teargas to quell the trouble.
Three government supporters were injured in the melee when shots were fired, and both sides faced off with sticks and stones, the witnesses said.
The demonstrators are calling for Maduro's resignation over issues ranging from inflation and violent crime to corruption and product shortages.
Maduro, who was narrowly elected last year to replace Hugo Chavez after his death from cancer, says Lopez and others in league with the U.S. government are seeking a coup.
Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived ouster of Chavez for 36 hours in 2002, before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back.
Though tens of thousands joined Lopez on the streets when he turned himself in on Tuesday, the protests have so far been much smaller than the wave of demonstrations a decade ago.
Neither is there any evidence that the military, which was the decisive factor in the 2002 overthrow, may turn on Maduro now.
Lopez was being held on Wednesday at the Ramo Verde jail in Caracas, and was due at a first court hearing.
Hundreds of his supporters waved banners saying "Free Leopoldo!" in the city center on Wednesday as a line of soldiers stood in front with riot shields. "We're prepared to give our lives," said pensioner Juan Marquez, 68.
Police held back a rival demonstration by several hundred 'Chavistas', some of them striking the protesters and chanting "Leopoldo, off to Tocoron" in a reference to a notoriously overcrowded provincial jail.
In an intriguing twist to the drama, Maduro said his powerful Congress head Diosdado Cabello, seen by many Venezuelans as a potential rival to the president, personally negotiated Lopez's surrender via his parents.
Cabello even helped drive him to custody in his own car given the risks to Lopez's life from extremists, Maduro said.
With local TV providing minimal live coverage of the street unrest, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have become the go-to media for many Venezuelans desperate for information.
However, many social media users are indiscriminately tweeting images without confirming their origin, leading to manipulation and gaffes including footage of unrest in Egypt and Chile being passed off as repression in Venezuela.
Old photos from past protests are also doing the rounds.
Detractors call Lopez a dangerous and self-serving hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders, and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister.
"I've hardly been in office for 10 months and for 10 months this opposition has been plotting to kill me, topple me," Maduro said. "For how long is the right wing going to hurt the nation?"
Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, a radical fringe have been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings. Rights groups say the police response has been excessive, and some detainees say they were tortured.
In a nation split largely down the middle on political lines, 'Chavistas' have stayed loyal to Maduro despite unflattering comparisons with his famously charismatic predecessor. Many Venezuelans fear the loss of popular, oil-funded welfare programs should the socialists lose power.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Diego Ore in Caracas; Javier Farias in Tachira; German Dam in Puerto Ordaz; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Ken Wills)
In the immortal words of the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, "It's all about the Benjamins."
In this week's weekly report on Venezuela (attached PDF), we cover the protests racking Venezuela, as rampant crime, an inflation rate officially over 56%, a bolivar currency that is virtually unconvertible (except in the black market where it has fallen to a fourth of its value in one year after falling to a third of its value the year before), and widespread shortages of everything from bread, flour and meat to toilet paper drive people out into the streets.
At the same time, the protestors are being put-down by well-armed state security forces and since the domestic television industry is now totally dominated and controlled by the Government, there is very little live coverage being reported. As I noted in a mid-week update to you last week, Colombian TV station NTN24 and CNN en Espanol have stepped up their coverage in that deficit, in addition to social media reports, pictures and video on Facebook and Twitter. Not happy that their "communicational hegemony" was being overcome, the Venezuela government took NTN24 off the air in Venezuela and blocked its internet feed. And learning from the failures of dictators in the Arab Spring, Venezuela even blocked Twitter -- which Twitter confirmed last week. In comparison to trusted news sources, the problem that we are also finding with new media like Twitter and Facebook is the reliability of the posts: while some of the information is good and current, other people put up old video and pictures, and some can be doctored, which confuses things and hurts its believability (the mistakes of which the government points out).
I spent some time on the weekend news shows talking about what is going on in Venezuela -- which has just kicked out 3 more American diplomats (third time in a year!). China, which has loaned Venezuela over $40 billion, is especially interested in what is going on there and you can see my interview on China's dominant broadcaster CCTV here: http://laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=1620461&CategoryId=10718
But in the end, many of the problems -- the inflation, the shortages, the crime, the collapsing currency -- are all about the Benjamins (as in Benjamin Franklin who appears on the $100 bill). After the first of the larger size SICAD sales of $220 million was cancelled earlier this month, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro promised the next one would be for $440 million. He lied, as only $216 million was announced on Friday (and the paper starved newspaper industry -- one of the last few outlets for opposition viewpoints -- was given nothing).
Here is the problem.
When oil prices crashed in late 2008 and into 2009, Chavez hit the capital markets to fund his spending. Beginning in May of 2009 (when they also expropriated and nationalized the oil service providers they could not pay), Venezuela and PDVSA began issuing massive amounts of US dollar bonds, for a 5 year total of $46.3 billion in new dollar debt, mostly at high interest rates (these are just bonds and does not include the $40 billion in loans from the China), essentially doubling the country's indebtedness.
Interest payments on those bonds are paid semi-annually (every six months) and this month alone Venezuela will pay out $732.5 million in coupon payments on its dollar bond debt -- which is essentially one week's worth of Venezuela oil exports, assuming 1.3 million barrels a day in real cash oil exports.
Throw in 4 weekly SICAD distributions of $220 million a week for $880 million and you are down another week of oil export earnings. That doesn't include the $80-90 million that CADIVI was providing weekly at 6.3, for another half a week of earnings. In the end, that doesn't leave much for paying the airlines the over $3.3 billion they are now owed, paying food companies the $2.43 billion they are owed, much less the billions owed to oil partners and service providers, workers, government employees, to say nothing of bread, chicken, flour or toilet paper.
It's all about the Benjamins -- or the lack thereof.