Dog Brothers Public Forum

Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities => Politics & Religion => Topic started by: DougMacG on June 08, 2007, 10:00:56 AM

Title: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on June 08, 2007, 10:00:56 AM
I didn't see an English language thread for Venezuela, so I hope this can be a place to exchange information and views.

It's nice to see Denny (captainccs) post.  I remember his wisdom on investing and life posted elsewhere.  I was concerned for his safety when I saw a gap between posts of Chavez dissent on his site at 

I wonder what people in Venezuela can or should do to get their country back, and I wonder what people in the U.S. and other countries can or should do to help.

Here is a Reuters (English) version of the Douglas Barrios story since I can't read the Spanish version. Click on the link to include the protest photo with the story.

Students Take TV Fight to Venezuela Congress

Reuters,     Jun 07, 2007

Thousands of students and university rectors and professors march for freedom of expression in Caracas. (Photo)

CARACAS—Students took their 11-day-old protest over President Hugo Chavez's shutdown of the last nationwide opposition television station to Venezuela's Congress on Thursday, in a rare appearance by the opposition in the legislature.

Addressing the 167-member body, where there have been no opposition lawmakers since 2005, student leader Douglas Barrios said daily demonstrations against the closure of RCTV would continue.

"Today our classes are in the street," he said in remarks that were broadcast nationally.

At one point, Barrios took off his T-shirt in the signature red of Chavez, saying Venezuelans could refuse to wear the government uniform—a reference to the opposition's charge that Chavez intimidates people into displaying support for him.

The closing has become the rallying cry for a nascent pro-democracy student movement that critics of the president hope can help fill a void left by a weak opposition in the polarized OPEC nation.

Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree, organized a debate over the station's closure between pro- and anti-government students and the government required all Venezuelan television and radio to broadcast the session.

The anti-Chavez students—part of a mainly middle-class movement that has at times drawn tens of thousands onto the streets—walked out after the first pro-government speech, complaining the event was politicized.

They were escorted past Chavez supporters outside by security forces with anti-riot shields. Some were driven off in a troop carrier.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: rogt on June 08, 2007, 01:02:44 PM
From what I understand, all that's happened here is that RCTV's broadcast license expired and the Venezuelan government chose not to renew it.  Under Venezuelan law, the government is empowered to grant or deny a private broadcast corporation the right to use public airwaves to the extent that such use benefits the public.  RCTV has not been disbanded, it's directors have not been arrested or jailed, and it's equipment/assets have not been seized.  The station is still free to broadcast on cable or satellite, and retains the right to broadcast on it's two radio stations.  I can understand disagreeing with the decision, but IMO it clearly doesn't qualify as a threat to free expression.

It's also worth noting the Chavez government's official, stated reason for the decision, which was RCTV's direct support for an illegal coup attempt back in 2002.  First, they  deliberately broadcast a report stating that gunfire that claimed the lives of at least 18 people and wounded another 150 was the work of pro-Chavez thugs (this was actually used as the pretext for the coup), when in fact the people who'd been shot and wounded (by snipers) were actually Chavez supporters trying to defend the presidential palace against the opposition demonstration.  Second, they reported that Chavez had voluntarily resigned, when in fact he had been kidnapped and was being held prisoner at a military base.  Then when it turned out that the coup had almost no popular support (evinced by hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans demonstrating in opposition to it and demanding that Chavez be reinstated), RCTV just stopped broadcasting news altogether and instead showed cartoons and old movies.

Two other major private broadcasters in Venezuela, Venevision and Globovision, were considered more or less equally supportive of the 2002 coup.  Globovision was the Venezuelan affiliate of CNN, which in April 2002 turned over its airwaves to Admiral Hector Ramirez, then chief of the Venezuelan navy, to broadcast an appeal to all military personnel to join the coup.  Both of them retain their broadcast licenses.

Also FWIW, two of our allies in the "war on terror", Pakistan and Peru, have similarly ordered transmissions blocked and/or revocation of broadcast licenses from TV stations for purely political reasons (in Pakistan it was a station's criticism of Musharraf's decision to remove the Chief Justice, in Peru it was a station's support for a labor strike), and this evoked no comment whatsoever from the same Bush administration.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on June 08, 2007, 04:38:55 PM
The key phrase to me was not the news in the news story, that the opposition was voicing opposition, it was the background information that concerns me:

"Congress, which has granted Chavez the power to rule by decree..."

I will look into the points you made and I hope others will post, especially Denny, who is there.  By his cartoon post that shows Chavez speaking on all channels, I don't think he agrees with you, but hopefully we will get a first-hand account in his own words.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: rogt on June 08, 2007, 06:04:13 PM
Yeah, I won't say I love Chavez or "rule by decree", but I believe in being honest.  Simply refusing to renew RCTV's broadcast license sounds like something the government was well within it's authority to do and does not constitute an attack on free speech.

I too look forward to any comments ccp may have about this.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 08, 2007, 06:06:01 PM
I've emailed Denny about the existence of this thread.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on June 08, 2007, 07:42:32 PM
Hi guys, reporting from Caracas:

A very concise timeline reply to rogt about the April 11, 2002 events:

1.- There was a peaceful march that was not supposed go to Miraflores, our White House
2.- Somehow the crowd changed its mind and headed for Miraflores
3.- The Plan "Avila" designed by Chavez included firing on the civilians by the military
4.- When the march reached Puente Llaguno, the bolivarian circles fired on the crowd. A photographer friend of mine was there and I have his first hand eye witness account.
5.- Chavez ordered the National Guard to fire on the civilians
6.- The National Guard refused to follow the order and the military arrested Chavez and asked for his resignation, which he gave.
7.- The Opposition committee (Carmona et al) moved into Miraflores and was sworn in as the "government"
8.- Carmona read the most ridiculous decree that I have ever heard in my life dissolving all constituted authority and changing the country's name back to what it had been before Chavez changed the constitution.
9.- Hearing such idiocy, the military backtracked and brought Chavez back.

This was a terrible waste of a great opportunity to be rid of Chavez but the opposition really, really messed up. Over the next four years the political opposition to Chavez made the Keystone cops look good. Totally incompetent for the job at hand (removing Chavez), corrupt as always and wanting to split a pie that was not theirs to split. "We, the people" didn't want Chavez and we didn't want the opposition political parties either. A boat without direction is the best way to describe the opposition at the time.

In the poorer sections of the population there was quite a bit of support for Chavez, not so much because he was good but because returning to the old political parties was even worse.

Things were moving along without much hope for the opposition and with Chavez tightening the screws. You might remember the show he put on in the United Nations where he did not get his way. But he did buy a lot of international support by giving away our wealth. Socialists like Lula of Brazil and Kirchner from Argentina, who benefitted handsomely from his handouts, were stalwart supporters.

About the closing of RCTV:

Over the last 5 or 6 years, Chavez has been threatening business giving them the choice to sell out half to Chavez backers or to be shut down. Most complied. You have to understand Venezuelan history to understand why most businesses accepted. In a way it is very similar to how the German businesses buddied up to Hitler, better half a business than none at all.

Marcel Granier refused to cut a deal with Chavez and Chavez did not allow his license to be renewed. How legal as it? Legal on he surface in a country where the military, the executive, the legislative and the judicial powers all kowtow to Chavez. BTW, Chavez also nationalized the only private electric utility we had and the major telco. You might also have read about what has been happening to the foreign oil companies operating here.

The real question is why the students are protesting the closing of this business while they didn't protest the closing of other businesses. RCTV happens to be the major source of popular and free entertainment in Venezuela. All of a sudden all the soap operas are gone. Overnight all your favorite comedy shows are gone. All of a sudden they wake up to reality: This is a dictatorship and they want to Cubanize Venezuela. Think of this like you might think about the Boston Tea Party.

So what is different this time?

That the opposition is not the tired old political parties. It is a virgin force of young people who want to smell the roses. The speech at the National Assembly was absolutely spectacular. The way the students avoided the trap that the National Assembly set for them was incredibly masterful. The students had asked for the right to address the National Assembly. The Assembly granted the request but changed the rules, they organized a debate between the opposition students and the Bolivarian students. The opposition students refused the debate in the National Assembly. They told the Assembly that they would be most happy to debate but on their own terms: on the streets, in the barrios, in the universities, but not in the National Assembly.

Those of you who speak Spanish, I urge you to listen to the speech, it's on the index page of my website:

I have no idea where this will lead but the student body has been magnificent. Compared to the old opposition and compared to the people in government, their intellectual level, their smarts, is proving to be superior. There are a lot of Venezuelans in exile. All the old PDVSA professionals have gotten jobs all over the world. A great many journalists are living in exile to avoid being jailed (yes, this is a dictatorship). There is a web-radio in Miami where people can call in and I listen to it all the time. The mood has changed. While 3 and 4 years ago people were afraid for their lives and the lives of their children, now there is more defiance and less fear. Three or four years ago the opposition was mostly middle class even if all anti Chavez Venezuelans were victimized. Now everyone can see the situation more clearly. You are either with Chavez or you are going to have a very hard time.

To listen to the radionexx use Windows Media Player

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 09, 2007, 03:54:12 PM

I found that very helpful in putting together data that for me was previously unconnected.  Thank you.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on June 09, 2007, 07:37:11 PM

Is there ANY leftist totalitarian you aren't willing to defend? Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro? Anyone?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: milt on June 09, 2007, 08:19:17 PM

Is there ANY leftist totalitarian you aren't willing to defend? Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Castro? Anyone?

Sticking to the merits of the arguments, I see.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on June 10, 2007, 06:39:17 PM
It's a simple question. What's your problem with me asking it?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: milt on June 11, 2007, 08:28:53 AM
It's a simple question. What's your problem with me asking it?

This particular thread is about Venezuela.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on June 15, 2007, 11:31:17 PM
Getting back to what Denny (Captainccs) wrote, thank you very much for the first hand explanation.  Your recap of recent history is very helpful. 

My understanding and recollection is that the recall vote was going against Chavez 40-60 in exit polls but tht Chavez vote won by 60-40on the state count,a 40 point swing.  International observer Jimmy Carter declared the results good to go.  Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly recognized the result. 

Curious what your take on that was and wondering if anyone has seen Powell express any second thoughts.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 16, 2007, 12:59:20 AM
Good question.  Denny?

On another front, I see that Chavez says he's buying 5 Soviet diesel subs?!? :-o
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on July 17, 2007, 10:16:44 AM
Chavez losing popularity:

Proposals for the unlimited reelection of President Hugo Chávez, the possibility of establishing a Cuba-like political system and the ''violent'' clash with Washington are rejected by most Venezuelans, according to a new poll unveiled Friday.

The poll by Hinterlaces, a Caracas think tank that carries out surveys and analysis for private clients, also showed that Chávez's popularity has dropped 13 points since November, from 52 percent to 39 percent.

Hinterlaces' figures indicated that the average Venezuelan is increasingly rejecting Chavismo's ideological agenda in key areas such as the rights of private property and the country's shift toward Cuban-style socialism.

''More than a revolution, what Venezuela is living is a process of democratic maturation and the remodeling of its political culture,'' said Oscar Schemel, president of Hinterlaces, which correctly predicted Chávez's landslide reelection in December.

The political interests of today's Venezuelans are ''the opposite of extremist speeches'' not only by Chávez, but also by his radical opposition, Schemel added.

He said Chávez's radical stances ''seem to run counter to the key ideas and meanings of the sociopolitical culture of Venezuela'' and are generating resistance among Venezuelans.

The latest Hinterlaces poll, which consulted 990 people in five major Venezuelan cities in May and June, showed the following results:

• 63 percent rejected unlimited presidential reelection.

• 47 percent opposed the establishment of socialism.

• 85 percent opposed Cuban-style socialism.

• 86 percent rejected the idea that ``to be rich is bad.''

• 87 percent supported private property.

• 75 percent rejected the ''violent and rude'' confrontation with Washington.

• 81 percent said the country needs new leaders.

Since his December reelection the leftist Chávez has stepped up his efforts to move Venezuela toward ''21st century socialism'' and pushed for a constitutional change to allow unlimited presidential reelection.

Hinterlaces first asked respondents whether they supported unlimited reelection in February, obtaining a 61 percent negative response. Other polling companies have obtained similar results.

The rejection of Chávez's ideological agenda shown in the polls ''has been consistent in the nine years of Chávez government,'' said Carlos Escalante, director of the Miami-based Inter-American Center for Political Management.

Escalante added, however, that he found it paradoxical that ``people don't want to look like Cuba, and prefer private property and keeping their freedom, yet each day the positive evaluation of Chávez remains high.''

The poll's release came one day after the pro-Chávez president of the national legislature, Cilia Florez, attacked what she called an attempt to ''manipulate the proposal for presidential reelection,'' saying it was not for indefinite reelection but rather ''continuous'' reelection.

''If a president has been running a country correctly and the people are satisfied with that rule, we cannot take away their opportunity to reelect that president,'' Florez said at a news conference.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 07, 2007, 06:30:08 AM
The grave has been dug

This week oil experts agreed on one point: a favorable outcome of the 
crisis Venezuela’s state-owned oil company is going through is far 
from certain.

It looks as though the absence of trained technical and management 
staff, the lack of planning and the politicization of the business, 
added to widespread corruption, will push PDVSA into bankruptcy 
sooner rather than later.

The symptoms are already apparent: PDVSA is not meeting its 
production expectations, the refineries are in a calamitous state, a 
large number of wells have been shut down, there is a deficit of some 
120 drilling rigs, and production barely reaches 3,300,000 b/d 
(according to inflated official figures), a far cry from the 
production goal of 5,800,000 b/d.

Added to this is the fact that Venezuela is apparently on the 
threshold of an international lawsuit with ConocoPhillips and 
ExxonMobil, if the clear contradictions between statements by John 
Lowe, ConocoPhillips’ Exploration and Production Executive Vice-
president, and Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramírez are anything to 
go by.

This Wednesday Lowe stated that ConocoPhillips had agreed with the 
Venezuelan government that compensation for its shares in Petrozuata 
and Hamaca would be based on their “market value” and that 
negotiations were still being conducted to determine that “value.” 
Then, on August 30, Minister Ramírez declared that Venezuela would 
only pay compensation based on the “original book value.”

According to estimates by analysts with investment banks in New York, 
the difference between the two values is considerable. The “original 
book value” of the four upgraders is around $17 billion, whereas the 
“fair market value” would be in the order of $33 billion.

Although ExxonMobil has not said whether it has reached an agreement 
similar to ConocoPhillips’, it is to be assumed that it did.

ConocoPhillips and Exxon have already declared losses for the second 
quarter of some $5.25 billion (ConocoPhillips $4.5 billion and Exxon 
(Cerro Negro) $750 million). If these losses reflect the “original 
book value,” then the “market value” could be in the order of $10 
billion, at least. Venezuela does not have that amount available and 
what is most likely is that Chávez will not accept paying such a high 
sum to oil companies of the empire.

And to complicate things still further for PDVSA, the most important 
of its deals with China and Brazil are apparently falling through. 
What is more, Chávez’ promises to build refineries all over the place 
are on the way to becoming empty words owing to the lack of funds, 
unless he sells off other assets, Citgo for example, in order to be 
able to make good his promises.

Unfortunately, the only things that do seem to be functioning at 
PDVSA are communist proselytism led by Ramírez and corruption at the 
highest levels, which has been extensively reported by journalists 
who support the regime and revealed in the scandal of the briefcase 
with nearly $800,000 confiscated in Buenos Aires.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 18, 2007, 06:16:18 AM,2933,297134,00.html
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Threatens to Take Over Private Schools

Monday, September 17, 2007
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez threatened on Monday to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government, a move some Venezuelans fear will impose leftist ideology in the classroom.
All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chavez said.
A new curriculum will be phased in during this school year, and new textbooks are being developed to help educate "the new citizen," added Chavez's brother and education minister Adan Chavez in their televised ceremony on the first day of classes.
Just what the curriculum will include and how it will be applied to all Venezuelan schools and universities remains unclear.
But one college-level syllabus obtained by The Associated Press shows some premedical students already have a recommended reading list including Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" and Fidel Castro's speeches, alongside traditional subjects like biology and chemistry.
The syllabus also includes quotations from Chavez and urges students to learn about slain revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Colombian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, whose leftist guerrillas are considered a terrorist group by Colombia, the U.S. and European Union.
Venezuelan officials defend the program at the Latin American Medical School — one in a handful of state-run colleges and universities that emphasize socialist ideology — as the new direction of Venezuelan higher education.
"We must train socially minded people to help the community, and that's why the revolution's socialist program is being implemented," said Zulay Campos, a member of a Bolivarian State Academic Commission that evaluates compliance with academic guidelines.
"If they attack us because we're indoctrinating, well yes, we're doing it, because those capitalist ideas that our young people have — and that have done so much damage to our people — must be eliminated," Campos said.
Now some critics worry that primary and secondary schoolchildren will be indoctrinated as well.
Chavez's efforts to spread ideology throughout society is "typical of communist regimes at the beginning" in Russia, China and Cuba — and is aimed at "imposing a sole, singular vision," sociologist Antonio Cova said.
But Adan Chavez said the goal is to develop "critical thinking," not to impose a single philosophy.
More than eight years after President Chavez was first elected, the curriculum at most Venezuelan schools remains largely unchanged, particularly in private schools commonly attended by middle- and upper-class children.
Anticipating criticism, Chavez noted that a state role in regulating education is internationally accepted in countries from Germany to the United States.
Chavez said all schools in Venezuela must comply with the "new Bolivarian educational system," named after South American liberation leader Simon Bolivar and Chavez's socialist movement.
Discussing the new curriculum, he said it would help students develop values of "cooperation and solidarity" while learning critical reflection, dialogue and volunteer work.
Previous Venezuelan educational systems carried their own ideology, Chavez said. Leafing through old texts from the 1970s during his speech, he pointed out how they referred to Venezuela's "discovery" by Europeans.
"They taught us to admire Christopher Columbus and Superman," Chavez said.
Education based on capitalist ideology has corrupted children's values, he said. "We want to create our own ideology collectively — creative, diverse." Chavez said Venezuelans — not Cubans as opponents suggest — have been drawing up the new curriculum, but added that Venezuela could always accept Cuban help in the future.
Venezuela has more than 160 universities and colleges, most of which maintain their independence. Leftist ideology is already part of the curriculum at seven different state universities. But encouraging students nationwide to read up on Guevara, Castro and Friedrich Engels' speech before Marx's tomb would be something new entirely.
About 20 of the 400 foreign pre-med students have dropped out of the Latin American Medical School near Caracas. Among them was Gabriel Gomez Guerrero, 22, of Colombia, who was shocked that the syllabus counts Marulanda among "important Latin American thinkers" to be studied. The head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is his government's public enemy No. 1.
"They aren't going to introduce that man to me as a 'Latin American thinker,'" Gomez said. "They may brainwash other people, but not me."
School director Sandra Moreno said nobody is being brainwashed — the idea is simply to provide a foundation in Latin American affairs. And Ana Montenegro, a program coordinator who helped create the syllabus, said it was a mistake to describe Marulanda that way, but that the course program will continue to evolve and improve.
Many of the remaining students describe themselves as socialists and say no one is pressuring them.
"They don't impose what we have to learn," said Roberto Leal, a 30-year-old Brazilian. "If we don't agree with something, we express our opinion."
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 02, 2007, 10:49:14 AM
Venezuela: Security Takes a Backseat
The new Italian ambassador to Venezuela made headlines this week after he put President Hugo Chavez on the spot by expressing concern about the country's poor security situation. The same day, Chavez also met with incoming U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy, who urged greater bilateral cooperation on combating drug traffickers operating in the country.

Given that Venezuela has a large Italian expatriate population and that approximately half of the drugs shipped through the country are destined for the United States, both Rome and Washington have a strong interest in Venezuela's security situation. The country's violent trends have little chance of reversing, however, unless the government makes a more serious effort to intervene.

Although Chavez rarely publicly discusses the country's soaring crime rates and official statistics on crime are closely guarded, the Venezuelan capital has become extremely violent. Indeed, recent estimates of its homicide rate -- if accurate -- would place Caracas among the most dangerous cities in the world. These estimates are speculative, however, since the Venezuelan government stopped releasing official homicide rates in 2003 -- after the number of killings reached nearly 12,000 countrywide that year. Unofficial estimates for 2006 put the number of homicides in Caracas alone at 6,000 -- more than 100 slayings per 100,000 inhabitants. (By comparison, in 2006 there were 47.3 slayings per 100,000 inhabitants in Detroit, the U.S. city with the highest homicide rate.)

And the homicide rate is just one of Venezuela's security problems. Since the government curtailed its cooperation with foreign governments on counternarcotics, South American drug traffickers face less police scrutiny in Venezuela than they do in other countries. Venezuela, for example, suspended its cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2005 after Caracas accused the agency of spying on behalf of the United States. International cooperation is crucial in dealing with issues such as drug trafficking, given that illegal shipments pass through multiple borders on their way from production to market.

Compounding the problems is the country's endemic corruption, which in the law enforcement realm extends from police on the street to the courts. In an October interview, Venezuelan Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez tried to downplay claims that the country's judicial system is incapable of effectively dealing with drug traffickers, though he acknowledged corruption among security forces, prosecutors and judges.

Security is not much better outside the capital, especially along Venezuela's extensive land border with Colombia, where guerrilla groups have been known to move freely between the two countries. The U.S. government, in fact, has warned Americans not to travel within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuelan-Colombian border. Official corruption is a particular problem in this area as well, considering that one of the most notorious Venezuelan groups linked to Colombian guerrillas -- the Cartel of the Suns -- allegedly is run by Venezuelan National Guard generals. (The group's name comes from the insignia worn on the officers' uniforms.) According to DEA estimates, the group moves up to 5 tons of illegal drugs per month from Colombia into Venezuela. Venezuela has long been used as a transshipment hub for narcotics smuggling and as a gateway in the Americas for illegal aliens attempting to reach the United States from Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to drug trafficking, organized crime groups in Venezuela have found kidnapping to be an increasingly lucrative business. According to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, more than 1,000 kidnappings were reported from August 2006 to August 2007, and at least 45 foreigners were kidnapped during the first eight months of 2007. This is a particular threat in a country where foreign energy companies have a large presence, though kidnapping gangs do not appear to target one business sector over another. Any company that likely carries kidnapping and recovery insurance on its employees is considered a choice target. Several high-profile kidnapping incidents in recent years have led to demonstrations by citizens demanding greater security. One of the most widely reported cases among Venezuela's Italian community -- and reportedly an incident that the Italian ambassador discussed with Chavez -- was the March 2006 abduction and killing of a prominent Italian businessman. The incident was followed just a few days later by the killing of three Canadian-Venezuelan children who had been kidnapped in February. The children were slain when their family was unable to pay the multimillion-dollar ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

There also is a political aspect to kidnapping cases, as the wealthy victims are often viewed as capitalists -- people considered at odds with the goals and ideals of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution. Because of this, victims and their families often do not receive sympathetic treatment from the authorities when such crimes are reported.

So far, the Chavez government's efforts to counter the trends of violence throughout the country have been minimal. Investigation of such crimes has been characterized by the U.S. Embassy as "haphazard and ineffective." In the case of high-profile killings, authorities reportedly round up suspects quickly, but rarely produce evidence linking any of the detainees to the crime. Only a small percentage of criminals is ever tried and convicted. Moreover, violent crimes frequently occur during daylight hours and even in public areas such as Caracas' Maiquetía Airport and in popular tourist attractions, such as the Avila National Park.

Further complicating matters are reports that security forces and parts of the judicial system have become increasingly politicized as a result of the government's practice of keeping and promoting officials for their loyalty to Chavez's Bolivarian ideals rather than their interest in, or their ability to fight, crime. These politicized officials also have hesitated to root out police corruption or crack down on criminals in poor areas -- where most of them live and operate -- because such areas are bastions of Chavez supporters. Additionally, the recent crackdowns on student protesters suggest the government is heavily focused on using security forces to quell its opposition rather than to fight crime. In July, Chavez chided student groups protesting constitutional reforms aimed at consolidating his power, calling the students patsies of the United States. On Nov. 1, police dispersed student demonstrators with tear gas and water cannons. Should the protests continue, the government will dedicate even more of its security forces to this area.

Many of Venezuela's security problems are not unique in Latin America. Police corruption, drug trafficking and kidnapping are prevalent elsewhere, particularly in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. However, the government's weak response to date and its focus on suppressing any opposition suggest the security environment in Venezuela will continue to deteriorate.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 09, 2007, 09:59:15 AM
Venezuela: Protests, Chavez and the Constitutional Referendum

Venezuelan college students continued their protests Nov. 8 despite armed attacks on protesters at various universities ahead of a controversial referendum Dec. 2. Though the protests show little sign of letting up and enjoy support from the Roman Catholic Church and at least some military elements, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in a good position to deal with the threat to his rule.


University students in Caracas protested Nov. 8 against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, just one day after masked gunmen attacked students in the Venezuelan capital returning from a demonstration, injuring at least eight people. The Central University of Venezuela (UCV) would not confirm whether anyone had died. Five students were also injured during protests by plainclothes gunmen in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto on Nov. 7. The Nov. 7 shootings were not the first of their kind. At least one female student died and two others were seriously injured at the University of Zulia on Nov. 2 when armed men fired from a moving vehicle upon a group of protesting students. A deadly shooting also occurred Nov. 2 at the University of Lara, according to an unconfirmed report.

Chavista elements aiming to quell student protests through intimidation tactics likely carried out these attacks. And though the protests probably will continue and could appeal to a wider audience, Chavez has had a long time to prepare for just this sort of situation.

The tactics have met with varying levels of success. While some major student groups like the Federation of Student Centers at UCV have called off protest marches in the interest of protecting students in the wake of the shootings, others have continued to hold marches and to face off with government troops.

Overall, the protests against Chavez still show little sign of easing as the country heads towards an extremely controversial Dec. 2 referendum. At stake are a slew of constitutional reforms that would reinforce Chavez's grip on power, including provisions for the elimination of presidential term limits, for curbs on press freedoms and for extraordinary arrests during emergency rule in the name of the "Bolivarian Revolution."

Though Chavez's constitutional reform campaign has galvanized the country's university students, prompting them to take to the streets despite threats of violence, the protest movement still lacks enough heft to challenge the Chavez regime seriously. For regime change to take place in Caracas, the student activists need the support of the Roman Catholic Church and the poor -- who comprise a majority in Venezuela -- to break through Chavez's lines of defense. The church has joined the students. But the impoverished masses still lack an incentive to join the opposition -- and with oil prices soaring, Chavez has enough cash to buy their political support.

That leaves the military's loyalties as the remaining question. Some sparks from the military establishment flew over Chavez's reforms Nov. 6 when retired Defense Minister Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel called on Venezuelans to vote "no" to the Dec. 2 referendum. Chavez subsequently branded Baduel a traitor. Baduel is an old friend of Chavez who helped restore the Venezuelan president to power after a brief coup in 2002. For a member of Chavez's inner circle to break so publicly with the Venezuelan leader is a worrying sign for Chavez's ability to hold things together. But Chavez has long prepared for such eventualities with the buildup of his personal militias, and so far it does not look as if Baduel has enough support within the military to turn the tide against Chavez.
Title: Anti-Globalization Global Crime Haven
Post by: buzwardo on November 14, 2007, 05:59:04 AM
Hugo Chavez's criminal paradise

Under the anti-globalization president, Venezuela has become a haven for global crime.
By Moises Naim
November 10, 2007
While President Hugo Chavez has been molding Venezuela into his personal socialist vision, other transformations -- less visible but equally profound -- have taken hold in the country.

Venezuela has become a major hub for international crime syndicates. What attracts them is not the local market; what they really love are the excellent conditions Venezuela offers to anyone in charge of managing a global criminal network.

A nation at the crossroads of South America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe, Venezuela's location is ideal. Borders? Long, scantly populated and porous. Financial system? Large and with easy-to-evade governmental controls. Telecommunications, ports and airports? The best that oil money can buy. U.S. influence? Nil. Corrupt politicians, cops, judges and military officers? Absolutely: Transparency International ranked Venezuela a shameful 162 out of 179 counties on its corruption perception index. Chavez's demonstrated interest in confronting criminal networks during his eight years in power? Not much.

While this situation has so far been rather invisible to the rest of the world, it is patently clear to those in charge of fighting transnational crime. Anti-trafficking officials in Europe, the United States, Asia and other Latin American countries are paying unprecedented attention to Venezuela. These officials are not particularly interested in Venezuelan politics or in Chavez's policies. All they care about is that the tentacles of these global criminal networks are spreading from Venezuela into their countries with enormous power and at great speed.

The numbers speak volumes: About 75 tons of cocaine left Venezuela in 2003; it is estimated that 276 tons will leave the country this year. Before, the main destination was the United States; now, Europe is increasingly the target. Italy and Spain are two new important and lucrative end-user markets, and earning in euros is undeniably better than getting paid in dollars these days.

A senior Dutch police officer told me that he and his European colleagues are spending more time in Caracas than in Bogota, Colombia, and that the heads of many of the major criminal cartels now operate with impunity, and effectiveness, from Venezuela. The cartel bosses aren't exclusively Colombians -- there are Asians (especially Chinese) and Europeans too. Caracas' most posh neighborhoods are home to important kingpins from around the world, including some from Belarus, a country that Chavez notably has visited several times.

Venezuela appears near the top of lists compiled by the anti-money-laundering authorities as well. Money moves in and out, and not just through electronic inter-bank transfers. The combination of private jets, suitcases full of cash and diplomatic immunity has opened up new possibilities. Recently, one Venezuelan member of the boliburguesía -- the new mega-rich -- was caught carrying at least one suitcase full of money. He was discovered by a customs officer in Buenos Aires but not arrested. Turns out he was traveling on an executive jet with senior members of the government of Argentina's president, Nestor Kirchner.

In Uruguay, an outraged legislator dropped this bombshell a few weeks ago: A group of Venezuelans had engineered the sale of Iranian arms and munitions to his country, using Venezuelan companies as a cover to bypass the U.N. embargo on Iran's arms trade. Likewise, the guerrillas in Colombia seem to have no trouble acquiring weapons -- many of which come through Venezuela-based arms dealers.

Diamond traders are doing equally well. "Venezuela is allowing massive smuggling of diamonds," stated a recent report by Global Witness and Partnership Africa, two respected nongovernmental organizations. They recommended that Venezuela be expelled from the Kimberley Process, the U.N.-sponsored mechanism designed to combat the smuggling of "blood diamonds" -- the gems sold to fund military conflicts around the world.

And as if diamonds, guns, drugs and tainted money weren't enough, human traffickers have made their way to Venezuela as well. The country has become a haven for human traffickers because its laws offer so little protection to their victims, especially women. It is also a major stopover for illegal immigrants from China, the Middle East and other parts of Latin America who are on their way elsewhere. They can obtain a Venezuelan passport in a matter of hours.

The great paradox of this terrible story is that, despite Chavez's constant denunciations of globalization, he hasn't protected Venezuela from its worst consequences. His nation has been globalized -- by criminal gangs. And they import and export corruption, crime and death. And that may be more critical in shaping Venezuela's future than any of Chavez's political experiments.

Moises Naim is the editor of Foreign Policy magazine and the author of "Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy.",0,1470504.story?coll=la-opinion-center
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on November 25, 2007, 10:58:37 AM
Referendum date is Dec. 2.  Yes vote will enact make 69 revisions to Venezuela charter that expand the power of Chavez, including unlimited re-election.  Chavez says: Only a 'Traitor' Will Vote No:

Reuters reports independent poll that has the referendum down by 49% 'traitors to 39% Chavez enablers:
Links courtesy of Drudge Report.  I really haven't seen this covered yet in the mainstream media.  Chavez attempting to become a permanent leader with dictator powers and cheating in elections is hardly news in their opinion.
I predict the ten point no-vote lead is not good enough.  In a previous referendum independent reports had Chavez losing by 60-40% in the exit polls but the official Chavez voting machines tallied it up as a Chavez win at 60-40%, so exit polls were off by down 20 to up 20 - a 40% swing.  "International observer" Jimmy Carter instantly verified the results and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly gave it the U.S. stamp of approval.  Oh well.
Title: Military fires warning shot across Chavez's bow
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 29, 2007, 02:58:41 PM

VENEZUELA: Venezuela's armed forces might join citizens in opposing President Hugo Chavez's constitutional changes if their approval in a Dec. 3 referendum causes violence, Bloomberg reported, citing an interview with retired Venezuelan army officer Joel Acosta Chirinos published by Brazil's O Globo newspaper. Chirinos added that the possibility of the armed forces taking up arms cannot be ruled out.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 04, 2008, 04:30:01 AM
February 4, 2008; Page A14

In 1981, Argentine inflation topped 130%, and by the early months of 1982 the situation was rapidly deteriorating. A web of price controls designed to compensate for monetary mischief at the central bank only made things worse. Confidence had collapsed and civil unrest was growing.

The military government's decision to lay claim to Britain's South Georgia Island on March 19, 1982, and later the Falklands, was dictator Leopoldo Galtieri's last-ditch effort to boost the nation's sense of strength, and to distract it from the reality that it was caught in an economic maelstrom.

Fast forward to 2008 and Venezuela, where the parallels cannot be ignored. The military government of President Hugo Chávez is engaging in provocations against a foreign power that would seem to have little purpose other than getting news of the crumbling economy off the front pages and ginning up nationalism.

In a speech before the national assembly last month, Mr. Chávez dropped a bombshell, proclaiming that Venezuela now recognizes the Colombian rebel group known as the FARC as a legitimate political actor. He went on to ask that European and South American governments remove the group from their terrorist lists. A day earlier his special envoy for FARC relations went public with his own fondness for the Colombian rebels, and with the news that the Venezuelan government stands ready to help them.

This was more than Mr. Chávez playing footsie with the FARC, which he has long been doing. This was a statement of official support for a band of outlaws who seek the destruction of the Colombian democracy. The news shook both nations. It suggested that Colombia is not only at war with the rebels, but also with a neighboring state.

Mr. Chávez probably doesn't really want war with the militarily superior Colombia anymore than Galtieri wanted to battle it out with Britain. But by poking his neighbor in the eye, he was undoubtedly hoping for some kind of a reaction, to which Venezuela naturally would be obliged to respond. Amid an escalation of tensions between the two countries, a nationalist outcry to defend Venezuelan honor might dwarf the many troubles at home.

Colombia's president didn't take the bait. Instead of getting in a spitting match with Venezuela, Álavaro Uribe went to Europe shortly after Mr. Chávez's FARC speech to shore up support for his anti-terrorist agenda. He came home with backing from E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who is notorious for his admiration of Latin American leftists. Mr. Chávez thus suffered yet another humiliation, only six weeks after he lost his bid to rewrite the country's constitution.

Hubris aside, Mr. Chávez had to know that his defense of the FARC was a long shot. But desperate times call for desperate measures. As the deterioration of the Venezuelan economy accelerates, Mr. Chávez is fast becoming a desperado with no better idea of how to get out of his jam than did Galtieri.

Central to his troubling circumstances is inflation. With Venezuelan crude oil around $80 per barrel, the local currency known as the bolivar ought to be strong. But the central bank has lost its independence and now acts as an arm of the Chávez government. As such it has shown little interest in defending the value of the currency.

Instead, it uses the gusher of oil dollars coming into the country as a reason to print up new bolivars to be put into circulation through government spending. This has pushed up demand and sent prices skyrocketing.

Just what Venezuelan inflation is now is anybody's guess. The government figure for 2007 is 22.5% but that number is derived from a basket of goods that includes price-controlled items, which are difficult to actually buy. In real life, when Venezuelans go shopping they have to pay market prices if they want to come home with the goods. This means that the cost of living is higher than the official rate.

Price controls haven't held down inflation but they have produced shortages of the goods they cover. Milk, rice, cooking oil, chicken, beef, pork, sugar, black beans and eggs are all hard to find and Venezuelans say that grocery shopping now requires stops at five or six stores. The most reliable sources of price-controlled items are street vendors, who charge two and three times the legal limit but tend to have stock.

Even Mr. Chávez recognizes that the shortages are real and not about to go away. And despite what appears to be a primitive understanding of economics, he may even have figured out the connection between prices and supply. This would explain why, as dire milk shortages became undeniable in recent months, he finally decreed an increase in the regulated price.

But don't hold your breath for further signs of enlightenment. Control of the oil industry has been the main reason Mr. Chávez has been able to squelch democracy. His own warped logic suggests that he needs to control other key sectors if he wants to keep his grip on power. If he can strangle the private sector, he can starve his adversaries.

This is why he is promoting government-owned food processors and has put a full-court press on private-sector agribusiness. Price controls now apply not only to the retail market but also to business transactions. This is designed to stop, for example, dairy farms from diverting raw milk to the production of cheese and yogurt, which have no price controls. Anyone caught violating price controls or selling products across the border in Colombia risks expropriation.

All of this is being policed by the army. With its monopoly on the use of force, the government can indeed destroy the private sector. But as Galtieri found out, it cannot decree that supply meets demand. As shortages become more acute, don't be surprised to see the Venezuelan desperado picking more fights.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 07, 2008, 05:42:55 PM

Exxon to freeze $12B in Venezuelan assetsHigh Court of England grants 
U.S. oil company the right to freeze assets belonging to the 
country's recently nationalized oil company.

NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) -- ExxonMobil Corp. has secured court orders 
to freeze more than $12 billion in worldwide assets of Venezuela's 
state-owned oil company, as it prepares to dispute the 
nationalization of a multibillion-dollar oil project.

The move limits Petroleos de Venezuela's room to maneuver as it fends 
off challenges from major Western oil companies over President Hugo 
Chavez's 2007 decision to nationalize four heavy oil projects in the 
Orinoco Basin, one of the richest oil deposits in the world.

Exxon (XOM, Fortune 500) and ConocoPhillips (COP, Fortune 500) opted 
to walk away from the contracts rather than stay on in a minority 
role. Both have filed arbitration proceedings with the World Bank 
seeking compensation and Conoco "continues to discuss an amicable 
resolution specific to the assets that were expropriated in 
Venezuela," Conoco spokesman Bill Tanner said.

ExxonMobil has so far been the most aggressive in fighting back. The 
Irving, Texas-based oil major's legal action essentially seeks to 
ring-fence Venezuelan assets ahead of any decision by the arbitration 

According to documents filed last month in the U.S. District Court in 
Manhattan, Exxon Mobil has secured an "order of attachment" on about 
$300 million in cash held by PdVSA. A hearing to confirm the order is 
scheduled in New York for Feb. 13. Exxon also filed documents with 
the New York court showing it had secured a freeze on $12 billion on 
PdVSA's worldwide assets from a U.K. court.

"On Jan. 24, the High Court of England and Wales was satisfied that 
there is a real risk that PdVSA will dissipate its assets and 
accordingly entered a Worldwide Freezing Order ex parte," Exxon said 
in the filing to the New York court. The order prohibits PdVSA from 
"disposing of its assets worldwide up to a value of $12 billion 
whether directly or indirectly held."

Further hearings on the $12 billion freeze are scheduled on Feb. 22, 
according to Exxon's filing.

In a statement, Exxon Mobil spokesperson Margaret Ross confirmed the 
court filings. She added that the company "has obtained attachment 
orders from courts in the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles 
against PdVSA assets in each of these jurisdictions up to $12 
billion." Exxon said the orders are subject to further review by the 
courts. "We will not comment further on legal proceedings," she said.

In a filing, PdVSA disputed the need for a freeze. In a Jan. 24 
response disputing orders of attachment from Dec. 27 and Jan. 8, 
PdVSA said Exxon Mobil "has failed to sustain its burden of 
establishing that any arbitration award it obtains may be rendered 
ineffectual without provisional relief." A PdVSA spokesman declined 
to comment.

Exxon's move signals an aggressive response to the trend of resource-
rich countries flexing their muscle over the large oil majors. Since 
oil prices began skyrocketing earlier in the decade, oil-producing 
nations have grown bolder in their dealings with publicly traded 
companies active on their territories by demanding larger stakes in 
existing projects and raising taxes.

Venezuela will pay two European oil companies that were partners in 
other Orinoco heavy oil projects less than half the estimated market 
value of their stakes, according to a copy of the compensation 
agreement reviewed by Dow Jones Newswires.

That agreement offers an inkling of what ExxonMobil and 
ConocoPhillips could be expecting as they carry on compensation talks 
with PdVSA.

Exxon shatters profit records
Title: Venezuela troops to Colombian border
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 03, 2008, 08:29:49 AM
Venezuela: Chavez Asks for Troops at the Colombian Border
Stratfor Today » March 3, 2008 | 0019 GMT

Venezuelan President Hugo ChavezSummary
After Colombia’s cross-border raid into Ecuador on March 1 that resulted in the death of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s second-in-command, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned March 2 that if Colombia launched any such action on Venezuelan soil, it would be cause for war. Chavez then closed the Venezuelan Embassy in Bogota and ordered 10 battalions to the Venezuelan-Colombian border. The Venezuelan military is no match for Colombia’s larger, better-funded and more experienced forces.

Following a March 1 Colombian cross-border raid into Ecuador that resulted in the death of the No. 2 Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on March 2 warned Bogota against launching any similar operation on Venezuelan soil. The same day, during his weekly radio address, Chavez announced that he would be closing the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota. He added that he had asked his defense minister to send 10 battalions — including tank battalions and military aviation — to the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Venezuela’s armored formations (with tanks that include a smattering of old French AMX and British Scorpion designs) are based on the outskirts of Caracas, but an infantry brigade is based at San Cristobal near an important border crossing, and another at Maracaibo. Some tanks appear to be regularly stationed on the border. Unless this move has been premeditated, it would likely take several days — at the very least — to get an armored unit stationed outside Caracas spun up and on the road toward the border.

This road is the one most capable of sustaining heavy logistical trains from the capital. In fact, except for the northernmost 300 miles, the border is covered by dense rainforest and does not appear to have particularly heavy transportation infrastructure. The roads from Caracas to San Cristobal and Maracaibo appear to be the path of least resistance and thus, logistically speaking, are the paths a military mobilization is likely to take.

Much of this northern sector of the border runs along a mountain ridgeline, so while there is decent road infrastructure to get there, it would literally be an uphill battle for Venezuelan forces to move across the border there, as they would be ceding the high ground to Colombia.

Further north along the coast, a major road crosses flat coastal lowlands above Maracaibo, which offers Venezuelan troops the option of attempting to cut off the majority of the low-lying La Guajira peninsula — though there does not appear to be much of value there. Beyond the La Guajira Department lies the Magdalena Department, which contains Colombia’s highest peak, the 18,000-foot Pico Cristobal Colon.

Meanwhile, there is the very serious issue that the Venezuelan military is unpracticed at the fine art of logistics and is not known for its acumen for maintaining vehicles in depot, much less those that are deployed. Stratfor is skeptical of Venezuela’s ability to project and sustain forces meaningfully beyond its borders, especially regularly organized units and the tank battalions Chavez has requested.

Colombia’s military is larger, better funded and more operationally experienced — each by a factor of 10 — than Venezuela’s. U.S. funding and the prosecution of the counternarcotics war have given Colombia one of the most noteworthy military machines in the region. In addition, Bogota’s military is well-disposed on its side of the border to counter any offensive move by Caracas. Though Venezuelan forces moving quickly might be able to achieve some short-lived localized superiority, there is little to suggest that they would be capable of consolidating that gain before Colombia’s military came down upon them.

Thus, the metrics of a Chavez on the warpath are not thus far holding up to scrutiny. But Stratfor continues to monitor the situation closely. The Venezuelan president has been losing ground domestically of late and no doubt could benefit from stirring up some nationalist sentiment.

Meanwhile, Stratfor will be watching the movement of Venezuelan troops to see whether 10 battalions are moved to reinforce the ones already on the border and, if so, how quickly. Should these reinforcements — especially armored battalions from Caracas — arrive in short order, it would suggest that Chavez’s announcement was premeditated, rather than an off-the-cuff reaction to the March 1 FARC raid.

And there is always the outlying concern that Chavez’s cultivation of relations with FARC was not because he wanted leverage over the organization for solely political purposes, but because he might attempt to use them as a militant proxy.

Title: Chavez's War Drums
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 04, 2008, 07:17:49 AM
Chávez's 'War' Drums
March 4, 2008; Page A16
Colombia's military scored a major antiterror victory this weekend by killing the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and 16 other FARC guerrillas. Venezuelan President and FARC ally Hugo Chávez has reacted by threatening war against Bogotá. But the real news is that the raid produced a laptop computer belonging to the expired comandante that reveals some of Mr. Chávez's secrets.

The raid that killed FARC big Raúl Reyes shocked the terrorists because it happened in Ecuador -- about a mile across the border from Colombia. The guerrillas are used to operating inside Colombia, only to escape to safe havens in Ecuador and Venezuela when Colombia's military is in hot pursuit. This time Colombian officers kept going, and for legitimate reasons of self-defense. (We doubt the U.S. would stop its troops at the border if terrorists were bombing sites in Texas from havens in Mexico.)

Mr. Chávez rushed to insist that Ecuador's sovereignty had been violated, even before Ecuador did. On his weekly television show on Sunday, the Venezuelan bully called the death of Reyes a "cowardly assassination" and observed a moment of silence. He closed the Venezuelan embassy in Bogotá, ordered 10 battalions with tanks to the Colombian border, and warned of war if the Colombian army staged a similar raid inside Venezuela.

Such a conventional war isn't likely. Colombia today has a superior military force, thanks in part to Mr. Chávez's purge of his own officer corp as a way to minimize risks of a coup d'etat against him. The war bluster is especially phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against Colombia through his support for the FARC. The FARC's "foreign minister," Rodrigo Granda, was nabbed three years ago by bounty hunters in Caracas, where he was living comfortably, and a former Venezuelan military officer told us years ago that the army was instructed not to pursue the FARC in the Venezuelan jungle.

What may really have upset Mr. Chávez is the capture of Reyes's laptop. According to Colombia's top police official, General Oscar Naranjo, the computer contains evidence supporting the claim that the FARC is working with Mr. Chávez. General Naranjo said Monday that Reyes's laptop records showed that Venezuela may have paid $300 million to the FARC in exchange for its recent release of six civilian hostages. Mr. Chávez had spun those releases as a triumph of his personal mediation.

General Naranjo said the laptop also contains documents showing that the FARC was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium, and the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo has reported that the records revealed the sale of 700 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1.5 million. The general added that the military found a thank-you note from Mr. Chávez to the FARC for some $150,000 that the rebels had sent him when he was in prison for his attempted coup d'etat in 1992.

Ecuador, an ally of Mr. Chávez, was slow to express outrage at the Colombian raid but eventually came around. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that the rebels were "bombed and massacred as they slept, using precision technology." He is right about that -- which is why the FARC's friends are so angry.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 05, 2008, 08:12:19 AM
Venezuela is moving what its military commander calls 10 tactical battalions to the Colombian border, especially toward the Venezuelan states of Zulia, Tachira and Apure, El Universal reported March 5, citing Gen. Jesus Gregorio Gonzalez Gonzalez, chief of the armed forces’ strategic command. The battalions comprise equipment and personnel from the navy, air force and national guard. Gonzalez said about 90 percent of the units President Hugo Chavez requested March 3 had already been mobilized.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 17, 2008, 03:23:12 AM
Student Power
March 17, 2008; Page A16

At the tender age of 23 years, Yon Goicoechea is arguably President Hugo Chávez's worst nightmare.

Mr. Goicoechea is the retiring secretary general of the university students' movement in Venezuela. Under his leadership, hundreds of thousands of young people have come together to confront the strongman's unchecked power. It is the first time in a decade of Chávez rule that a countervailing force, legitimate in the eyes of society, has successfully managed to challenge the president's authority.

The students' first master stroke came in the spring of last year, when they launched protests against the government's decision to strip a television station of its license. The license was not restored but the group was energized. In June it began six months of demonstrations -- one with as many as 200,000 people -- to build opposition to a referendum on a constitutional rewrite that would have given Mr. Chávez dictatorial powers. When Mr. Chávez was defeated in the referendum, many observers attributed it to those marches and to student oversight at the polls, which reduced voter fraud.

Yet in an interview with me in Washington last week, the baby-faced Mr. Goicoechea, slumped on a sofa in blue jeans and a rumpled shirt, insisted that the shifting political winds have little to do with him. "We have generated a consciousness in the youth that doesn't depend on me. I could be dead or living in another county and it would go on. We have already won the future."

The revelation two weeks ago, that Mr. Chávez is working with the Colombian terrorists known as the FARC, sent chills up the spines of democrats throughout the hemisphere. Yet Mr. Chávez is likely to remain in power until Venezuelans themselves decide he should go. That is probably not going to happen until the electorate is offered something other than going back to the corrupt rule that existed before Mr. Chávez came to power. This is why Mr. Goicoechea, despite the self-effacing manner, attracts so much attention from his compatriots.

Mr. Chávez won the presidency in 1998 largely because Venezuelans were fed up with the ruling political and economic elite. Over 40 years of so-called democracy, the traditional parties had manipulated the law to grant themselves privilege and loot state coffers. When voters gambled on Mr. Chávez, it seems to have been more about rejecting the status quo than embracing the fiery newcomer.

No one understands this reality better than Mr. Goicoechea. He agrees that the country needs a new direction. "The chavistas are not wrong when they complain about exclusion," he told me. "To deny that these problems exist is to deny that there is a President Chávez, and to deny that he is a product of what came before him."

This may seem obvious, but until now it has not been the language of most of the Venezuelan opposition. Instead, the political debate largely has been a screaming match about power. Mr. Goicoechea takes a different stance, stressing reconciliation. He speaks about understanding the grievances of the disenfranchised, and looking for common ground that can give rise to solutions. The student leader says that two ideals hold his movement together: liberty and democracy, both of which he says have been absent in Venezuela for a long time. "Populism is not democracy."

I ask him if he wants to restore the country's institutions. "No, we want to build institutions. To say that we are restoring institutions would be to say that we had democracy before President Chávez, and I don't think so. We may have had an independent Supreme Court, but the poor had no access."

Mr. Goicoechea sees the current state of affairs as a continuation of the past, with different players. "Mr. Chávez says that his government serves the lower-income classes, but the reality is that the system still only serves those in the middle and high-income classes." That resonates with people.

Ensuring access to legal institutions, so that all Venezuelans are guaranteed the protections of the state, is for Mr. Goicoechea the path to "social justice." As an example he cites Petare, a notoriously poor Caracas barrio. "Private property rights protection does not exist there," he says. "No one owns their own land, even though the laws say that you earn that right if you live there for a certain number of years. We will have a true revolution in Venezuela when we have strong, liberal institutions that defend the rights of the people."

It is perhaps a sign of Mr. Goicoechea's effectiveness that he has received "all kinds of threats" against himself and his family. Last year he and a group of students were the targets of a small explosion set off at a public forum. At the same event, an attendee who disagreed with his ideas snuck up behind him and, when he turned around, punched him in the nose. "It's not important that they broke my nose," he says, but that the incident highlights the problem of intolerance. He says that his high profile mostly protects him, but ordinary people don't enjoy such protection. For them, violence and intimidation mean they cannot express themselves.

This is why the student movement is so important. It doesn't pretend to provide a political alternative, but its critical mass and organization now give voice to many who had come to fear expressing dissent under chavismo. This is a crucial step toward what many young Venezuelans hope will some day be a free society.

So what's next on the students' agenda? One issue they will raise this year is the government's ruling that disqualifies some 400 Venezuelans -- adversaries of chavismo -- from running for office in the November elections. This, Mr. Goicoechea points out, is a violation of the political rights of all Venezuelans. He insists that the students are not trying to defeat the president, and that they respect his office. "But the president of Venezuela is not more than me. He must respect that we are citizens too."

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 21, 2008, 07:16:35 AM
Venezuela: The United States Turns the Screws
Stratfor Today » June 19, 2008 | 2236 GMT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Summary
The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused a Venezuelan diplomat and head of the Caracas-based Shia Islamic Center of giving Hezbollah financial support. The United States, which is targeting other Venezuelan nationals suspected of involvement with Hezbollah, is working to increase the pressure on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is already weakening under the weight of domestic problems.

The U.S. Treasury Department on June 17 accused Ghazi Nasr al-Din, a Venezuelan diplomat and president of a Caracas-based Shia Islamic center, of giving financial assistance to Hezbollah. The United States has also targeted Fawzi Kanan and two Venezuelan-based travel agencies that he allegedly owns or controls. Although the United States has made accusations of involvement with Hezbollah before, in taking the step to target Venezuelan nationals, the United States is ramping up pressure on already-weakened Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The most recent set of accusations against Chavez’s government were released by U.S.-based Venezuelan reporter Patricia Poleo in a report that gave detailed accounts of Hezbollah, al Qaeda and other Arab movements in Venezuela. The report alleged that Venezuela is hosting at least five camps in various parts of the country where Venezuelan and Lebanese Hezbollah members learn to use munitions, and that those members plan to use Venezuela as a launching point for attacks on the United States. The report is suspiciously detailed in its descriptions of alleged terrorist training activities in Venezuela’s jungles. The information would have been very hard to come by without the aid of a sophisticated intelligence agency.

Washington has long been concerned about security threats originating in Venezuela. A well-known transit point for illegal drugs and arms, Venezuela also poses a serious risk to U.S. security because of its lax visa regulations and rampant corruption. Furthermore, Venezuela has been the most significant port of entry for illegal immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere since before Chavez took control of the country.

Although Stratfor has no direct evidence that Hezbollah is operating in Venezuela, it would not be much of a surprise. In fact, Venezuela’s close relationship with Iran makes it almost inevitable. Most of Venezuela’s “joint” programs with Iran — such as a recently announced joint bank — make little sense because, depending on the project, Venezuela and Iran lack the cash, technology and/or organic market to launch them. Both countries are exporters of oil, with very little other economic strength, so trading between the two is largely superfluous. But helping Iran by supporting Hezbollah only requires some land in the jungle and lax security with passports — two things Venezuela has in spades.

What Venezuela would get out of such a partnership is not entirely clear. A core part of Chavez’s domestic security strategy has been to develop local militias that he can call on to support him in case the Venezuelan military turns against him. But harboring terrorist training camps in one’s backyard is like painting a big bullseye on one’s country and inviting the U.S. Air Force to take their best shot. But it is possible Iran is worth the risk, whether it is able to offer money or political favors in return.

Whether or not it is true that Venezuela is helping Hezbollah, the possibility for such cooperation has existed for several years. But the timing of this asset seizure poses some interesting possibilities, as it coincides with some dramatic shifts in Chavez’s behavior. These shifts include an apparent decision to deny public support to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a move to revise a key intelligence law that would have strengthened his authoritarian control over Venezuela.

Chavez’s support of the FARC has been unpopular in Venezuela; in an April poll by Venezuelan polling firm Datanalisis, more than 70 percent of Venezuelans expressed disapproval of the FARC. This fact no doubt played a large part in his decision to reverse support for the group. With support for a second terrorist organization coming to light, Chavez’s credibility will only suffer more.

At the same time, Chavez is experiencing serious challenges on other fronts.

Inflation in Venezuela is skyrocketing, in part because of monetary inflation partially driven by massive government spending. Coupled with rising global food prices, the inflation has made life measurably harder for Venezuelans (especially poor Venezuelans), and dissatisfaction with Chavez’s policies is increasing.

Furthermore, Chavez’s social programs that service his support base rely on funding from Venezuelan state-owned energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) — and things are not looking so good for PDVSA. Burdened with the financial responsibilities of the entire state, the company is at risk of not being able to maintain its oil production, much less increase it to meet rising fiscal needs. And all this is with oil at $130 per barrel; any price drop and Chavez immediately will have to choose who not to give subsidies to.

Demands on PDVSA will not slacken soon, either. With local elections approaching, Chavez is under pressure to bring his party — the United Socialist Party of Venezuela — under his control. Designed to unite all leftist parties in Venezuela under one banner, the party is not as united as Chavez would like it to be. The upcoming November elections have exposed deep disagreements among party members and have provoked Chavez to go so far as to kick prominent figures out of the party. The elections will test his ability to hold the country together, and Chavez will need all the help he can get from his costly social programs to secure public support.

The bottom line is that Chavez is vulnerable like never before. With food prices soaring, local elections approaching and criticism of his policies mounting, the implication that Chavez’s government is aiding a second terrorist organization is well-timed to take advantage of his already-declining popularity.

The kind of moves the United States is making to undermine Chavez’s popular support are well in line with Stratfor’s projection that outside forces — including the United States — are supporting the unity of the Venezuelan opposition. What remains to be seen is where exactly the break point is for Chavez’s supporters, and whether or not the military will support Chavez in the face of a concerted attempt by the opposition to throw a revolution.
Title: WSJ: the former Mrs. Chavez
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 29, 2008, 08:33:19 AM
Political Diary
June 26, 2008
Chávez Meets His Match
It's not been a good month for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. He had to do an about-face and call on the Marxist guerrilla group FARC to stop trying to overthrow the government of neighboring Colombia, lay down its arms and release its 700 hostages. But that head fake came only after evidence surfaced that Mr. Chávez had actually offered FARC leaders $300 million to support their terrorist operations and had even given them their own nameplate on an office in Venezuela's Pentagon.

Now Mr. Chávez has trouble on the domestic front. Marisabel Rodríguez, the former first lady of Venezuela whom Mr. Chávez divorced in 2004, announced she will run for mayor of one of Venezuela's most important cities in November local elections. She will run as an opposition candidate because she wants to "change the face and way of doing politics in this city and this country," she told reporters.

The candidacy of Ms. Rodríguez, a public relations executive, will no doubt revive stories about the couple's messy divorce. She is apparently a past master at psychological warfare against her ex-husband. "Marisabel doesn't hesitate to talk about Chávez on TV while holding their daughter, and that is the kind of tactic the opposition likes because to fight a media figure like Chávez you need to shock people in some way," says Arturo Serrano, a political scientist, told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2008, 10:35:45 AM
Venezuela: The Significance of Russian Flankers
Stratfor Today » August 4, 2008 | 2126 GMT

Russian Su-30MK “Flankers” conduct a demonstration in Venezuela in 2006Summary
Russia has completed delivery of two dozen Russian-built Sukhoi “Flanker” fighter jets to Venezuela, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Aug. 3. One of the earliest and most prominent deliveries in connection with a series of Russian arms deals that now amount to some $4.4 billion since 2003, these planes could affect the regional military dynamic.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced the completion of delivery of two dozen Sukhoi “Flanker” fighter jets Aug. 3. Though not the newest Sukhoi model, the Su-30MK series jets are widely considered to be among the most advanced fighter aircraft currently available on the world market. Part and parcel of the arms deals between Caracas and Moscow since 2003 that now amount to some $4.4 billion, the aircraft could affect the regional military dynamic.

Chavez’s focus on arms purchases stems partly from a desire to play to nationalist fervor and in part from real fear. He has concertedly attempted to paint Washington as an interminable foreign enemy to focus domestic attention abroad and garner support for his rule. And although an actual invasion of Venezuela by the United States is not in the cards, the two states have had a hostile relationship since Chavez came to power in 1999. It is no secret that U.S. funds were used to help finance a 2002 coup attempt — something Chavez in particular has not forgotten. (And it is worth noting that in the wake of this coup, Chavez purged the military of most of its competent officers.)

From a military perspective, the Venezuelan air force has suffered since 2001 when the breach with Washington resulted in an end of the delivery of parts and supplies for the Venezuelan air force’s U.S.-built F-16s — the country’s premier fighter aircraft. Maintenance crews have reportedly been able to keep a few air-worthy (a point of institutional pride), but most remain on the ground. Despite this, Venezuela’s best pilots reportedly get a respectable amount of airtime annually, though the degree of their proficiency remains unclear.

Related Link
Venezuela: Chavez’s Move For More Control
The transition from Venezuela’s long-standing use of Western military equipment to Russian hardware will inherently present difficulties and perhaps entail significant delays. U.S. and Russian equipment is built to different standards of quality with largely independent design heritages. Electronic systems especially will take a great deal of effort to learn and integrate. Indeed, even after the transition to the new hardware, the air force will then have to learn how to best exploit the aircraft’s newfound capabilities and integrate that utility into its operational doctrine. And while both Russian pilots and maintenance reportedly are in Venezuela training their counterparts, Moscow’s reputation for after-market service and sustainment is notoriously poor. The ultimate quality and durability of Russian training and support in the Venezuelan case is yet to be seen — but remains in doubt.

But in the mean time, some of the first airframes to arrive (delivery began in December 2006) are already considered in service with the air force, and reportedly even launched ordnance in June. Caracas’ pilots (how many are Russian or former Soviet republic expatriates is unclear at this time) have a good chance of being able to operate at least a few of the new Sukhoi aircraft in basic mission profiles in the near future. If Venezuelan pilots prove capable — and that is no small if — Chavez’s investment in Russian hardware could begin to represent a meaningful military capability.

(click image to enlarge)
These planes have a combat radius in excess of 500 nautical miles — more than either the Venezuelan F-16s or their older French-built Mirage III brethren. This is enough to reach the Panama Canal, the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as well as all of Colombia — Caracas’ main regional rival. Though it is unclear exactly which ordnance was part of the deal, a broad-spectrum kit would include everything from air-to-air missiles to ground attack munitions and potentially even air-launched anti-ship missiles. The Su-30MK series is highly maneuverable and capable of simultaneously engaging two airborne targets.

Competently operated, the Su-30MKV’s — the Venezuelan Su-30MK variant — would be, hands-down, the most capable multirole fighter jets in Latin America and the first instance of “Flanker” proliferation in the Western Hemisphere (it has been rampant in East Asia). Though they would not stop a concerted assault by the United States, the jets are something Venezuela’s neighbors — especially Colombia — will have to work to establish a new counter against.
Title: Chavez Cements Socialism
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on August 20, 2008, 06:20:57 PM
Chavez's Big Grab

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Socialism: Venezuela's seizure of Cemex assets Monday is more than a typical nationalization of resources. Its vindictive manner has much to do with the firm's Mexican headquarters. It's a message to others in the region.

Like a quasi-military conquest, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez marched in troops to "take back" four Cemex cement plants in the dead of night as part of his nationalization of cement announced in April. "It was time," he said Tuesday, calling it one of his "steps toward socialism."

Chavez then popped out fireworks as red T-shirted mobs, judges and politicians headed to the plants and cheered their "victory."

Why was Cemex "defeated"? Because last April, Mexico's Cemex told Chavez its plants were worth $1.3 billion, based on standard norms of value. Chavistas said no dice, and after driving their stock price down in Caracas trade, offered $800 million tops.

The Venezuelans, of course, had the last word, and moved into their clownish conquest even before Chavez's 90-day negotiation period expired.

For Latin Americans, this is something of a wake-up call. No longer will Latin American companies be exempt from Chavez's power plays. In fact, a Latin American company might now expect even worse treatment than the western ones Chavez has grabbed.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, no stranger to public quarrels with Chavez over free markets, complained that Chavez's takeover amounted to discrimination against the Mexican company. He noted that Venezuela had paid two other cement firms — Holcie of Switzerland and Lafarge of France — fair prices for their assets. So the Mexican company was ripped off, which "we cannot understand," Calderon said, calling for more talks.

The sooner Mexico recognizes the obvious, the better.

Chavez's vindictive treatment of a Mexican company has more to do with his loathing of Mexico, and the capitalist development path it has pursued, than it does with price. Successful Latin American companies ought to expect particularly harsh treatment from Chavez if they succeed. There already are many signs of this.

For one, the last time Chavez made a show of troops and flags was when he seized Exxon Mobil's assets in 2007. Like Exxon, Cemex is a foreign company, and the amounts expropriated — about $1 billion in Exxon's case and $1.3 billion in Cemex's — are comparable.

Second, like Exxon, Cemex is a big company that has resisted being kicked around by a petty dictator. Cemex reportedly has told Chavez that it would see him in international court.
As global companies, both Exxon and Cemex know their responses to Chavez are being watched closely by other dictators. They must defend their shareholders, an alien notion to Chavez.
Still, it goes even beyond that. Mexico's Cemex, like U.S.-based Exxon, is known for its advanced technology, state of the art operations, fiscal transparency and high profitability. For any company this is remarkable. But for a Mexican company it is especially so.

Chavez not only cannot stand Mexico, he also cannot stand the idea of a successful, world-class Latin American company like Cemex providing an example to the region. Rather than leave them alone, he's not only trying to rub their presence out with nationalization, he's also tricked up bogus charges of tax evasion and environmental damage — something no nationalized firm has avoided.

Chavez has nationalized telecommunications, electricity, farms, iron, steel, oil and banks over two years in a bid to end private property and turn Venezuela into Cuba. All of the nationalized firms have since gone from profitability to losses.

The prosperity and better life Cemex's jobs represent for its 67,000 workers as well as the superior product it delivers to its customers directly challenges Chavez's claim to ideological dominance in the region.

As we said, Cemex likely will defend itself in court. But Mexico's government will have to toughen up and prepare to confront a predator challenging the success of its private sector on more than just this front. Chavez's wrath against Mexico is particularly strong.
Title: Venezuela plot
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 12, 2008, 04:13:15 PM
The Venezuelan daily newspaper El Universal is reporting that a tape played on a Venezuelan state television show allegedly depicts the voice of a former Venezuelan admiral plotting to overthrow President Hugo Chavez. It is possible the allegations are true — the military has reasons to be worried about Chavez. In any case, the president will try to use the alleged plot to his benefit.

A possible plot to oust Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been uncovered, El Universal reported Sept. 11. The alleged coup was revealed in a voice recording said to be that of former Venezuelan Vice Adm. Carlos Millán and played by Chavez ally Mario Silva on his television show the evening of Sept. 10. Whether or not the accusations are true, they serve to create a sense of embattlement for the Chavez government and will be used as a rallying cry for Venezuelan nationalism.

Citing an unnamed source, Silva played the tape on which a man’s voice said: “Here there is only one objective: We will take the Miraflores Palace…. The objective can only be one thing, that is to say, all of the forces must be where [Chavez] is. If he is in Miraflores, that is where all the forces will be.” In addition to Millán, Chavez has named former army Gen. Wilfredo Barroso Herrera and former air force Gen. Eduardo Báez Torrealba as co-conspirators. In response, Chavez supporters have issued a call to march Sept. 15 in protest of the conspiracy, and Chavez has announced that unnamed individuals have been detained. In addition, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of sponsoring the plan.

The accusation adds to the list of former military officials whom Chavez has accused of various misdeeds or who have spoken out against the president. One of the most prominent of the officials is former Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Raul Isaias Baduel, who is embroiled in a legal battle with the Venezuelan government, and recently survived a half-baked assassination attempt.

It is quite possible that the coup allegations are true. It would not be the first time the military has been involved in undermining Chavez — indeed, portions of the military became involved in a 2002 coup attempt that briefly removed Chavez from power.

At this point, given the deteriorating security situation in the country, skyrocketing inflation and the slow downward spiral of Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, the military has a great number of reasons to be concerned about Chavez’s rule. Indeed, Baduel and other military leaders have been especially opposed to Chavez’s policies that have attempted to alter or challenge the structure of the military. This includes a controversial plan to create pro-Chavez civilian militias as a new branch of the military.

Regardless of whether the coup allegations are true, they serve an important purpose for Chavez by increasing the public’s sense that the government is embattled. With municipal and state-level elections approaching in November, Chavez has been fighting a domestic battle for support as he attempts to undermine the opposition and strengthen his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Chavez, like former Cuban President Fidel Castro before him, holds power through constant brinksmanship behavior. (An excellent example of this phenomenon are the recent tensions with Colombia; Venezuela moved troops to the border and threatened war — despite the relative weakness of his military and Colombia’s refusal to engage.)

In fostering a sense of impending doom from the outside — be it from the United States or scheming oligarchs — Chavez (usually successfully) attempts to rile up nationalistic support for his sagging regime.
Title: WSJ: Chavez (Dodd)
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 17, 2008, 09:24:12 AM
Hugo Chávez's threat last week to bring tanks to the streets if his side does not win key states in Sunday's gubernatorial elections is chilling. But it is not surprising. It is only the next logical step in what is the Venezuelan president's drive to seize all power and silence all dissent.

Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez.
Despite numerous setbacks for Venezuelan democracy, many still believe that they can rid themselves of Mr. Chávez democratically. Their expectations were raised last year when voters defeated a referendum in which Mr. Chávez attempted to rewrite the constitution to strengthen his authoritarian powers. Now they hope to deliver another setback by voting in anti-Chávez governors in at least three and maybe more than 10 of the country's 23 states. The top post in the capital district of Caracas is also up for grabs.

There are currently at least 18 states with pro-Chávez governors, and despite deteriorating living standards, Mr. Chávez's United Socialist Party of Venezuela is expected to be returned to power in a good number of them.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady speaks with James Freeman. (Nov. 17)
One reason is that the cards are stacked against the opposition. The government is using state funds for pro-Chávez candidates and has dramatically outspent the competition. The National Electoral Council is dominated by pro-Chávez representatives. Scores of individuals who are popular were declared "ineligible" to run. The government has refused to release the voter rolls so that the opposition can ensure that they are clean. On election day, lines are expected to be long and the widespread assumption that the government will use tricks to win could dampen opposition turnout.

Yet even these odds are not enough for Mr. Chávez. In recent weeks he has begun threatening to use the military against his own population in states where his municipal and gubernatorial candidates are defeated. On a trip to the state of Carabobo last week, for example, he told voters, "If you let the oligarchy return to government then maybe I'll end up sending the tanks of the armored brigade out to defend the revolutionary government." Just as troubling are the president's declarations that in states where his candidates are not elected, he will withhold federal funding.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
Venezuelans saw this coming. From his earliest days as president in 1999, Mr. Chávez began working to destroy any checks on his power. On April 11, 2002, after weeks of street protests against this effort, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans marched again in Caracas. Nineteen people were shot dead in the streets by government supporters. When Mr. Chávez asked the military to use force against the crowd, the generals refused and instead told him he had to step aside.

One might think that all Americans would have supported the demand to stop the bloodshed. But Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd threw a fit over Mr. Chávez's removal. The self-styled Latin America expert insisted that since Mr. Chávez had been initially "democratically elected" in a fair vote, he should have been immune from challenges to his power, no matter the abuses. To this day the senator calls the event a U.S.-backed coup, even though a State Department Inspector General's report found that the charge was false. Even the Organization of American States accepted the change in power.

Of course it wasn't a coup, U.S. backed or otherwise, as witnessed by the fact that while Mr. Chávez was removed from power, he was allowed to keep his cell phone, chat with Havana and negotiate his future. With the inadvertent help of the opposition, which acted incompetently, Mr. Chávez was back in office days later.

Today in Opinion Journal

Spitzer as VictimThe $639 Million LoopholeChina's News Concession


The Americas: Dodd's 'Democrat' Tightens His Grip
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: Markets Declare Truce in Copyright Wars
– L. Gordon Crovitz


Why Bankruptcy Is the Best Option for GM
– Michael E. LevineTo Prevent Bubbles, Restrain the Fed
– Gerald P. O'Driscoll Jr.Democrats Shouldn't Rush on Labor Legislation
– Ariella BernsteinThe circumstances of Mr. Chávez's political resurrection are still debated, but what is not in question is the reason Venezuelans had massed in the streets that day: They opposed the strongman's consolidation of power, which they warned would lead to dictatorship.

Fast forward six and a half years, and it turns out that the protestors were right.

Nearly all economic, judicial, electoral and congressional power in Venezuela is now in the hands of Mr. Dodd's "democratically elected" Chávez. Cuban doctors and teachers blanket the country, indoctrinating the poor. Cuban intelligence personnel are always on hand to support the Bolivarian Revolution while neighborhood gangs do the grass-roots work of enforcement. Political prisoners are rotting in Venezuelan jails without trials.

Being identified as a political opponent of the revolution is a ticket to the end of the unemployment line. Private property has zero protection under the law and the economy's private sector has been all but destroyed.

Mr. Chávez appears surprised that after a decade of repression, Venezuelans are still struggling to regain their liberty. But he is just as determined to retain control, and has made it clear he will not accept defeat at the polls. This is your "democratically elected" president, Sen. Dodd.

Write to Mary Anastasia O'Grady at O'
Title: Market Forces Chavez's Hand
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on January 14, 2009, 09:08:57 PM
Chávez reopens oil bids to West as prices plunge
By Simon Romero
Thursday, January 15, 2009
CARACAS: President Hugo Chávez, buffeted by falling oil prices that threaten to damage his efforts to establish a Socialist-inspired state, is quietly courting Western oil companies once again.

Until recently, Chávez had pushed foreign oil companies here into a corner by nationalizing their oil fields, raiding their offices with tax authorities and imposing a series of royalties increases.

But faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials here have begun soliciting bids from some of the largest Western oil companies in recent weeks — including Chevron, Royal Dutch/Shell and Total of France — promising them access to some of the world's largest petroleum reserves, according to energy executives and industry consultants here.

Their willingness to even consider investing in Venezuela reflects the scarcity of projects open to foreign companies in other top oil nations, particularly in the Middle East.

But the shift also shows how the global financial crisis is hampering Chávez's ideological agenda and demanding his pragmatic side. At stake are no less than Venezuela's economic stability and the sustainability of his rule. With oil prices so low, the longstanding problems plaguing Petróleos de Venezuela, the national oil company that helps keep the country afloat, have become much harder to ignore.

Embracing the Western companies may be the only way to shore up Petróleos de Venezuela and the raft of social welfare programs, like health care and higher education for the poor, that have been made possible by oil proceeds and have helped bolster his popular support.

"If re-engaging with foreign oil companies is necessary to his political survival, then Chávez will do it," said Roger Tissot, an authority on Venezuela's oil industry at Gas Energy, a Brazilian consulting company focusing on Latin America. "He is a military man who understands losing a battle to win the war."

While the new oil projects would not be completed for years, Chávez is already looking beyond the end of his current term in 2012 by putting forward a referendum, expected as early as next month, that would let him run for indefinite re-election.

In recent years, Chávez has preferred partnerships with national oil companies from countries like Iran, China and Belarus. But these ventures failed to reverse Venezuela's declining oil output. State-controlled oil companies from other nations have also been invited to bid this time, but the large private companies are seen as having an advantage, given their expertise in building complex projects in Venezuela and elsewhere in years past.

The bidding process was first conceived last year when oil prices were higher but Petróleos de Venezuela's production decline was getting impossible to overlook. Still, the process is moving into high gear only this month, with the authorities here expected to start reviewing the companies' bidding plans on new areas of the Orinoco Belt, an area in southern Venezuela with an estimated 235 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Altogether, more than $20 billion in investment could be required to assemble devilishly complex projects capable of producing a combined 1.2 million barrels of oil a day.

Chávez's olive branch to Western oil companies comes after he nationalized their oil fields in 2007. Two companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, left Venezuela and are still waging legal battles over lost projects.

But Venezuela may have little choice but to form new ventures with foreign oil companies. Nationalizations in other sectors, like agriculture and steel manufacturing, are fueling capital flight, leaving Venezuela reliant on oil for about 93 percent of its export revenue in 2008, up from 69 percent in 1998 when Chávez was first elected.

In the past year, with higher oil prices paving the way, Chávez also vastly expanded Petróleos de Venezuela's power, inextricably linking it to his political program. He directed the oil company to build roads, import and distribute food, build docks and shipyards and set up a light-bulb factory. He even expanded it into areas like milk production, soybean farming and the training of athletes after a weak performance at the Beijing Olympics.

One of the oil company's ventures sells subsidized food and extols Chávez's leadership at its stores across Venezuela. At one frenzied store in eastern Caracas, posters hung from the ceiling last Saturday showing Chávez arm in arm with children beneath the heading, "fortifying agrarian socialism."

Petróleos de Venezuela has also carried out nationalizations in other industries, absorbing companies like Electricidad de Caracas, the utility serving this city of five million. Top executives like Eulogio del Pino, the Stanford-educated vice president of exploration and production, spent much of 2008 negotiating unfinished deals like the takeover of a cement company.

But all the while, Petróleos de Venezuela has faced its own difficulties. It claimed it produced about 3.3 million barrels a day throughout most of 2008. But other sources like OPEC, of which Venezuela is a member, place the figure closer to 2.3 million and show a fall of about 100,000 barrels a day from a year earlier. When Chávez rose to power a decade ago, Venezuela was producing about 3.4 million barrels a day.

Rafael Ramírez, the energy minister and president of Petróleos de Venezuela, did not respond to requests for an interview. But energy executives here with contacts within Petróleos de Venezuela said Ramírez, a confidant of Chávez, has been waging a struggle within the company to refocus operations toward producing more oil.

After weathering the turmoil of recent years, Western oil companies here are loath to speak publicly about their plans. "We don't elaborate on bidding processes beyond the fact that we evaluate every opportunity and our decisions will be based on economics and other factors," said Scott Walker, a spokesman for Chevron.

But energy executives here speak with restrained optimism. Nineteen companies paid $2 million each last month for data on areas open for exploration, twice what such data costs elsewhere.

Oil companies say they recognize the risk of investing in Venezuela, given the country's abrupt shifts in the past. But they focus on the long-term potential of its petroleum reserves. Venezuela poses little risk in the search for oil since geologists have known for years where it lies in the Orinoco Belt.

Venezuela also differs from top oil nations like Saudi Arabia and Mexico, where national oil companies have monopolies. Petróleos de Venezuela let private companies remain as minority partners after the nationalizations, despite Chávez's often aggressive anticapitalist stance.

Moreover, foreign oil services companies like Halliburton, which has done business in Venezuela for 70 years, have even expanded their activities in the country as Petróleos de Venezuela grew more dependent on contractors to help extract oil from aging wells.

Still, doubts persist over the chances that the new bids, which are set to conclude in June, will ultimately result in finished oil projects. Risks of operating here were underscored again last week when Venezuela ordered new production cuts along with other OPEC members, impacting ventures with private partners.

Under the current bidding rules, the onus for financing the new projects lies with the foreign companies, even though Petróleos de Venezuela would maintain control. Banks might balk at such a prospect. Distrust also lingers in dealing with Petróleos de Venezuela.

"An agreement on a piece of paper means nothing in Venezuela because of the way Chávez abruptly changes the rules of the game," said a Venezuelan oil executive who has had dealings with oil companies from China, Russia and other countries.

"In 10 years, not one major oil project has been built in Venezuela," said the oilman, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution. "Chávez has left his so-called strategic partners out to dry, like the Chinese, who have been given the same treatment as Exxon."

But the severity of the drop in oil prices may ultimately dictate the terms on which Venezuela re-engages with foreign oil companies.

"Chávez is celebrating the demise of capitalism as this international crisis unfolds," said Pedro Mario Burelli, a former board member of Petróleos de Venezuela. "But the irony is that capitalism actually fed his system in times of plenty," he said. "That is something Chávez will discover the hard way."
Title: Southern Satellite Saga
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on May 20, 2009, 05:59:48 AM
This tale reminds me of Soviet efforts to keep up with the technical Jones' back during the Cold War.

May 20, 2009
The Mystery of the Venezuelan Satellite

By Adolfo Fabregat
Venezuela's "socialist satellite" is mostly a no-show when it comes to television broadcasts. Bad news for Hugo Chavez, and worse news for the Chinese, whose space program supplied it.

During the May 10th broadcast of his weekly show Aló Presidente, Hugo Chávez made a number of references to the show being broadcast via the "Satélite Simón Bolivar."  Superimposed on the screens at home,  Venezuelans saw the graphic "En Vivo Satélite Simón Bolivar".

But there was one problem; satellite watchers in Venezuela and Brazil noticed that the satellite was not broadcasting anything,  let alone Aló Presidente.  Where were the ground stations getting their signal from?  A similar situation happened in the broadcast of the show the week before, May 3rd, so this time the watchers were ready.  They scanned the neighbor satellite NSS806, the one normally used by most Venezuelan TV Stations, and there it was, the show was being broadcast the same way it had most Sundays for the last 10 years.   The U$400 million satellite known in technical circles as VENESAT-1was a no-show as it has been since its launch by China October 29th 2008.

Satellite watchers, in what is known as the FTA Community (Free To Air or unencrypted broadcasts), is a fast growing group of amateurs scanning the geo synchronous satellites visible above their horizon, excited to find such varied programming as soccer games from Argentina, news from Iran or bullfights from Spain, in a way reminiscent of police scanners or ham radio operators.

The FTA Community gathers in internet forums mostly organized around the geographical areas of the satellites they can receive, to share information about what satellites may be broadcasting and to help each other troubleshoot reception problems.

It is in these forums that questions about the satellite operation began to emerge.  One can follow a history of excitement early on when the VENESAT-1went live back in January to disappointment currently with the lack of any regularly available programming.   Because the VENESAT-1 is not broadcasting with any regularity or quality, there isn't much commentary.  Most of what is posted  is about the, somewhat incomprehensibly, the only regularly schedule broadcast from the satellite: a Brazilian network on a backup transponder with no audio. Any broadcasts from Venezuelan networks are usually short, with pixilated images and of very low quality.  Here is a sample of the comments:


Jose47: m getting VENESAT-1signal @60% Quality on trasnponder 11380 H 23030. I get five channels but only one has picture and no sound. I do not know why I can't get sound. Anyways, I live in West Palm Beach Fl.

BYX: Most of the times with some feeds palying in a loop the China olympics, last time I checked they had a brasilian channel with no audio.

FTA Testers

CarlosRamos: Hello friends, I've been trying since yesterday to tune to any signal  in the ku band and can't get anything, in the C band i get VTV and ANTV and a Brazilian channel in the backup, I would like to know if anyone has tune any other channels.

[Hola amigos tengo desde el dia de ayer intentando sintonizar alguna señal en la banda ku y no capto nada, en la banda C se sintoniza VTV y ANTV y un canal brasilero en el Backup, quisiera saber si han recibido otro canal.]

FTA Chile

I get it occasionally here in Acapulco y got it just by luck and yes there is only 5 channels of the backup 1 to 5 y at least I don't get any with audio or video. Regards

[Pues a de ser de a ratos aca en acapulco lo pesque de pura suerte y si asi es solo aparecen 5 canales del backup 1 al 5 y al menos yo no vi ninguno con audio o video. Saludos.]

TV Digital Satélite

Brazilian: What is going on with the Venezuelan satellite VENESAT-11 ??

[América Do Sul: O Que Se Passa Com O Satélite Venezuelano VENESAT-11 ??]

But no one has been more dedicated to following the operation of VENESAT-1 as Venezuela's own Juan Perdomo Guerrero (email) who has been documenting his findings in a forum in the very popular Noticiero Digital newsite/forum.   His post regarding the operation-condition of VENESAT-1 has become the most viewed ever, with over 350 thousands views, and the most commented with over 800 comments in little over 5 months.

Mr. Perdomo has recently edited the first page of the post to reflect a summary of all his findings because a large number, if not the majority, of the 800+ comments were insults directed at Mr. Perdomo from Chávez supporters who make a very political response to what is in essence a technical question, the satellite either works or it doesn't.

Unquestionably there is a political dimension to the condition of the satellite and that was made by Mr. Chávez and members of his administration who, like then Minister of Science and Technology Nuris Orihuela declared to the most influential Spanish newspaper, El País, that VENESAT-1is  "a socialist satellite" , or as reported in Venezuela's state news agency ABN, the satellite will   "serve for the construction of socialism" or that it proves the superiority of the socialist revolution as in this speech by Chávez himself and reported in his own TeleSur network:

If it wasn't for the socialist Revolution, China wouldn't have achieved the scientific  and technological advances it posses today.  China is a clear example that you do not need an empire to be a power.

["Si no fuese por la Revolución socialista, China no hubiera logrado el adelanto científico y tecnológico que obstenta hoy en día. China es la muestra clara de que no hace falta ser un imperio para ser una potencia"]

The satellite either works or it doesn't.

For the average TV viewer at home it does not matter one bit whether the image is coming from a satellite or not, much less what specific satellite is being used.  With now thousands of satellites in orbit and hundreds being launched every year, satellite failures no longer command front page news.  But in the growing and competitive satellite industry, involving billion dollar investments in launch services, manufacturing services and ground equipment, it is a big deal to know if satellites have operational difficulties.  So it is highly significant that no one in the industry has detected and reported problems with VENESAT's condition.  There is a lot circumstantial evidence that the VENESAT-1 is not where it should be at this stage of it operational life.

A depreciating asset.

Beyond all the grand "socialist" objectives planned for VENESAT-1, one thing is certain, a satellite is a depreciating asset.

According to Minister Orihuela, described in this document of the Ministry of Science and Technology as also the Presidenta del Centro Espacial Venezolano,  VENESAT-1 has a planned life of 12-15 years (180 months on the outside) and required an investment of U$240 million in manufacture and launch -- paid to China Great Wall Industry Corp. and another U$150 million in infrastructure like technical training and ground equipment in Venezuela. 

Every month the VENESAT-1 depreciates some U$2.5 million, so one would expect that the proprietors of the satellite, the Venezuelan government, would want to make as productive use of those 180 months as possible.    Ms. Orihuela herself in the previously linked interview describes the ongoing costs of Venezuela satellite for 24 state TV stations, 24 state radios, infocenters and national libraries as exceedingly high.   Yet seven months after its launch very little visible use of the satellite has been detected, except for the TV graphics every time Mr. Chávez is on TV.  An interesting comparison can be made with the satellite Star One C2, launched for Brazil last year by the European Space Agency on April 18th.  By June 2nd, only six weeks after its launch, the Star One C2 was fully operational to the point that it totally replaced the ageing BrasilSatB4 in "the task of broadcasting the main Brazilian TV network channels". is an excellent Scandinavian operation that collects information from FTA satellite watchers around the world about what they find being broadcast in orbiting satellites in its different transponders and frequencies.   It operates much like a Wikipedia but for FTA aficionados.  In the case of VENESAT-1, lyngsat reports three TV stations, a frequency from the Ministry of Education and a couple of feeds.  Even assuming that these were regularly produced broadcasts and not FTA reports intended to manipulate the public  information, it is fair to say that is a very weak grid compared to dozens of stations in the aforementioned Star One C2 launched only a few months earlier.

To reinforce the point, assuming the lyngsat information about the VENESAT-1 is accurate, lyngsat still reports most Venezuelan TV stations broadcasting through NSS806.

The promises of VENESAT

The business site links to a press release  (full article by registration only) from CANTV, the state owned telephone, television and internet provider with the following digest:

Venezuela-based state-owned telecom service provider CANTV commenced its services through the nation's Simón Bolivar (Venesat-1) satellite on January 10, according to a government statement. CANTV will deliver high-speed Internet, satellite-based telephony, and television services to remote regions. The government...

The article is dated January 1st.  As far as anyone knows none of these services are in currently in operation.

On January 7th 2009, CANTV published in its website (still there as of this writing) this report about the upcoming (January 10th) transfer of control of the VENESAT-1from Chinese technicians to Venezuelan.

The most striking aspect of the report is that the two officials mentioned and pictured , Minister of Science and Technology Nuris Orihuela and Minister of Telecomunications and Information Socorro Hernández have both been relieved of their duties, Ms Orihuela on April 9th and Ms Hernández  just last week, May 13th

Except for the linked article, the CANTV website appears to have been purged of any references to the VENESAT.

Commenting on the recent changes of personnel within the administration, the widely popular and respected Venezuelan web site The Devil's Excrement on May 15th described  VENESAT-1as "...the worthless Chinese satellite, ..."

What about Uruguay?

Because Venezuela's assigned orbital slot could not reach as many potential users as he wanted, Chávez negotiated with Uruguay, whose assigned slot at 78 degrees west could provide coverage from the Eastern US all the way down to the top portion of Argentina, to cede its slot in exchange for 10% of the available use of the satellite.

The agreement, signed during a meeting of Mercosur countries in Montevideo in December 2005, requires Venezuela to pay all the costs related to the transfer of property of the orbital slot with the International Telecommunications Union  and to pay for all the infrastructure costs in Uruguay including a ground station in the town of Manga, in the outskirts of Montevideo, as well as the training of technical operators.

For Uruguay, that otherwise could not afford to make use of its orbital slot, the deal seemed to make sense, as it could bring significant savings in satellite services.   The deal was approved by Uruguay's Congress, but not without a number of voices of concern from members of the opposition parties that did not fully trust Chávez would use the satellite solely for the advertised intended purposes.

Four years after the agreement was signed and seven months after the satellite was launched there is nothing to show for in Uruguay and not even significant mentions of the satellite in the press.

There was however, this report from El Observador on May 10th under the curious headline "Uruguay will start to utilize its satellite by the end of the year", while at the same time reporting that the initiation of the U$500 thousand ground station could not be celebrated "con bombos y platillos" (fanfare) during Chávez visit to the region on May 15th because the work is "delayed", although no reason is given as to why or for how long.  Even more intriguing the article alludes to the imminent visit to Montevideo of Minister Socorro Hernández to begin the process, but if there is one thing we can really be certain of is that Socorro Hernández will not be visiting Montevideo any time soon.

The checkered history of the DFH4

VENESAT-1 was launched on October 29th 2008; fourteen days later, November 12th, China Great Wall Industry Corp. confirmed that the NIGCOMSAT-1, a satellite that shared the same core technology known as DongFangHong-4 (DFH4) with VENESAT-1 and launched 18 months earlier on behalf of the government of Nigeria, was completely lost.

VENESAT-1 and NIGCOMSAT-1 also share the same DFH4 technology with SINOSAT-2, launched in 2006, ostensibly to provide additional communications capabilities for the 2008 Peking Olympics.  The SINOSAT-2 was confirmed totally lost within a couple of weeks after its launch. Gunther's Space Page reports of the 10 launched or planned DFH4 based satellites, nine were either lost, cancelled or delayed with VENESAT accounting for the tenth.

Satellite journalist Peter J. Brown concludes, in this thorough and exhaustive analysis of the impact of the loss of NIGCOMSAT to the Chinese satellite industry, if the loss of the NIGCOMSAT-1 had occurred a couple of weeks earlier, the launch of the VENESAT-1 would most likely had been postponed.

Both lost satellites appeared to have suffered electrical problems caused by failed or damaged solar arrays and this is what Mr. Perdomo, who has been monitoring and recording his findings, thinks also has happened to VENESAT.  In an email from Venezuela he shares this opinion:

"When VENESAT-1 deployed its solar panels it must have lost control because it took more than four months to reach its operational position.  Then they started putting channels in the satellite on C band and feeds on Ku band that were reported to Lyngsat and registered, 3 channels on C band, and feeds on Ku (never reconfirmed), they also started some testing for C band internet and sensor reading on Ka band for PDVSA [Venezuela's Oil Company], by then they were trying to get whatever they could from it to keep the deception as long as possible. They changed the story in the official media, avoiding any reference to the services they could no longer offer specifically DBS (direct to home broadcasting on the Ku band) and telemedicine, education act, that originally were the justification for the program. Uruguay must have known about these problems and postponed the investment for a useless control center.

The Venezuelan channels should be on the VENESAT-124/7 like they are now on NSS 806.  The Aló Presidente transmissions you mention are just fakes to keep the lie, this is proven beyond any doubt. At the moment not even feeds are there, just the spurious signal in the backup transponder from the Brazilian station meant for satellite Star One C2 that although 8 degrees away shares the same frequencies.  The intent to produce transmissions deteriorated the satellite beyond any hope of recovery, and this is the situation since April 9.  This stage could last for months; I have no way of predicting exactly how long, NIGCOMSAT still has some juice during the day."

How will this story unfold?

No one wants to see a communications satellite that could provide so many beneficial services fail. On the other hand it is fair to say that so far VENESAT-1 has been a less than stellar performer and the track record of the DFH4-based satellites does not inspire much confidence that it will improve in the future.

If there were absolutely no problems with the satellite, why it is taking so long to come up to speed?

But if there are problems, the implications for both the Chinese and Venezuelan governments are immense.

For Mr. Chávez the humiliation that the object that represents the superiority of his revolution failed is going to be a hard pill to swallow.  For the Chinese, the stakes are even higher: the reputation of their satellite program, a commercial enterprise with national security implications.

Page Printed from: at May 20, 2009 - 08:53:04 AM EDT
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 20, 2009, 07:10:52 AM
I don't launch satellites but I do fix my plumbing when it leaks. I have always liked to do minor repairs around the home. A coupe of years ago I had a problem with my kitchen sink. To solve the problem I bought some Chinese made galvanized pipe fittings at a local hardware store. I didn't bother to examine the fittings at the store, after all, what could possibly be bad about them, regular, conventional, low tech galvanized pipe, no big deal.

Until I tried to use them, that is. What CRAP! Utter CRAP! The galvanized finish utterly destroyed by the careless use of a pipe wrench and the thread so badly cut that it was impossible to make a watertight connection. I threw them in the trash bin and went out to buy some non-socialist pipe fittings probably made by the Empire.

If the Chinese can't even make low tech pipe fittings and if they poison babies with melamine in the edible products, it is not strange at all that they can't make a functional satellite.

Chavez and his 21st Century Socialism is destroying my country, there is no doubt about it.  I don't really care if the satellite works or not, it is used to disseminate socialist lies and to spread the hate that Chavez uses to remain in control. But Chavez has destroyed PDVSA, the source of 80% of our foreign currency. While he is willfully destroying private enterprise, he is also killing the goose that used to lay Venezuela's golden eggs. He is destroying the source of his own funding. Only an utter idiot would do something like that. All that he has left is the gift of the gab.

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Hallelujah, 21st. Century Socialism is finally paving my street
Post by: captainccs on May 20, 2009, 11:09:17 AM
Hallelujah, 21st. Century Socialism is finally paving my street

Mind you, the previous supposedly democratic governments didn't pave my street either. It had grown so full of potholes that you could almost do slalom practice by trying to avoid them. The holes got to be so famous that we have them names, the names of current office holders, of course.

A curious phenomenon happens with Latin American Governments. After they've been in power some time they discover that a good way to earn bribes is by handing out contracts for the building or repair of infrastructure. Not only that, it gives them an excuse to put up huge billboards telling us how marvelous they are, building for democracy, socialism or whatever happens to be in vogue. These billboards often tout the amount of money being spent for our benefit. Of course, they never says that its our money in the first place.   :-D

You got to love the Perfect Latin American Idiots. (
Title: More Opposition Harassment
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on May 24, 2009, 07:34:20 AM
Is Silence Consent?
The Obama administration's 'engagement' policy is convenient for Hugo Chávez's latest crackdown.
Sunday, May 24, 2009

WHILE THE United States and Venezuela's neighbors silently stand by, Hugo Chávez's campaign to destroy his remaining domestic opposition continues. On Thursday night state intelligence police raided the Caracas offices of Guillermo Zuloaga, the president of the country's last independent broadcast network, Globovision. They claimed to be looking for evidence of irregularities in the car dealership that Mr. Zuloaga also runs. In fact this was a thinly disguised escalation of an attack that Mr. Chávez launched this month against Globovision. The channel has been officially accused of "inciting panic," based on its accurate reporting of a mild May 4 earthquake in Caracas; under the regime's draconian media control law it could be shut down. Few doubt that that is Mr. Chávez's intent: Two years ago he revoked the license of the country's most popular television network after a similarly trumped-up campaign.

To recap: In February Mr. Chávez eliminated the limit on his tenure as president after a one-sided referendum campaign that included ugly attacks on Venezuela's Jewish community. Since then he has imprisoned or orchestrated investigations against most of the country's leading opposition figures, including three of the five opposition governors elected last year. The elected mayor of Maracaibo, who was the leading opposition candidate when Mr. Chávez last ran for president, was granted asylum in Peru last month after authorities sought his arrest on dubious tax charges. The National Assembly, controlled by Mr. Chávez, is considering legislation that would eliminate collective bargaining and replace independent trade unions with "worker's councils" controlled by the ruling party. Another new law would eliminate foreign financing for independent non-government groups.

This is hardly the first time that a Latin American caudillo has tried to eliminate peaceful opponents: Mr. Chávez is following a path well worn by the likes of Juan Perón and Alberto Fujimori -- not to mention his mentor, Fidel Castro. But this may be the first time that the United States has watched the systematic destruction of a Latin American democracy in silence. As Mr. Chávez has implemented the "third phase" of his self-styled revolution, the Obama administration has persisted with the policy of quiet engagement that the president promised before taking office.

"We need to find a space in which we can actually have a conversation, and we need to find ways to enhance our levels of confidence," Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. said two weeks ago, echoing earlier remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. We have no objection to dialogue with Mr. Chávez. But isn't it time to start talking about preserving independent television stations, opposition political leaders, trade unions and human rights groups -- before it is too late?
Title: Because I say so
Post by: captainccs on May 25, 2009, 06:31:47 AM

Because I say so

[05-22-09] Venezuelan politics never seems to touch bottom. This time, it might have. Venezuela has lived through so many ups and downs since Hugo Chavez came to power ten years ago that such tribulations no longer matter much. What does truly matter is the conviction, increasingly held today in and out of Venezuela, that Hugo Chavez has ignominiously betrayed the hope he once inspired in many. He appears to command still enough allegiance as to keep up appearances. Yet, the increasingly evident truth for friend and foe is that he has turned out to be a fraud, such as Venezuela had left behind several generations ago and had hoped would never witness again.

Where did Hugo Chavez fail? In retrospect, it might be said that he tried to change Venezuela in too many ways, in too short a time, and in a far too unilateral manner. It can be said that he tried to do so for the wrong reasons and in pursuit of the wrong goals. It could be said that he had a golden chance to give Venezuela a badly needed new opportunity on the strength of extravagantly high revenues. Yes. But today it can also be said that the simple truth is that he missed such an opportunity and that all that is left is the unfulfilled hopes created by his unbridled demagoguery, blatant disregard of the common will and misguided believes in a personal Utopia.

Furthermore, as Venezuela begins to understand the scale of the disaster it will have to deal with when the dust settles, it can already be said that Hugo Chavez willfully ruined a nation in his unrepentant ambition to shape Venezuela’s history and destiny according to the delusions of his delirious mind.

But that is not all. As the symptoms of a systemic crisis loom large over Venezuela’s political, social and economic prospects, Hugo Chavez has increasingly taken refuge in the ultimate subterfuge of failed politicians and erratic would-be tyrants: his will is the law. His convictions must per force be those of every Venezuelan, and dissent must be ignored, hidden or quashed.

What others might say or think is no longer of any consequence. What Venezuelans might believe, wish or cherish, is of no significance. The only destiny worthy of Venezuela is Hugo Chavez’s will. The ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is simply his will. Is Venezuela to follow him blindly? As current events show, hopes and frustrations as large as those Hugo Chavez has given life to cannot coexist together for long. Judging by the Venezuelan president’s recent statements – of which we present a selection in our Video Section “Hugo Chavez in his Own Words” - he feels confident that the powers he holds and the numbness created by widespread corruption will settle the issue in his favor and that he will continue to be able to sow misery under the banner of a Utopia only he can lead the way to. Time will tell.

Spanish language version (

Title: Many Aren't Fooled
Post by: Body-by-Guinness on May 29, 2009, 02:04:49 PM
“We Don’t Want Venezuela to Become a Totalitarian Communist State”

Posted by Ian Vasquez

“We don’t want Venezuela to become a totalitarian communist state,” declared Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa yesterday in Caracas at the opening of a major conference organized by the market-liberal think tank, CEDICE. I’m in Venezuela this week with my Cato colleagues Juan Carlos Hidalgo and Gabriela Calderon to participate in the event and to run a seminar for 60 students and young leaders from Venezuela, which took place earlier this week.

Vargas Llosa’s concern is not about some remote possibility. Nor is it the opinion of an isolated intellectual detached from reality. His comments received sustained applause from the over-flow crowd of the 600 people in attendance and he has been mobbed by the press since he arrived here yesterday. Venezuela is not yet a full fledged dictatorship, evidenced by the fact that we are meeting here with leading liberal intellectuals from the region. But the environment of intolerance, arbitrary rule, and state vilification of anybody who disagrees with Hugo Chavez’s march toward socialism has worsened at an alarming rate in recent months.

Already, Chavez has centralized economic and political control to a degree unmatched anywhere in the hemisphere outside of Cuba. He controls the legislature, the supreme court, the military, the central bank, the national electoral council, much of the media, the state oil monopoly and thus virtually all government spending, and exerts tremendous influence over the private sector through regulatory measures, most especially capital controls.

Freedom of speech is coming under renewed attack. Wednesday was the two-year anniversary of the government’s decision to shut down the independent RCTV (by refusing to renew its license)—until then the country’s largest television station. It was the closing of RCTV that sparked mass protests led by the Venezuelan student movement that culminated in the defeat in December 2007 of Chavez’s proposed constitutional referendum that would have turned the country into a socialist state. Since then, the opposition has won major victories in leading cities and states and Chavez has had to deal with the steep drop in the price of oil, the source of his astronomical spending. Chavez´s response has included the marginalization of elected opposition politicians by depriving them of most of their funding and appointing parallel officials to carry out local government functions with full funding; the imposition by law of many of the measures rejected in the constitutional referendum; a rash of further nationalizations and land confiscations; and threats to close Globovision TV, the only remaining independent television station in the country.

The extent and technological sophistication of state propaganda here is impressive and chilling. Numerous state television stations operate 24 hours a day, relying on a diversity of formats (talk shows, music videos, interviews, “news” programs, congressional “debates,” etc.), praising the Chavez regime, and attacking the private sector. The programming is not just pro-government. It is explicitly Marxist through and through. There is endless talk about the effort to create a “new socialist man.” Those of us who have come to defend basic freedom in Venezuela have been individually and institutionally labeled on state television as imperialists and agents of the CIA. Currently and ironically, there is a government campaign against the “hegemony” of the private press and “media terrorism”—otherwise known in civilized countries as freedom of the press. The state intellectuals are discussing the lack of social responsibility of the private press and one channel carries congressional debates on the subject. The other day the government raided the house of the president of Globovision and accused him of violating the law in business dealings unrelated to the television station. This is being used as further proof of the existence of a vast “mafia” led by the “oligarchy.” Last night Mario Silva, the Goebbels of Venezuela, openly called on his television show for the closing of Globovision on the grounds that the station has misled and insulted the Venezuelan people for far too long and that enough is enough. I could go on but you get the picture. And this is only TV. The government finances marches, concerts and rallies, and pro-Chavez party propaganda on billboards, government buildings, public squares, etc. throughout the city and the country.

As was posted earlier, we co-sponsored a three-day Cato seminar on classical liberal thought for 60 Venezuelan students earlier this week with CEDICE that the national guard, an education ministry official and state TV interrupted in an effort to shut the event down. Their reasons for doing so were ludicrous—they accused us of setting up a university without permission. When we explained that it was a seminar that only uses the name university in the title, they then said we were engaging in false advertising and thus were still breaking the law. Fortunately, we had immediately called Globovision who immediately began reporting the incident as it occurred. I think Globovision’s role played no small part in pressuring government officials to leave. The government tried to intimidate us and provoke us into reacting aggressively, which we did not do. (Ironically, my Argentinean colleague, Professor Martin Krause, was giving a lecture at our seminar on the importance of civil society at the time of the government’s harassment.) For weeks, state media had been reporting that we were setting up a camp to train young Venezuelans in subversive tactics to overthrow the Chavez regime. This has then been discussed at length on state television by commentators, intellectuals, etc. Later I watched on Mario Silva’s program how they covered the incident showing footage that supposedly showed how we were openly flouting Venezuelan law in a number of ways. Later the same day, the authorities detained Peruvian intellectual Alvaro Vargas Llosa for three hours upon his arrival at the airport as he was headed to the Cato-CEDICE seminar, finally letting him go and informing him that he could not discuss political issues. Here again Globovision played a key role. It began reporting the events at airport as they happened, which were in turn immediately reported throughout the Latin American press.

This is an increasingly polarized and tense society. But it is also true that Chavez must rely extensively on force and deception to promote his socialist project. His personal popularity has sunk under 50 percent in recent weeks (support for his policies are even lower) and he is becoming more radical. The CEDICE conference has been filled with especially inspiring and moving speeches, particularly from the Venezuelans. Some of them–like RCTV president Marcel Granier or Oscar Garcia Mendoza, president of a leading bank that has never done business with government—are heroes of freedom, putting their own fortunes and personal liberty at risk in openly challenging the regime. They have the admiration of all freedom lovers here. They deserve all the support they can get in a battle that is only going to get tougher.

Ian Vasquez • May 29, 2009 @ 4:03 pm
Title: Chavez's Deadly Star Turn In Venice
Post by: captainccs on September 08, 2009, 06:05:04 PM
Chavez's Deadly Star Turn In Venice

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, September 08, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Global Security: Radical chic hit its zenith in Europe Monday as Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez strolled the red carpet to adoring crowds at the Venice Film Festival — just as he was plotting with Iran to destroy the West.

It was the thuggish Venezuelan dictator's moment of glory, just two days after thousands of Latin Americans bitterly marched against him in "No Mas Chavez" demonstrations on Friday.

The humiliation of that was over when the film industry crowds at the Venice premiere of Oliver Stone's "South of the Border" heaved forward to touch his clothes and the paparazzi begged him for his autograph. Not since the days of the Beatles has slavering from the thousands gone on like this.

See, Hugo's a movie star now, with Stone creating a propaganda film in his honor, just as Leni Riefenstahl did for Adolf Hitler.

Based on the film's trailer and Stone's own statements, the film emphasizes that the public has it all wrong about the clowning Chavez being a threat to the West. It's merely an image problem he has, brought on by unjust demonization from George W. Bush.

Security threat? What security threat? Pay no attention to those Middle Eastern and Colombian terrorists with Venezuelan passports — Hugo Chavez, after all, has created day care centers.

It's a particularly dangerous line of propaganda to be spewing these days. Outside Chavez's appearance in Venice, one wonders if the film crowds realized that Chavez is also on what he calls an "axis of evil" tour, forging deadly links with regimes as brutal as his own — or worse. As he smiled and waved to the Venetian crowds, playfully kissing a reporter after borrowing her camera, he was taking action on more serious fronts to try to take the West down.

A day earlier in Tehran, Chavez announced a "strategic" move to sell $800 million in gasoline to Iran, vowing to ship 20,000 barrels a day in exchange for Iranian "tractors." Sound innocuous? It isn't.

Chavez knows exactly what he's doing. Iran imports 40% of its gasoline and is vulnerable to sanctions on that vital commodity. For all the oil Iran produces, it lacks refinery capacity and must make up for its internal shortage with imports. Shutting off the gasoline spigot from the West is the mullahs' worst fear, given the damage it would do to Iran's economy as well as their grip on power.

That means gasoline is the one of the few points of leverage the West has over the Iranian regime as it seeks to check Iran's nuclear program. If Chavez's scheme succeeds, the West will have a potential economic weapon removed. Chavez's gasoline means the mullahs in charge should have nothing to fear from a shut-off.

This will give Tehran room for a more aggressive push to develop nuclear weapons to threaten the West. Amazingly enough, the first target for nuclear blackmail will likely be Europe, where Chavez once strode the red carpet to applause in Venice.

We should all be concerned. A nuclear-armed Iran will be the one with leverage. Once it gets the bomb, the West will have two choices: accept it and the resulting spread of nuclear know-how to terrorist groups and rogue states, including Venezuela; or go to war.

By his move to supply Iran with gasoline, Chavez ends the peaceful middle ground of gasoline sanctions.

Chavez plainly stated that this was his aim — over the weekend, he said Iran had "a right" to develop its nuclear program and that all the talk about Iran building a bomb should be discounted because there was "no proof."

If radical chic, which Tom Wolfe wrote of in the 1970s, was the self-destructive propensity of the privileged elites to sidle up to predators trying to kill them, what went on in Venice amounts to an intensified modern version of that very same decadence.

Tragedy will come of it.

Title: The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
Post by: G M on September 09, 2009, 08:15:23 PM

SEPTEMBER 8, 2009, 7:27 P.M. ET.

The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
The prospect of Iranian missiles in South America should not be dismissed.

The diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost 50 years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the relationship dramatically changed.

Today Mr. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus. Now is the time to develop policies in this country to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.

Signs of the evolving partnership began to emerge in 2006, when Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria as the only nations to vote against a U.N. Atomic Energy Agency resolution to report Iran to the Security Council over its failures to abide U.N. sanctions to curtail its nuclear program. A year later, during a visit by Mr. Chávez to Tehran, the two nations declared an "axis of unity" against the U.S. and Ecuador. And in June of this year, while protesters lined the streets of Tehran following the substantial allegations of fraud in the re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, Mr. Chávez publicly offered him support. As the regime cracked down on political dissent, jailing, torturing and killing protesters, Venezuela stood with the Iranian hard-liners.

View Full Image
Associated Press Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meet in Tehran, Sept. 5.
Meanwhile, Iranian investments in Venezuela have been rising. The two countries have signed various Memoranda of Understanding on technology development, cooperation on banking and finance, and oil and gas exploration and refining. In April 2008, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding pledging full military support and cooperation. United Press International reported in August that Iranian military advisers have been embedded with Venezuelan troops.

According to a report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in December of last year, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of unmined uranium. There is speculation in the Carnegie report that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran.

The Iranians have also opened International Development Bank in Caracas under the Spanish name Banco Internacional de Desarrollo C.A., an independent subsidiary of Export Development Bank of Iran. Last October the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed economic sanctions against both of these Iranian banks for providing or attempting to provide financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and its Armed Forces Logistics—the two Iranian military entities tasked with advancing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

My office has been told that that over the past three years a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela—ideal locations for the illicit production of weapons. Evidence of the type of activity conducted inside the factories is limited. But we should be concerned, especially in light of an incident in December 2008. Turkish authorities detained an Iranian vessel bound for Venezuela after discovering lab equipment capable of producing explosives packed inside 22 containers marked "tractor parts." The containers also allegedly contained barrels labeled with "danger" signs. I think it is safe to assume that this was a lucky catch—and that most often shipments of this kind reach their destination in Venezuela.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reported a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military and law enforcement that has allowed that country to become a major transshipment route for trafficking cocaine out of Colombia. Intelligence gathered by my office strongly supports the conclusion that Hezbollah supporters in South America are engaged in the trafficking of narcotics. The GAO study also confirms allegations of Venezuelan support for FARC, the Colombian terrorist insurgency group that finances its operations through narcotics trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.

In a raid on a FARC training camp this July, Colombian military operatives recovered Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. Sweden believes this demonstrates a violation of the end-user agreement by Venezuela, as the Swedish manufacturer was never authorized to sell arms to Colombia. Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian origin, lamely called the allegations a "media show," and "part of a campaign against our people, our government and our institutions."

In the past several years Iranian entities have employed a pervasive system of deceitful and fraudulent practices to move money all over the world without detection. The regime has done this, I believe, to pay for materials necessary to develop nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and road-side bombs. Venezuela has an established financial system that Iran, with the help of Mr. Chávez's government, can exploit to avoid economic sanctions.

Consider, for example, the United Kingdom bank Lloyds TSB. From 2001 to 2004, on behalf of Iranian banks and their customers, the bank admitted in a statement of facts to my office that it intentionally altered wire transfer information to hide the identity of its clients. This allowed the illegal transfer of more than $300 million of Iranian cash despite economic sanctions prohibiting Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. In January, Lloyds entered into deferred prosecution agreements with my office and the Justice Department to resolve the investigation.

In April, we also announced the indictment of a company called Limmt, and its manager, Li Fang Wei. The U.S. government had banned Limmt from engaging in transactions with or through the U.S. financial system because of its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Iran. But our investigation revealed that Li Fang Wei and Limmt used aliases and shell companies to deceive banks into processing payments related to the shipment of banned missile, nuclear and so-called dual use materials to subsidiary organizations of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization. (Limmt, through the international press, has denied the allegations in the indictment.) The tactics used in these cases should send a strong signal to law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and military commands throughout the world about the style and level of deception the Iranians' employ. Based on information developed by my office, we believe that the Iranians, with the help of Venezuela, are now engaged in similar sanctions-busting schemes.

Why is Hugo Chávez willing to open up his country to a foreign nation with little shared history or culture? I believe it is because his regime is bent on becoming a regional power, and is fanatical in its approach to dealing with the U.S. The diplomatic overture of President Barack Obama in shaking Mr. Chávez's hand in April at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is no reason to assume the threat has diminished. In fact, with the groundwork laid years ago, we are entering a period where the fruits of the Iran-Venezuela bond will begin to ripen.

That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes, the self-described "axis of unity," will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. And it seems that terrorist groups have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking.

The Iranian nuclear and long-range missile threats, and creeping Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere, cannot be overlooked. My office and other law-enforcement agencies can help ensure that money laundering, terror financing, and sanctions violations are not ignored, and that criminals and the banks that aid Iran will be discovered and prosecuted. But U.S. law enforcement alone is not enough to counter the threat.

The public needs to be aware of Iran's growing presence in Latin America. Moreover, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to act will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to corrupt elements in the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.

Mr. Morgenthau is the Manhattan district attorney. This op-ed is adapted from a speech yesterday at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 11, 2009, 05:26:06 AM
A serious ten minute discussion in Spanish of the growing Iranian-Venezuelan nuclear connection.  Is Chavez trying to go nuclear?

Hat tip to our man in Venezuela who first posted this on the Islamo Fascismo thread on the Spanish language forum.

Title: Re: Venezuela - water rationing
Post by: DougMacG on November 03, 2009, 08:34:29 AM
This could have gone in the water thread but looked to me like it exposes more weaknesses of the ruler and his governing competence.  I thought that under fascism-socialism you give up your freedoms but the trains run on time.  Solution is easy - ration service, blame the rich.  Sounds familiar.  Speaking of rich, I wonder if the Presidential 'Palace' has its water service rationed...

Water rationing for Venezuela's capital city
Nov 2 02:13 PM US/Eastern

Residents Face Cuts in Water Service for as Much as 48 Hours per Week

Residents of the Venezuelan capital face cuts in water service for as much as 48 hours per week, after the government imposed rationing to stem a 25 percent shortfall in the city's supply, officials said Monday.

Officials said cuts in water service were to be staggered throughout Caracas through the duration of the current dry season, which is not expected to end until May 2010.

Weather forecasters blame the "El Nino" weather phenomenon, saying the periodic weather system has markedly reduced rainfall and created drought conditions.

Others blame the shortage on poor government management of the country's water resources, while President Hugo Chavez faulted the excesses of capitalism.

"What will the rich fill their swimming pools with?" the country's leftist leader asked recently.

"With the water that is denied inhabitants in the poor neighborhoods," he said, blaming the lack of sufficient water on "capitalism -- a lack of feeling, a lack of humanity."

The government recently created a ministry of electricity to help conserve the use of power, which also is in short supply.

Officials also urged the public to employ better conservation practices, like shorter showers and the use of less water when brushing teeth.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on November 04, 2009, 04:42:07 AM
"What will the rich fill their swimming pools with?" the country's leftist leader asked recently.

Evian. It's not fit for drinking but it's good enough for a swim.   :evil:

Embalse La Mariposa is Caracas's nearest water reservoir and as empty as our president's promises of a better life:

Title: Re: Venezuela, water rationing
Post by: DougMacG on November 04, 2009, 08:49:36 PM
Amazing photos, Denny.  I wondered what part of this is natural disaster - drought - and what part is failed public leadership.  My thought is that poor countries often lack safe drinking water, but Venezuela is/was oil rich in a time of record oil prices.  If they did not build sufficient water infrastructure with their confiscated wealth, whether it should have been more reservoirs, rain capturing, purification, pipelines or desalination, then it was human failure. 

FYI for Chavez, swimming pools do not actually destroy water, nor do showers or toilets.

Al Gore has a company with waterless urinals.  Chavez could look into that.  Maybe their mutual friend Obama could hook them up. 

Obama in this situation would blame it on Bush, but Chavez with his endless term-stretching has no predecessor to blame anymore.
Title: Re: Venezuela, water rationing
Post by: captainccs on November 05, 2009, 01:14:55 AM
Amazing photos, Denny.  I wondered what part of this is natural disaster - drought - and what part is failed public leadership.  My thought is that poor countries often lack safe drinking water, but Venezuela is/was oil rich in a time of record oil prices.  If they did not build sufficient water infrastructure with their confiscated wealth, whether it should have been more reservoirs, rain capturing, purification, pipelines or desalination, then it was human failure.

Lack of water has been a perennial problem for Caracas. I'm not an expert on the subject but it seems to me that the Caracas valley is too small to catch enough rainwater for the current population. La Mariposa reservoir is just one of several that service Caracas. I believe there are two or three "systems" that bring water from further south. The water that reaches our homes is drinkable having been treated and chlorinated but it does have a lot of silt at times.

In Venezuela we have a dry season and a wet season. Officially the wet season is May to November so it is hard to blame the season for the lack of water. Our problem is quite clear, lack of maintenance, which is not exclusive to the waterworks but present in every government initiative. To be fair, this is not a novelty with Mr. Chavez, lack of maintenance has been emblematic of ALL our governments far back as I can remember. We build but we do not keep things up.

The most dramatic failure to keep things up led to the collapse of one of the bridges on the main road to the airport. See Viaduct Number 1 Is Falling Down (

But let's not be too harsh on ourselves. Tough commute likely after Bay Bridge rod snaps (

We have lots of water but in the wrong places: Lake Guri (

Search for Lake Guri (
Title: Water has been a long time problem for Caracas
Post by: captainccs on November 05, 2009, 03:07:18 AM
According to Esther Elena Marcano in her 1993 book La crisis del agua en Caracas: elementos para el análisis de la política urbana (álisis+de+la+pol%C3%ADtica+urbana#v=onepage&q=&f=false) the water crisis is 380 years old. The book is copyright five years before Chavez took power.

Here is the latest project "Tuy IV" (

The idea is to bring water from Rio Cuira, see the map

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on November 05, 2009, 10:08:40 AM
Denny, that was all very helpful.  Besides the bay bridge issues, I was thinking of New Orleans and Katrina, and we had a bridge collapse here with design failure, I-35 Mpls that I drove over twice the day it fell.  For 'safety' our highway dept had an automatic spraying system of corrosive salts onto under-designed gusset plates.  (Soon they will also run health care.)  So it is very fair to say public infrastructure problems are not unique to Chavez, but also fair to note that in all his power and wealth confiscation he did not successfully address the most obvious, crucial, 380 year old problem during his time.

I live where water is plentiful, but heat required to live here year round is threatened by a government that simultaneously thwarts nuclear energy while declaring all other real sources a pollutant.

Title: WSJ: Venezuela-Iran
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 15, 2009, 11:44:54 AM
Here's one from the Department of We Are The World: Hugo Chávez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the U.N.'s climate summit in Copenhagen. Say what you will about these two gentlemen—the support for terrorists, the Holocaust denial, the suppression of civil liberties—at least nobody can accuse them of being global warming "deniers."

On the contrary, the two leaders, who met in Caracas last month for at least the 11th time, have been nothing if not cooperative when it comes to environmentally friendly and carbon-neutral technologies. Bicycles, for instance: In 2005, Chávez directed his government to "follow seriously the project of manufacturing Iranian bicycles in Venezuela." An Iranian dairy products plant (no doubt ecologically sensitive) also set up shop hard on the Colombian border, in territory controlled by Colombia's terrorist FARC.

Ahmadinejad and Chávez: A new document sheds light on this radioactive relationship.

Then there was the tractor factory Iran built in Ciudad Bolivar. In January, the Associated Press reported that Turkish authorities had seized 22 containers going to Venezuela from Iran labeled "tractor parts." What they contained, according to one Turkish official, "was enough to set up an explosives lab."

But perhaps the most interesting Iranian venture is a supposed gold mine not far from Angel Falls, in a remote area known as the Roraima Basin. The basin straddles Venezuela's border with neighboring Guyana, where a Canadian company, U308, thinks it has found the "geological look-alike" to Canada's Athabasca Basin. The Athabasca, the company's Web site adds, "is the world's largest resource of uranium."

In 2006, Chávez publicly mocked suspicions of nuclear cooperation with Iran, saying it "shows they have no limit in their capacity to invent lies." In September, however, Rodolfo Sanz, Venezuela's minister of basic industries, acknowledged that "Iran is helping us with geophysical aerial probes and geochemical analyses" in its search for uranium.

The official basis for this cooperation seems to be a Nov. 14, 2008 memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' ministers of science and technology and given to me by a credible foreign intelligence source. "The two parties agreed to cooperate in the field of nuclear technology," reads the Spanish version of the document, which also makes mention of the "peaceful use of alternative energies." Days later, the Venezuelan government submitted a paper to the International Atomic Energy Agency on the "Introduction of a Nuclear Power Programme." (Online readers can see the memoranda for themselves in their Farsi and Spanish versions. One mystery: The Farsi version makes no mention of nuclear cooperation.)

Iran would certainly require large and reliable supplies of uranium if it is going to enrich the nuclear fuel in 10 separate plants—an ambition Ahmadinejad spelled out last month. It would also require an extensive financial and logistical infrastructure network in Venezuela, not to mention unusually good political connections. All this it has in spades.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Mary O'Grady: Revolutionary Anti-Semitism
Robert M. Morgenthau: The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela
Warren Kozak: The Missiles of October
.Consider financing. In January 2008, the Bank of International Development opened its doors for business in Caracas. At the top of its list of its directors, all of whom are Iranian, is one Tahmasb Mazaheri, former governor of the central bank of Iran. As it turns out, the bank is a subsidiary of the Export Development Bank of Iran, which in October 2008 was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for providing "financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics."

Or consider logistics. For nearly three years, Venezuelan airline ConViasa has been flying an Airbus 340 to Damascus and Tehran. Neither city is a typical Venezuelan tourist destination, to say the least. What goes into the cargo hold of that big plane is an interesting question. Also interesting is that in October 2008 the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, also sanctioned by Treasury, announced it had established a direct shipping route to Venezuela.

Finally, there are the political connections. What do Fadi Kabboul, Aref Richany Jimenez, Radwan Sabbagh and Tarek Zaidan El Aissami Maddah have in common? The answer is that they are, respectively, executive director for planning of Venezuelan oil company PdVSA; the president of Venezuela's military-industrial complex; the president of a major state-owned mining concern; and, finally, the minister of interior. Latin Americans of Middle Eastern descent have long played prominent roles in national politics and business. But these are all fingertip positions in what gives the Iranian-Venezuelan relationship its worrying grip.

Forty-seven years ago, Americans woke up to the fact that a distant power could threaten us much closer to home. Perhaps it's time Camelot 2.0 take note that we are now on course for a replay.
Title: Venezuela: Devaluation
Post by: captainccs on January 09, 2010, 08:58:16 AM
Hugo Chavez’ has his own economic Red Friday as he devalues the currency 63.7%
January 9, 2010

As usual it was an irresponsible and perverse performance by Hugo Chavez. The President that likes to go on nationwide TV to announce the most trivial things, from phantom death threats against him to handing out fake loans to people, did not dare to do the same  to announce a dramatic devaluation which is a consequence of his own irresponsible policies. But he even dared to call Venezuela’s foreign exchange controls “efficient”, despite the fact that he was taking this dramatic step and that the exchange controls have been not only the biggest corruption racket in the country’s history, but also represented a perverse subsidy to the rich, via preferential rates for travel and the import of some luxury goods.

And as if the old system was not bad enough, Chavez announced a dual Government exchange rate, triple if you take into account the swap rate, devaluing the official rate of Bs. 2.15 per dollar to Bs. 2.6 per dollar, a 20.9% devaluation, which will be applied only to foodstuffs, medicines, machinery and certain remittances abroad. The remainder of imports will suffer a 100% devaluation to Bs. 4.3 per US$, including supposedly travel allowances and airline tickets, although this was not included in the formal announcement.

Based on last year’s imports of goods, this implies that 45.9% of the goods imported will have a price increase of 20.9%, while 54.1% will have a price increase of 100%, for a weighted average of 63.7% for the increase in price of all of the country’s imports. Thus, the inflationary impact of the devaluation will be very high, much higher than the irresponsible estimate by the Minister of Finance that this will only represent a 3-5% increase to the CPI. It is my understanding that technical people in the Ministry of Finance were not even asked to calculate the impact of the devaluation, another demonstration of the primitive nature of this administration.

And as if the devaluation itself was not the result of the irresponsible economic policies of the last few years, the Government guaranteed that this will be only the first of such announcements to come, as it announced that the Central Bank will transfer US$ 7 billion of the country’s international reserves to the development fund Fonden, leaving reserves at US$ 28 billion, while monetary liquidity stands at a record Bs. 236 billion. Just to give you some perspective, the last time the official rate was devalued in 2005, M2 stood at Bs. 46 billion and international reserves were at US$ 24 billion. Thus, at the time there were practically 2 Bolivars per dollar of international reserves with the official rate at Bs. 2.15 to the dollar, while today there are Bs. 8.42 to the dollar with the lowest official rate at Bs. 2.6. (Although the weighted average of imports stands at Bs. 3.51 per dollar)

This is simply unsustainable, you can not increase monetary liquidity (M2) by a factor of 5, while maintaining international reserves constants and expect inflation to go down or the exchange rate to be sustainable at current levels. The laws of economics can be stretched but not violated (or raped really).

Given that inflation was already going to top 30% in 2010 and if we assume that the import component of goods consumed in Venezuela is almost at 50%, then one would expect an additional 30% spike on inflation from the announced devaluation. Not a pretty picture. The impact of the devaluation may be slightly smaller on the poor quantitatively, because since most food imports are done at the lower rate, and the poor spend more of their income on food, they will feel it less, even if still a huge effect.

There is, of course, a third rate, the swap parallel rate, which people think will actually jump on Monday. The Government said it will intervene in that market and that the Central Bank will be allowed to do so. With PDVSA selling dollars at Bs. 4.3, there is less pressure on the oil company to sell dollars in the swap market. But Chavez also said something like “the Government will control (or monitor?) imports with dollars from company’s own resources”. This seems to suggest that the Government may be planning to limit imports that are not made with CADIVI dollars. Just the initial confusion on this issue may actually lower demand in the swap market initially. (But the policy would be suicidal as shortages would soar) Thus, I would epexct a drop at first and then the swap rate is likely to rise, not only because there are more Bolivars out there and less dollars, but because the Government has practically approved the swap rate as a third rate, when it says the Central Bank will intervene, which should give more confidence to those that are still hesitant to buy dollars aggressively at the swap rate.

But additionally, there is the effect of the sharp drop in demand induced by the 60-plus increase in the price of imports. For the first few months, this should relieve some of the pressure in the swap rate as importers are more cautious on how much to import and the consumer contracts.

Combine the effect of the devaluation with that of the banking crisis and the already high levels of inflation and economic contraction and you now have stagflation on steroids and a very difficult political year for the Government. Hugo Chavez who based his popularity on the delay of implementations of realistic economic policies, has met his own Red Friday. Unfortunately, he is once again attacking the consequences and not the origin of the problems. Even worse, he is exacerbating them once again by removing US$ 7 billion from international reserves.

While it is true that this improves the ability of Venezuela’s industry to export, such exports were down 50% last year and the inflationary impact of the measure itself may block any ability to compete. Recall that many of these exporters, like the Government’s industrial complex, are forced to sell their dollars at the official rate, now Bs. 2.6 per $, while enduring the high levels of inflation of the country.

Finally, about the only positive aspect that this creates is that the country’s debt is likely to enjoy a huge rally in the upcoming days, as foreign investors perceive that the ability of the country to fulfill its international commitments has improved dramatically with the devaluation. And it has indeed. With this devaluation, PDVSA and the Government will have much more Bolivars, which relieves the pressure on the dollars the Government has, as well as on the need to issue new debt, which is music to the eras of foreign investors. Most investors find Venezuela’s debt quite attractive at even higher levels than these, but it is the specter of the Government issuing new debt constantly that has kept them away from it in the recent past. This eases this concern, at least until the end of the year.

Not a pretty picture for the Government, particularly because this is only a short term solution. Once again, if oil prices do not go up significantly, a year from now, we may be witnessing a similar performance of a new adjustment to the exchange rate. Amazingly, it is incredible that these same measures were not undertaken in September so that their inflationary spike would have been felt last year and not in 2010, an electoral year. The Government now has more money in its hands, but the people will have less, by the end of the year the same distortions and needs of the Government of a month ago, will once again be present.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 09, 2010, 07:14:10 PM
CARACAS -- President Hugo Chávez said he ordered two F-16 jets to intercept a U.S. military plane that twice violated Venezuelan airspace on Friday in what he called the latest provocation in the South American nation's skies.

Brandishing a photo of the plane, which he described as a P-3, Mr. Chávez said the overflight was the latest incursion in Venezuelan skies by the U.S. military from its bases on the Netherlands' Caribbean islands and from neighboring Colombia.

There was no immediate response from the U.S. Defense Department or the White House.

Mr. Chávez said the F-16s escorted the U.S. plane away after two incursions lasting 15 and 19 minutes each.

The perceived threat of U.S. intervention has become a central element of Mr. Chávez's political discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.

Foes say the president is hyping the idea of a foreign threat to distract Venezuelans from domestic problems such as a recession and inadequate public services. Mr. Chávez surprised the diplomatic world in December when he accused the Netherlands of abetting potential offensive action against his government by granting U.S. troops access to its islands close to Venezuela.

The Dutch government says the U.S. presence is only for counternarcotics and surveillance operations over Caribbean smuggling routes.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 10, 2010, 02:10:39 AM
In Venezuela the situation is getting worse by the day. No water, no electricity, high inflation (over 35% a year since 1984), dropping oil production, scarcity of many food items, VERY HIGH crime rate, kidnappings, a banking scandal with Chavista families at the center. List goes on and on.

Venezuela is and has always been very president centric. The president is seen as the Messiah who solves everything. One would think that by this time Chavez's popularity rating would be nil but the fact is that he has been successful at handing off the blame, left and right, to foreign powers and to "incompetent underlings." It's almost as if he had studied the screen play of 1984 where Big Brother is always cooking up foreign wars to distract the people.

This weekend, rumor has it that the devaluation was done to distract the people from the huge failure in water and electric management. I posted a long piece about the devaluation by Miguel Octavio of "The Devil's Excrement." He seems to have forgotten entirely about the water and electric problem. Attention span from 5 minutes to maybe two or three day!

The Caribbean Sea has been patrolled by the US Coast Guard for decades. Sailors should  be happy because piracy has declined considerably since the patrolling started. Let's not forget that, in the world view, the Caribbean Sea is the American back yard  as much an the Ukraine and Georgia are part of the Russian back yard and Tibet is part of China's back yard. As much as we might dislike this back yard concept, those are the facts on the ground. An expert politician can exploit these things to his personal advantage and Chavez does so masterfully.

Just a few days ago, a Colombian journalist, who sees through the ruse, accused Chavez of confusing Santa's sled with airplanes. And the game goes on.

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Venezuelan vice president resigns
Post by: captainccs on January 25, 2010, 07:13:40 PM
Venezuelan vice president resigns
Tue, 26 Jan 2010 02:42:07 GMT

Venezuelan Vice President Ramon Carrizalez has left the government, reportedly citing personal reasons.

"The President of the Republic… accepted the resignation that was presented for strictly personal reasons by Vice President Ramon Carrizalez," Communications Minister Blanca Eekhout said in a statement on state television, Reuters reported.

The vice president, who also held the defense ministry portfolio, stepped down from that post as well.

Carrizalez previously served as infrastructure minister and housing minister.

State-backed news network Telesur said Carrizalez's wife, Environment Minister Yuviri Ortega, had also stepped down, but the network claimed there was no link between the decision and any differences she had with the government.

See also

How Hugo Chavez's revolution crumbled (

Title: Twitter #FreeVenezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 25, 2010, 09:59:02 PM
To follow the events in Venezuela via Twitter, use the hashtag #FreeVenezuela (

Title: Police Fire Tear Gas At Anti-Chavez Protesters
Post by: captainccs on January 28, 2010, 04:55:00 PM
Venezuelan Protests: Police Fire Tear Gas At Anti-Chavez Protesters

FABIOLA SANCHEZ | 01/28/10 06:28 PM |

CARACAS, Venezuela — Police fired tear gas to chase off thousands of students demonstrating in the capital Thursday, a fifth day of protests against President Hugo Chavez for pressuring cable and satellite TV providers to drop an opposition channel.

Some of the protesters threw rocks at police in riot gear when officers moved to break up the rally outside the offices of the state-run electricity company.

While charging that the government is trying to curb criticism, the students also used their demonstration to call attention to electricity shortages plaguing much of Venezuela and other pressing domestic problems like double-digit inflation.

University students have taken to the streets daily since Sunday, after government pressure led cable TV services to drop Radio Caracas Television International, which has long been a critic of Chavez's socialist policies.

"We are not going to allow continued shutdowns of media outlets that tell the truth, and we are not going to allow ineptitude and inefficiency to continue," said Nizar El Sakih, a student leader.

Critics of the government say Chavez is responsible for domestic problems ranging from double-digit inflation to violent crime to rolling power blackouts.

The government says RCTV was removed for refusing to comply with a new rule requiring media outlets to televise mandatory programming, including Chavez's speeches.

Chavez accused students of trying to stir up violence as a means of destabilizing his government.

"There are some attempting to set fire to the country," Chavez said in a televised address Thursday. "What are they seeking? Death."

He said unidentified assailants armed with assault rifles shot at National Guard troops Wednesday in the city of Merida, where two soldiers suffered gunshot wounds. A military barracks in the city of Barquisimeto was also attacked, he said.

Chavez vowed to crack down on street demonstrations that turn violent.

"We cannot permit this," he said. "The state and the government must impose authority."

Ten students were accused of fomenting public disorder Thursday in the eastern city of Barcelona – a day after they led protests that ended in clashes with police, Fortunato Herrera, a lawyer representing the students, told the local Globovision TV channel.

Student leader Jonathan Zambrano told Globovision that 22 protesters were arrested in the city of Barinas. The students were released, Zambrano said, after university groups agreed to call off street demonstrations.

Two youths were killed in Merida on Monday – a day after the protests began. Dozens of people have been injured during the week's demonstrations.


Associated Press Writer Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.

Title: PDVSA in Curacao
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 01, 2010, 09:11:01 AM
Venezuela: PDVSA Hints at Withdrawal from Curacao Refinery
Stratfor Today » February 27, 2010 | 2318 GMT

View of a state-owned PDVSA gas station in Caracas Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA may withdraw from the 320,000 barrel-per-day Isla refinery it operates in Curacao in protest of U.S. military “provocations” on the Dutch Caribbean island, Ultimas Noticias newspaper reported Feb. 27, citing an interview with Venezuela’s oil minister Rafael Ramirez. The Isla refinery, which processes sulfur-heavy crude from Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, is operated by PDVSA under a lease the firm has with the government of Curacao. PDVSA has long been trying to negotiate the purchase of the refinery from the Curacao government, but PDVSA is also in a severe financial crunch. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s heavy reliance on the state oil firm’s revenues to support his government programs and maintain popular support have stressed PDVSA operations, resulting in a decline in production and strain on Venezuelan refining operations. The Isla refinery in particular has developed into a financial liability for PDVSA since a Curacao court ruling in June 2009 decreed that PDVSA would have to pay roughly $3 million for violations in sulphur dioxide emissions, and $300,000 per day for further violations.

Venezuela is already facing serious refining problems due to mismanagement and a significant drop in foreign investment. Exacerbating matters is a growing electricity crisis that has had a significant impact on crude oil processing. The problems have turned critical enough that Venezuela, despite being a major oil producer and refiner, had to increase fuel purchases from abroad in Sept. 2009 to keep up with domestic demand. The Venezuelan government heavily subsidizes gasoline to maintain political support among the population, a policy that cuts further into PDVSA’s bottom line. Chavez has spoken frequently about the threat of U.S. military invasion of Venezuela, and his oil minister now appears to be using this pretext as a way to alleviate PDVSA’s financial obligations by withdrawing from its contract. The development does not speak well for PDVSA’s financial solvency and thus Venezuela’s overall political stability.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 01, 2010, 09:24:53 AM
Shell and Creole (EXXON) operated two of the world's largest refineries in Aruba and Curaçao as a way to avoid taxation in the producing country (Venezuela) and in the consuming country (USA). When Venezuela changed it's tax law these tax havens lost their appeal and the refineries were shut down with serious impact on the islands' economies. Eventually PDVSA would reopen one of the refineries as a measure of good will to our neighbor. I seriously doubt if these refineries ever had any value except as tax havens.

Now oil is becoming a weapon and therein lies danger.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Iranian Quds Force in Vz.
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 23, 2010, 09:54:25 AM
Iran: Quds Force in Venezuela
April 22, 2010 | 2253 GMT
 Text Resize:   

AFP/Getty Images
Iranian Revolutionary Guard special forces participate in military exercises in 2006Summary
A recently published U.S. Department of Defense report claims that members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF) currently are operating in Venezuela. STRATFOR sources claim that the relatively limited number of IRGC-QF in Venezuela are focused on intelligence operations, paramilitary training for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and security assistance for the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Though the IRGC-QF presence brings certain benefits to the Venezuelan government, Chavez also has an interest in keeping their proxy militant focus on Colombia.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates submitted a report to Congress in April on the current and future military strategy of Iran. Included in the report is a claim that the Quds Force, the overseas operations arm of Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has developed a significant presence in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela. STRATFOR sources connected to this Iranian military unit have confirmed a small but notable presence in Venezuela. Though IRGC-QF members in Venezuela are believed to be providing some security assistance to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader does not appear interested in incurring reprisals from the United States and is consequently trying to direct the anti-U.S. activities of the IRGC-QF toward neighboring Colombia.

As the Pentagon report states, IRGC-QF members usually are stationed in foreign embassies, charities and religious or cultural institutions as intelligence officers to develop ties with the Shiite diaspora and other potential allies. The U.S. military even has labeled incoming and outgoing Iranian ambassadors to Iraq as IRGC-QF members. On a more narrow scale, the IRGC-QF arms, funds and trains various paramilitary groups as an extension of Iran’s well-developed militant proxy arm. The IRGC-QF is believed to have worked with proxies to orchestrate major attacks against U.S. and U.S.-allied targets, including the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and a number of insurgent attacks targeting U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. By keeping this elite unit in reserve in various pockets of the globe, Iran has the ability to carry out attacks under plausible deniability. The reality of Iran’s retaliatory options — made possible by the IRGC-QF — has factored heavily into U.S. war-gaming exercises against Iran.

Joined by their mutually hostile relationship with the United States, Iran and Venezuela have grown to be close allies in the past several years. A good portion of this relationship consists of rhetoric designed to grab the attention of Washington, but significant forms of cooperation do exist between the two countries. STRATFOR sources have indicated many of the inflated economic deals signed between Iran and Venezuela and the establishment of the Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (an Iranian banking subsidiary headquartered in Caracas) are designed to facilitate Iran’s money laundering efforts while providing the Venezuelan government with an additional source of illicit revenue.

The Iranian-Venezuelan relationship also extends into the militant proxy world. Though this information has not been confirmed, STRATFOR sources claim the current IRGC-QF presence in Venezuela is limited to roughly 300 members. This estimate could well be on the high side, considering the likelihood that it includes all IRGC-QF paramilitary trainers and personnel working under diplomatic, business and religious cover. Many of these IRGC-QF members are focused on developing relationships with Venezuelan youth of Arab origin, who are viewed as potential intelligence and militant recruits. Some of these recruits are brought to Iran for training, and STRATFOR sources claim that several Hezbollah trainers are included among the IRGC-QF personnel. However, these efforts remain limited given the relatively small size of the Shiite community in Venezuela, believed to be less than one percent of Venezuela’s Muslims, which comprise roughly four percent of the population.

A portion of IRGC-QF members are believed to interact with militants belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest paramilitary group. The Chavez government is widely believed to provide direct support for FARC rebels and smaller Colombian paramilitary groups, but the Venezuelan president also appears wary of the IRGC-QF interaction with these groups. A STRATFOR source has indicated that IRGC-QF links with FARC are designed to give Iran the option of targeting U.S. interests in Colombia should the need for retaliation arise (for example, in the event of a U.S. military strike on Iran). The source says the IRGC-QF does not have a presence in Colombia but supports FARC from the paramilitary group’s sanctuary along the Venezuelan border. While it remains highly doubtful that Iran would be able to exert the necessary influence over FARC to direct their attacks against U.S. targets, simply having FARC as the main culprit for attacks in Colombia could provide Iran with the plausible deniability it seeks in such attacks.

The Venezuelan government appears to be benefiting in part by hosting the IRGC-QF, but, like Iran, wants to ensure some level of plausible deniability. A STRATFOR source claims that some IRGC-QF members have been integrated into Venezuela’s National Guard and police force, where they provide assistance to the Chavez government in containing the opposition. IRGC-QF and Hezbollah personnel also are believed to be involved in irregular warfare training for some Venezuelan army units, in addition to FARC. Chavez has publicly endorsed the concept of “asymmetric warfare” in his restructuring of the Venezuelan army to guard against potential military threats from Colombia and the United States.

That said, Chavez also is wary of IRGC-QF activities directed at the United States. According to the source, Chavez has strongly cautioned Iran against allowing IRGC-QF to target U.S. interests in Venezuela itself. Despite his heated rhetoric against the United States, the Venezuelan president does not wish to invite a strong U.S. reprisal and would rather keep their militant focus on Venezuela’s main regional rival, Colombia.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Freki on April 25, 2010, 02:38:16 PM
Emotional response = Monroe Doctrine....while Iran is not European...they are worse! (
Title: 25% for 2nd class citizens. 40% for the military.
Post by: captainccs on April 25, 2010, 02:53:31 PM
Chavez ordered a 25% across the board salary increase except for the military. They get 40%. Such is XXI Century Socialism. You buy whatever you need, not with your own money but with the country's resources. Venezuela is being run as if it were Chavez's private farm.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Rarick on April 26, 2010, 12:45:45 AM
Sigh, these brainless.........  We do not need the monroe docterineto act, have some Sog command guys make a bunch of Iraqis dissappear in the jungle..........  Economic use of force, remaining small enough tio be deniable, and if it goes sour, use the same game they use- deny and counter charge. 

Has the global crankiness or threat board ever been this high/full?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Freki on April 26, 2010, 05:30:52 AM
I was unclear. I guess.  My point in bringing up the monroe doctrine was for the US to ....."have some Sog command guys make a bunch of Iraqis disappear in the jungle"  In the past we used battleships and marines or cia, read the book bitter fruit, and have done so for a century or more.  My emotional response is time to do it again :evil: :-D  The best response might be economic but we have to put a stop to this sort of thing before it escalates and causes some real problems.
Title: Hugo Chavez's Expropriation Binge
Post by: captainccs on May 17, 2010, 05:24:40 PM
Hugo Chavez's Expropriation Binge

Posted 07:06 PM ET


It was everybody into the pool after Hugo Chavez took over the ranch of a former U.N. Security Council president who's been critical of the dictator.

Socialism: After 12 years in power and $960 billion in oil earnings, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez is down to stealing private swimming pools to bring the good life to Venezuela's "poor." It's a new milestone on his road to ruin.

Acting like Robert Mugabe on cocaine, Venezuela's dictator went on a shopping spree over the weekend, confiscating one farm and industry after another.

First, a flour factory run by Mexican multinational Gruma was plundered, followed by the nationalization of a bauxite unit of U.S.-based NorPro. After that, a steel subsidiary of Luxembourg-based Tenaris called Matesi was taken, along with a group of transport companies.

Unsated, Chavez then announced — via Twitter — the takeover of the private University of Santa Ines in Barinas state. And for good measure, he launched new exchange controls, another form of expropriation.

One taking stood out, however — a 370-acre ranch in Yaracuy state that grows oranges and coffee and raises cattle with 38 shareholding farm workers. The scenic property on an otherwise desolate stretch of highway is owned by Diego Arria, Venezuela's former president of the U.N. Security Council. It's been in his family since 1852.

Arria had spoken out against Chavez, so Chavez got personal. "If he wants to farm now, he will have to topple Chavez, because this now belongs to the revolution," El Presidente pronounced.

Arria told IBD he's been pressured for two years with acts of vandalism and the kidnapping of farmhands. A month ago, Chavista Ministry of Culture operatives approached him in Norway, demanding that he quit criticizing the Chavez regime. If he didn't "play ball," he'd lose the ranch, Arria was warned. "But I never negotiate with thugs," he said.

Chavez's red-shirts finally acted over the weekend, opening the farm to "the masses" in a show of class warfare. Chavista leaders from the National Institute of Lands headed first to Arria's living quarters, rolling over his bed, pawing through his wife's clothing and desecrating a chapel dedicated to the Arrias' late daughter.

For their big photo spectacular, they hauled in 300 or 400 children to swim in Arria's swimming pool, ride the ranch horses and tour the main house — encouraging the kids to take "souvenirs." Chavez said it was all proof he was "socializing happiness."

In reality, the attack on Arria's farm was proof of Chavez's own failures. Unable to create any prosperity, even after 12 years in power and a trillion dollars in oil cash, Chavez still resorts to crude medieval plunder to bring any spoils to his supporters.

It would be logical to think Venezuela's oil earnings would be sufficient to build swimming pools for the children of Yaracuy. But Chavez's destruction of property rights and rule of law from these confiscations — now numbering 500 or so, have ended any prospect of prosperity coming to the country's poor.

Not a single expropriated property in Venezuela produces what it produced when it was privately owned. In a year Arria's ranch will be a wasteland, and Venezuela will find itself importing even more than the 76% of its food it now imports.

With disrespect for property rights goes disregard for human rights, as the confiscation of the Arria ranch attests.

Title: Re: Venezuela, road to ruin
Post by: DougMacG on May 17, 2010, 09:38:54 PM
Denny,  That's quite a photo and a story.  It must be fun to steal other people's wealth and destroy it but like the story says, it is a "road to ruin".  Why would anyone ever invest and create wealth again?  For some reason the socialists think wealth destruction is a good thing.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 17, 2010, 10:14:04 PM

At some point one suspects that the laws of gravity and of supply and demand will re-assert themselves.  What do you think happens then?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 18, 2010, 05:26:12 AM

At some point one suspects that the laws of gravity and of supply and demand will re-assert themselves.  What do you think happens then?

Rationing (
Violent protest (

But  Cubans have lived under Castro's dictatorship for over 50 years and I don't know how long North Korea has been going on.  Most dictators die of old age in their own bed. As long as a totalitarian regime is ruthless it can hold on forever. Only the weak fail.

People hate me for saying this but: All rights derive from the use or the threat of the use of force. Americans didn't get their freedom with a ballot box, it took a revolution and a war of independence. This is essentially what Diego Arria has been saying and it cost him his farm.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 22, 2010, 02:54:44 PM

At some point one suspects that the laws of gravity and of supply and demand will re-assert themselves.  What do you think happens then?


I live two blocks from where I grew up. I used to walk to school. Yesterday I retraced my boyhood walk. It used to be a nice neighborhood. Now it's a bit run down and the sidewalks are now an open market. I bought some fruit and vegetables. The stalls are manned by urban poor. They don't look any different from what they looked like years ago except that you see many more red shirts. They are just as polite as ever, as if nothing were happening in Venezuela. Of course, I did not talk politics with anyone so I don't know what they might be thinking. My impression is that these people were doing what people all over the world do. They were busy surviving.

When I go on Twitter I think I'm meeting mostly middle class folks and so called political leaders. The Venezuelans on Twitter are bitterly opposed to Chavez. It's as if I lived in two different countries, the anti Chavez middle class and the urban poor who don't have time for politics, who are too busy surviving.

What happens when we run out of supplies? People will go on surviving as best they can because that's the only alternative. In Thailand, when the government finally had its fill of demonstrators, they used live ammo on their own people. 80 or 100 dead? Who cares. Bury them and life goes on. It seems to me that in many places life is not as sacred as it might be in America. Remember Stalin or Mao, how many million did they kill? I don't mention Hitler because he was not killing his own like Stalin or Mao did.

What I do believe is that dictators can only be removed by force. In Thailand the opposition didn't have enough force, they didn't manage to win the military to their side as the people of Rumania did to get rid of Nicolae Ceauşescu. In Venezuela, Perez Jimenez fled when the military stages a coup, a counter revolution. Most dictators die in bed of old age. The only thing they cannot do is go soft. That is the end for a dictator.

Chavez is now 55. If he lives to 80...

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 22, 2010, 05:50:57 PM
Well, THAT was cheery , , ,

I remember reading , , , Barrington Moore I think it was in my last year at Penn and he wrote of revolutions due to rising expectations and revolutations due to falling expectations.  When the food and the money run out , , ,
Title: In Focus: Venezuela Militia
Post by: captainccs on May 22, 2010, 06:53:08 PM
Maybe it's this that has me depressed...

In Focus: Venezuela Militia
Posted May 10, 2010

A 54-year-old housewife fires a machine gun for the first time, lets loose a thunderous burst of gunfire and beams with satisfaction. A boot camp instructor shouts, “Kill those gringos!”

Thousands of civilian volunteers in olive-green fatigues train at a Venezuelan army base, where they learn to crawl under barbed wire, fire assault rifles and stalk enemies in combat. Known as the Bolivarian Militia, this spirited group of mostly working-class men and women – from students to retirees – are united by their militant support for President Hugo Chavez and their willingness to defend his government.

Chavez has repeatedly warned of potential threats: the United States, U.S.-allied Colombia and the Venezuelan “oligarchy,” as he labels opponents. He has called on recruits to be ready to lay down their lives if necessary to battle “any threat, foreign or domestic,” even though Venezuela has never fought a war against another nation.

1 (
The militia "is a personal army, a Praetorian Guard," said retired Rear Adm. Elias Buchszer, a Chavez opponent. He said despite Chavez's talk about repelling a U.S. invasion, the militia is really aimed at maintaining control, keeping him in power, and "making the country fear that if anything is done the militiamen are going to come out." A member of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia takes cover during military training in Charallave, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

2 (
A member of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia points her rifle during firing practice at a shooting range in Charallave, Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez has made a priority of building up the militia and has repeatedly warned of multiple potential threats: the United States, U.S.-allied Colombia and the Venezuelan "oligarchy," as he labels opponents. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

3 (
Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia march during military training in Charallave, Venezuela. The militia is a practical tool for Chavez to engage his supporters, rally nationalist fervor and intimidate any opponents who might consider another coup like the one he survived in 2002. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

4 (
Most seem gung-ho for marching in the sun and getting their uniforms sweaty and dirty. Some cover their faces with black dust from the charred earth left by forest fires. They also enjoy the camaraderie, saying they spent one night hiking and watching a Chinese film. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

5 (
A member of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia puts on lip stick before a swearing in ceremony led by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas. Members of the volunteer force range from the unemployed to electricians, bankers and social workers. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

6 (
As part of the training, members line up at a firing range aiming decades-old, Belgian-made FAL rifles at red bull's-eyes on paper targets 80 yards away. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

7 (
Instructors, including both experienced militia troops and army officers, say one objective is to ready the militia for a war of resistance against an occupying force. They allude to insurgents battling U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

8 (
Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia shouts slogans in support of President Hugo Chavez prior to their swearing in ceremony led by Chavez in Caracas. "We aren't here because anyone forced us to be. We're here because we're patriots," said Maria Henriquez, an unemployed 44-year-old who emerged covered with dust after crawling through a trench under barbed wire. As for Chavez, she said, "We'd give our lives for him." (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

9 (
Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia gather in the dust after firing an anti-tank canon during military training in Charallave, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

10 (
Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia run during military training in Charallave, Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez has made a priority of building up the militia and has repeatedly warned of multiple potential threats: the United States, U.S.-allied Colombia and the Venezuelan "oligarchy," as he labels opponents. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

11 (
The militia practice reacting to an ambush in the forest, camouflaged with mud-smeared faces and with dry grass stuck in the collars of their uniforms. They crouch for cover behind a pig pen and fire blanks into an abandoned building in a mock raid on hostage-takers. Spent shells clink onto the concrete as shots echo through the building, and one man shouts "all clear!" (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

12 (
Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia celebrate after an artillery exercise during military training in Charallave, Venezuela. Some who belong to the militia say Venezuelans have nothing to fear, that their only purpose is to protect the country and that their guns are locked away in military depots when not in use. They also carry out missions including standing guard at state-run markets, and say they would be prepared to respond in earthquakes or other disasters. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

13 (
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez salutes members of his Bolivarian Militia in Bolivar Avenue shortly before the group's swearing in ceremony in Caracas. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

14 (
Members of Venezuela's Bolivarian Militia shout in Spanish "Yes I swear" prior to their swearing in ceremony on Militia Day in Caracas. One of the militia's guiding principles is constantly drilled into the group as they salute in unison shouting: "Socialist homeland or death! We will be victorious!" (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 22, 2010, 08:37:10 PM
I can see why , , ,
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Rarick on May 25, 2010, 04:58:34 AM
Venezuela is "red booking", bad thing.  Monroe docterine just died.  Who is buying the Venezuelan oil that is financing all this?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 25, 2010, 05:34:49 AM
Who is buying the Venezuelan oil that is financing all this?

Uncle Sam and China. China is buying up resources all over the world as if there is no tomorrow. They need it to keep up the pace of their economic expansion and a bit of Red never did bother them.

From what I gather, with regard to Venezuela the US only seems to be worried about the drug trade and money laundering. The current US administration is ideologically aligned with world wide socialism, they only hit hard at true allies like Israel. Go figure. From the Arizona brouhaha it seems that the administration is more inclined to help your southern neighbors than American citizens.

With Obama in power America's enemies are rejoicing. Look at how Iran is thumbing its nose at America. The North Koreans happily sink a South Korean ship and test-fire missiles. Hamas and Hezbollah build up their rocket arsenals. Brazil and Venezuela have a nuclear deal with Iran. Never has America looked as weak as it does today, not for lack of military power but for lack of will, because the Democratic party is all in favor of UN style world government. You would be right back to taxation without representation.

Come November I hope you guys start  "kicking out the bums."

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Rarick on May 26, 2010, 02:51:52 AM
Hmmm, <insert rant> about how, once again this oil addiction thing is crippling our ability to act internationally according to our founding principles <enough said>  Iran also working to spread nukes,  welcome to a more dangerous worls kids.  Too bad we are all stuck in the same basket. 

I thought Venezuela was pretty average/stable for a country until this happened.  someone took their eyes off the ball during the Clinton years due to peace breaking out, and now we have these various messes to deal with.  Too many of them in our backyard..........
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on May 26, 2010, 07:20:32 AM
Rarick, "welcome to a more dangerous world"  - I agree.  What a shame for world peace and prosperity to not have a free and functional friend and ally in the space occupied by Chavez and his forces.

"this oil addiction thing is crippling our ability to act internationally according to our founding principles"

  - But this oil addiction thing to me is synonymous with freedom.  Freedom requires mobility and mobility uses oil.  A gallon of gas is the most safe, compact, stable, efficient, and still affordable form of transportable energy that we have.  Our refusal to produce our own that creates the import addiction and the current oil spill will set that even further back indefinitely.  You could drive a short distance in a form of an electric golf cart and I am fascinated by the transportation capabilities of homegrown compressed natural gas, but nothing else so far matches the performance of a gallon of gas.

"someone took their eyes off the ball during the Clinton years"

  - I have seen no indication that South Americans want U.S. intervention no matter how bad things get.  The low point I observed (from my secure midwest location) was under Bush and then Sec. State Colin Powell in August 2004.  The American diplomats did not know how to tell self-appointed observer Jimmy Carter to take a hike and send in real election observers (and Chavez would not have accepted real observers).  The polls were 40-60 against Chavez while he won 60-40, a 40 point swing.  Carter quickly signed on to the result, putting the Bush administration in a bad situation of either recognizing the result or rejecting it based on no evidence.  The appeasement did us no good as the anti-Bush anti-US rhetoric and relations from Chavez only increased.  Had we rejected the referendum result, we would have the same reality - an illegitimate leader running Venezuela.  Personally I am more taken aback by the 40% who favor this type of rule (same in the U.S.) than I am by the electoral cheating.
REVIEW & OUTLOOK  Wall Street Journal (from 2004)
Conned in Caracas
New evidence that Jimmy Carter got fooled in Venezuela.

Thursday, September 9, 2004 12:01 A.M. EDT

Both the Bush Administration and former President Jimmy Carter were quick to bless the results of last month's Venezuelan recall vote, but it now looks like they were had. A statistical analysis by a pair of economists suggests that the random-sample "audit" results that the Americans trusted weren't random at all.

This is no small matter. The imprimatur of Mr. Carter and his Carter Center election observers is being used by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to claim a mandate. The anti-American strongman has been steering his country toward dictatorship and is stirring up trouble throughout Latin America. If the recall election wasn't fair, why would Americans want to endorse it?

The new study was released this week by economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT. They zeroed in on a key problem with the August 18 vote audit that was run by the government's electoral council (CNE): In choosing which polling stations would be audited, the CNE refused to use the random number generator recommended by the Carter Center. Instead, the CNE insisted on its own program, run on its own computer. Mr. Carter's team acquiesced, and Messrs. Hausmann and Rigobon conclude that, in controlling this software, the government had the means to cheat.

"This result opens the possibility that the fraud was committed only in a subset of the 4,580 automated centers, say 3,000, and that the audit was successful because it directed the search to the 1,580 unaltered centers. That is why it was so important not to use the Carter Center number generator. If this was the case, Carter could never have figured it out."

Mr. Hausmann told us that he and Mr. Rigoban also "found very clear trails of fraud in the statistical record" and a probability of less than 1% that the anomalies observed could be pure chance. To put it another way, they think the chance is 99% that there was electoral fraud.

The authors also suggest that the fraud was centralized. Voting machines were supposed to print tallies before communicating by Internet with the CNE center. But the CNE changed that rule, arranging to have totals sent to the center first and only later printing tally sheets. This increases the potential for fraud because the Smartmatic voting machines suddenly had two-way communication capacity that they weren't supposed to have. The economists say this means the CNE center could have sent messages back to polling stations to alter the totals.

None of this would matter if the auditing process had been open to scrutiny by the Carter observers. But as the economists point out: "After an arduous negotiation, the Electoral Council allowed the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Carter Center to observe all aspects of the election process except for the central computer hub, a place where they also prohibited the presence of any witnesses from the opposition. At the time, this appeared to be an insignificant detail. Now it looks much more meaningful."

Yes, it does. It would seem that Colin Powell and the Carter Center have some explaining to do. The last thing either would want is for Latins to think that the U.S. is now apologizing for governments that steal elections. Back when he was President, Mr. Carter once famously noted that the Afghanistan invasion had finally caused him to see the truth about Leonid Brezhnev. A similar revelation would seem to be in order toward Mr. Chavez.
Title: Unsustainable
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2010, 09:44:30 AM
Despite being a major energy exporter, Venezuela is currently mired in economic recession and suffering from record-high levels of inflation, a dismal condition known as “stagflation.” As the country’s economy deteriorates on a number of fronts, the government continues to struggle with an electricity crisis and worsening food shortages that are threatening to undermine support for the ruling party in the lead-up to September legislative elections. The Venezuelan government has tried to impose a range of currency controls, from currency devaluations to parallel market crackdowns, in an effort to resuscitate the economy. But the country’s distortionary and unsustainable currency regime not only is forcing more of the economy underground (leading to higher inflation and shortages of basic goods), but it is also catalyzing an elaborate money-laundering scheme that now appears to be spiraling out of control, thereby weakening the regime’s grip on power.


From the energy and food sectors to banks and steel mills, Venezuela has been on an aggressive nationalization drive over the past four years in order to draw more money into state coffers while increasing the number of Venezuelan citizens who are politically (and economically) beholden to the state for their livelihoods. While this policy has brought a number of short-term benefits to the government, it has come at the cost of gross inefficiency, mismanagement and corruption, leading to an overall decline in Venezuelan productivity. In an attempt to redress the extreme macroeconomic imbalances, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was forced to make a substantial adjustment to the country’s fixed peg to the U.S. dollar. On June 8, the Venezuelan government devalued the bolivar against the dollar by 17 percent and 50 percent, simultaneously creating a dual exchange-rate regime.

The Currency Regime

An exchange rate of 2.15 bolivars per dollar was established for “essential goods,” such as food and medicine, while all other items used a weaker rate of 4.3 bolivars per dollar. The parallel market that used to exist in tandem (and where, unregulated, the dollar recently cost upward of 8 bolivars) is now strictly regulated by the Venezuelan government in a trading band of 4.2 to 5.4 bolivars per dollar, making the parallel market the third official exchange rate. For all intents and purposes, that parallel market was the closest thing to a genuine exchange rate that the country had because the other two rates were subsidized and access to them was restricted by the government.

Clearly there are problems with the current arrangement. Although dual or multi-tiered exchange rate regimes do provide the government with the ability to impose tighter capital controls, address economic imbalances and make imported goods more affordable, they are inefficient and difficult to manage. In most economic systems, the cost of capital is the single most important factor for determining growth and development, and when the cost of capital has three different values, entire sectors shift (and even disappear). For example, the ability to import food for a third of the real market price via the “essential” exchange rate largely destroys incentives to produce food locally. Unsurprisingly, countries with such regimes most often experience lower growth and much higher inflation than countries with a single, unified exchange rate. To mute the very high reported inflation (about 32 percent annually, according to Venezuela’s central bank), the government has militantly enforced price repression, which is beginning to cause shortages of even the most basic goods (since it makes more financial sense for businesses to stop producing altogether than be able to sell only at artificially low prices).

(click here to enlarge image)

Second, since the parallel rate was upward of 8 bolivars per dollar before the government began regulating the market, even the weakest possible official rate — the 5.4 at the weakest end of the official trading band — would still be overvalued. With dollars becoming harder to obtain in the regulated markets, more of the economy is being driven underground, and it is probably only a matter of time before another black market emerges (assuming that such a market has not already emerged). The existence of another parallel currency market would bring the total number of foreign exchange rates in Venezuela to four — the subsidized rate, the petrodollar rate, the now-regulated parallel rate and a new black-market rate — the consequences of which would be dizzying.

Moreover, because multi-tiered exchange-rate regimes skew the value of money, they also reward particularly creative individuals and companies who can figure out ways to shuffle goods back and forth through the exchange regime (for example, by placing an import order for a good at one rate, importing it at another and selling it at a third). The various and intricate incentives that arise from distortionary currency regimes invariably lead to spiraling corruption and fraud. Venezuela’s currency regime is no exception, especially since practically all public-sector entities have the ability to import via the most subsidized rate by virtue of their being public enterprises.

The Gaming Process

Conspicuously enough, warehouses have recently been discovered in Venezuela containing mountains of rotting food, expired medications and unusable electricity-generating equipment — at a time when Venezuela is ostensibly suffering from severe food and power shortages. However, there’s a very logical reason why the warehouses are filled with “essential” goods. The most apparent is that the mismanagement of state entities responsible for the purchasing and distribution of these goods renders them unable to keep up with the logistical demands of their trade. The state-run entity Bolipuertos (of which the Cuban government holds a significant stake) that runs Venezuela’s ports, for example, is years behind on its repair schedule. As a result, goods arriving at Venezuelan ports will often sit for weeks and months without the necessary electricity and refrigeration to preserve them. But the less obvious — and more nefarious — reason is that many of the ports are also mafia-run, and Venezuela’s state-owned companies and their subsidiaries are exploiting their privileged access to the subsidized exchange rate in order to enrich themselves. Simply put, there may be deliberation behind many of these shortages.

Before the government began regulating the parallel market, which more accurately reflected the forces of supply and demand (and thus the bolivar’s genuine value), private Venezuelan companies would finance anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of their imports through a dollar/bolivar rate of about 8. However, all state-owned enterprises can exchange just 2.6 bolivars for one U.S. dollar, provided that the dollar goes toward importing a good on the government-determined list of essential goods. So, the game is this: maximize the bolivar amount exchanged at the subsidized rate, minimize the dollar amount that has to be spent on importing the goods and pocket the difference.

Overstating the price, or intended amount, of goods to be imported — be they actually essential or simply deemed essential for the sake of participating in this racket — would provide the importer with extra U.S. dollars, as would directing the import business to friends in return for cash or favors.

For the importers to earn the “inefficiency premium” they charge on this process, they would want to be careful not to kill their golden goose by actually meeting the market demand for goods. So long as there exists a “shortage” of that particular good, the importers can make a strong argument for why they need to import even more of the goods — hence the “inexplicable” warehouses of essential goods containing unusable power-generating equipment and rotting food.

The Food Example

While any item on the government’s essential goods list is a potential candidate for the scam, food is perhaps the best “vehicle” simply because it is perishable, people have to eat and there will always be demand. The drawback to food as the vehicle, from the government’s point of view, is that bare shelves in food markets can quickly present an insurmountable challenge for even the most resilient of regimes. Venezuela imports about 70 percent of its food, most of which now comes from the United States, Brazil and Argentina (Caracas has sustained a de facto trade embargo on Colombian food imports over the past year). Since 2003, the government has placed heavy price controls on foodstuffs and has steadily harassed private food companies with charges of speculation and fraud to justify the state’s unwavering nationalization drive.

In Venezuela, the state-owned energy firm Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) — the country’s main revenue stream — is also responsible for much of the country’s food distribution network, a primarily cash-based business that makes tracking transactions all the more difficult. PDVSA subsidiaries work to restrict food supply in the country, thereby increasing demand and increasing their own profit when they turn around and sell food on the black market. Those that have squirreled away vast amounts of food can, for a hefty profit, supply the overwhelming demand for food on the black market. The fact that PDVSA is responsible for much of the country’s food distribution makes it much easier for those subsidiaries to corner the food market — they can both create the shortage (by hoarding food) and be there to satisfy the pent-up demand (with the food they’ve hoarded).

The two main PDVSA subsidiaries that operate in this particular money-laundering scheme are PDVAL and Bariven. PDVAL was created in January 2008 with a stated goal to correct the speculation of food prices through its own distribution network. Bariven, the acquisition arm of PDVSA, is tasked with obtaining materials for oil exploration and production, but it is also involved in managing inventories for PDVSA, a responsibility that extends into the food sector. From its headquarters in Houston, Bariven will place an order for food imports from American exporters in Texas and Louisiana. PDVSA Bank, a murky new entity whose creation was announced in the summer of 2009, was set up to facilitate banking agreements between PDVSA and Russian state energy giant Gazprom, and is believed to provide loans for such food-import transactions. (Bariven is also known to secure loans from major U.S. banks and is one of a select few state entities that has preferential access with the Commission of Foreign Exchange Administration in Venezuela to trade bolivars for dollars to facilitate these exchanges.) Bariven will then sell the food to PDVAL at a hefty discount, yet will report an even transaction on the books. The food will then sit on the docks until it is close to its expiration date, thus restricting supply in the state-owned markets and building up demand. When the food is already rotting (or close to it), it is sold on the black market for a profit (it’s no good to sell the food to the normal government distribution network, where the price of food is tightly controlled). Since PDVAL is the entity that collects all the revenue from state food distributors, the bolivar-denominated proceeds from its food sales can then be discreetly recycled back into PDVSA Bank, where the bolivars can be used again to place ever-increasing orders that will require more dollars and more imports.

The orders have increased to the point that the distributors are throwing out thousands of tons of rotting food. This is the root of a scandal that broke in Venezuela in May, when state intelligence agents began investigating the theft of powdered milk and found between 30,000 and 75,000 tons (estimates vary between state and opposition claims) of food rotting in warehouses in Puerto Cabello, La Guaira, Maracaibo and other major ports.
Title: unsustainable -2
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 05, 2010, 09:45:16 AM
Has the Scheme Run its Course?

The above example describes how the money-laundering scheme is playing out in the food distribution sector, but the same concept can be applied to the electricity, medicine and energy sectors. The priority of many officials working in the state-owned electricity company EDELCA is to enrich themselves through a similar money- laundering scheme in which they can exploit and arbitrage the exchange-rate regime, place exorbitant orders for parts, airbrush their books and then pocket the difference. Unlike the engineers working on the power plants, state electricity officials ordering parts lack technical knowledge and have no interest in consulting the engineers when placing the orders. The result is a mishmash of parts and equipment collecting dust in warehouses while power rationing continues across the country. Even more alarming is the fact that Brazilian engineers for Eurobras, a Brazilian-German-Venezuelan consortium, abandoned their work on Venezuela’s Guri dam in May after having failed to receive their paychecks from EDELCA. The work they were doing — the implementation of larger and more efficient hydroelectric turbines — was highly specialized and crucial to Venezuela maintaining its electricity output. Yet EDELCA, having already reaped its profits from placing the contract orders for the parts, apparently had little motivation to come up with the funds to allow these workers to finish the job. This is why, despite better-than-expected rainfall over the past couple months, Venezuela remains mired in an electricity crisis since the dilapidated electricity infrastructure is incapable of keeping up with demand.

The money-laundering scheme is prevalent in many strategic sectors, but the food sector brings especially unique benefits to the money launderers while raising the stakes for the Venezuelan leadership. Since food is perishable, it readily lends itself to hoarding and “screw ups” when it goes rotten, requiring more orders, more dollars and more imports. By contrast, while one can still make money by importing a dozen hydroelectric turbines or an expensive new oil rig, there are only so many excuses for having ordered the wrong piece of equipment, and the black market for such equipment is not nearly as good as the black market for food (which, again, is essential for survival).

While this elaborate racket has kept a good portion of state officialdom financially content, the warehouses full of rotten food, expired medicine and unused electricity equipment, along with the gross neglect and disrepair of the Guri dam — a vital piece of the country’s electricity infrastructure — indicate that the state is losing control over the “essential” sectors. In short, this racket has become so prevalent that it is now threatening the core stability of the state. This is why, despite the obvious political risk of exacerbating food shortages and basic supplies by increasing the costs for importers, the Venezuelan regime has put most of its effort in the past month into cracking down on the “speculators” in the parallel market. The cost of not doing something about these speculators has proved to be higher than the cost of alienating political supporters in the lead-up to legislative elections in September.

When the food scandal recently broke, the government was quick to name its scapegoat: former PDVAL President Luis Pulido, who, along with several other officials, has been arrested and put on trial for corruption. The Chavez regime is using PDVAL as an example to others who have taken the money-laundering scheme to dangerous levels. Many of those who are most deeply entrenched in the racket and have been less conscious of the long-term risk to the state are the more radical officials within the Chavez government, who are now being sought out by Cuban intelligence services working in league with the upper echelons of the Venezuelan regime. But these efforts could be too little too late. Cracking down on speculators who are operating outside the state’s jurisdiction may alleviate part of the problem and provide the state with a cover to expand its control over key sectors, but what of the vast numbers of speculators working within the state, particularly those higher up the chain who could pose a real threat to the regime’s hold on power?

Indeed, the government’s most recent attempts to rein in this food scandal are already showing signs of floundering. A June 26 ban on unregulated food sales passed in the wake of news about the scandal was revoked shortly thereafter by the president himself, who called on authorities to target the “food mafias” behind the gaming scheme as opposed to the sellers on the streets. The problem with such a directive is that those involved in the food mafias are likely to involve members high up in the regime, which makes the likelihood of enforcement questionable. The government is also introducing new legislation that aims to sideline speculators from the gaming process by changing the currency-for-food transactions altogether. The draft legislation, entitled the Organic Law for the Promotion and Development of the Community Economic System, calls for food in local communes to be “bought” and “sold” primarily through bartering. For exchanges of non-equal value, the legislation calls on communes to create their own currencies (independent of the bolivar) to buy and sell food on the local level. The local communes’ strategy is encompassed in a package of legislation dubbed “People Power,” which aims to undermine state and city governments while augmenting the power of community councils (220 local communes have been listed by the government thus far.) The majority of members of these communes would come from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV,) thereby providing the regime with direct access to small, local governing bodies that will stay loyal to PSUV interests.

Though the idea of sidelining money launderers from the cash-based food industry makes strategic sense from the point of view of a government trying to reverse the crippling side-effects of this gaming scheme, a number of pitfalls can already be seen in this legislation. Introducing dozens of alternative currencies for a specific sector will further complicate the already-complicated two-tiered currency exchange regime that differentiates between essential and non-essential foods, while undermining an already-weak bolivar by cutting the local currency out of the food trade. A proliferation of local currencies also means additional layers of bureaucracy will be necessary to manage and implement the new law, and more bureaucracy in Venezuela means more potential for corruption. The local food currency would also eventually have to be transacted into bolivars, and deep-seated corruption in the higher levels of the institutions responsible for such large-scale transactions could end up greatly undermining the primary objective of the plan to root out speculation. In short, the government is still treating the symptoms, and not the cause, of this money laundering scheme and the proposals made thus far to rein in speculators look to have a number of shortcomings.

The Legal Battle

A crackdown within the regime’s inner circle to rein in this racket could turn politically explosive, especially when senior members of the Chavez government already appear to have piles of evidence stacked against them in U.S. courts. In mid-May, Chavez publicly warned in a speech broadcast on state television station Venezolana de Television that a U.S. district judge in Miami may soon be ordering the arrest of Chavez, Vice President Elias Jaua, Minister of Planning and Finance Jorge Giordani and other members of the president’s inner circle, “instead of the real culprits.” Chavez’s unusual warning is yet another manifestation of how the state’s money-laundering scheme has grown too large and too loud for the regime to manage. Venezuelan businessman and banker Ricardo Fernandez Barrueco, for example, was a close associate of Venezuelan political elites like Public Works and Housing Minister Diosdado Cabello and the president’s older brother, Adan Chavez. Barrueco is believed to have used his main business front, the Proarepa Group, to open a number of offshore accounts in the Caribbean, Lebanon, Europe and elsewhere to store funds looted from the state oil firm and its subsidiaries. Barrueco’s operation eventually got too exposed and he became a liability for the regime, leading to his reported arrest in November 2009. But silencing Barrueco alone will not assuage the regime’s concerns over the evidence sitting in courts in Miami and New York that could implicate senior members of the Chavez regime.

Other Beneficiaries

Considering the prevalence of the black market, it would appear logical that the country’s unsustainable currency arrangement is benefiting a number of other illicit actors. For those state entities experiencing cash-flow problems, local drug dealers (who have expertise swapping currency at multiple rates in multiple places) are believed to be providing local currency to at least some of these firms and thus filtering their drug money through the exchange-rate regime. The drug revenues are also strongly believed to form the basis of Venezuela’s financial support for U.S.-designated terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — allegations which are now regaining steam following Colombia’s recent decision to release new evidence of Venezuelan support for FARC and ELN rebels.

Driving the U.S. interest in this issue is the connection between Venezuela’s money- laundering scheme and Iran. In recent years, in an effort to escape the heavy weight of economic sanctions, Iran has turned to Venezuela to facilitate Iran’s access to Western financial markets. Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (EBDI) is a financial institution based in Caracas that operates under the jurisdiction of the Export Development Bank of Iran, designated as a sanctions violator by the European Union as recently as July 27 and by the U.S. Treasury Department in October 2008 for providing financial access to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a major force in the Iranian economy and the prime target of the U.S. sanctions campaign. Though the extent to which Iranian money is funneled through Venezuelan channels is unclear, evidence has been building in the United States that reveals murky transactions among IRGC-owned companies, a Caracas-based EBDI subsidiary, PDVSA entities in Europe and the Caribbean and even banks in Lebanon. And with the U.S. sanctions effort accelerating in Washington, any state willing to enforce the sanctions and crack down on IRGC-affiliated entities can shut down these financial loopholes at any point. STRATFOR cannot quantify the Iranian-Venezuelan money-laundering connection, but any such connection to the IRGC would be a red flag for U.S. Treasury officials looking to fortify sanctions against Iran.

Combined with the developing money-laundering and drug-trafficking cases in Miami that threaten to implicate senior members of the Venezuelan regime, the Iranian link is yet another tool that Washington could use to pressure the Venezuelan government should the need arise. Putting the significant enforceability issues of such court cases aside, the district court attorneys preparing these cases against the Chavez government would not be able to launch them without the permission of the Obama administration, given the diplomatic fallout that could follow. So far, there are no indications that the administration is looking to pick this fight with Chavez, but the mere threat that Washington is now able to hang over the Chavez regime’s head is enough to make the Venezuelan leader nervous, hence his public warning to his constituents that Washington is preparing a grand conspiracy against him. The nightmare scenario for Caracas is one in which the White House chooses to expose the charges against the regime and use the evidence to justify a temporary cutoff of the roughly 12.5 percent of U.S. crude oil imports (47 percent of Venezuelan crude exports) that the United States receives from Venezuela for just enough time to crack the regime. Though Venezuela is far down on the U.S. foreign-policy priority list, making such a scenario extremely unlikely for the moment, Venezuela’s vulnerability to Washington’s whims is increasing with each day that this money- laundering scheme shows signs of unraveling.

In addition to the money-laundering scheme explained above, the Venezuelan economy is currently dealing with a rash of other problems:

The devaluation has only been partly effective and the short-term benefits have largely run their course. Devaluing helps recalibrate the bolivar by bringing it closer to its true (lower) value, but it does not address the underlying causes of continued bolivar weakness. Therefore the bolivar remains overvalued and the supply of foreign exchange (U.S. dollars) to the market is still restricted. Cracking down on the parallel market and regulating it will likely lead to the emergence of another black market. Consequently, the fixed exchange rate will again become overvalued, which will eventually require further devaluation (most likely after the September elections), which will generate more inflation.
These problems are forcing the government to take increasing control of and/or regulate large sectors of the economy, while state-owned companies that control the most strategic sectors are having cash-flow problems and are unable to manage these sectors.
The currency regime has given rise to widespread fraud and corruption; the scheme described above is just the most visible one. There is undoubtedly more corruption and fraud permeating the system, exacerbated by the multi-tiered exchange rate and the government’s restricting access to it.
The economy is becoming increasing reliant on PDSVA oil revenues while the non-oil economy buckles. Venezuelan non-commodity exports are too expensive, and the government must increase its imports of goods to make up for domestic production shortfalls. This makes the economy increasingly reliant on the dollar revenues generated by the state-owned oil company, which has experienced declining production for almost a decade.
All these problems combined are raising the political stakes for the Venezuelan government. The government’s response to the crisis has been to bolster its control of the economy — particularly its control over the most strategic sectors — in an effort to slow the economic decline. The government has shut down or nationalized hundreds of businesses in the wake of January’s devaluation for various stated reasons, including price gouging, hoarding and speculation. More recently, the government made sweeping changes to the mandate of the Venezuelan Central Bank to vastly expand its influence over the real economy. And in an effort to both clean the books and root out the speculators, hundreds of brokerage firms have been shut down by the state. Without the technical skills and basic logistical ability to manage enlarged state enterprises, however, the state is exacerbating the very symptoms it is trying to treat. Venezuela still has dollars to draw from the central bank and the state development fund Fonden to delay its day of reckoning, but it can no longer conceal the unsustainability of this economic regime.

Title: Killing Fields of Caracas and a brave, silent protest of Chavez
Post by: DougMacG on August 26, 2010, 08:59:34 AM
Maybe this brave and articulate young Venezuelan could carry the flag forward in the next election...


IBD Editorial

 The Killing Fields Of Caracas

Socialism: Quick, what's the murder capital of the world: Kabul? Juarez? Try Caracas, Venezuela, a city whose dictator, Hugo Chavez, has made murder a means of extending his control.

The silent protest at Monday night's Miss Universe Pageant in Las Vegas was invisible to nearly everyone — except Venezuelans. On her final catwalk, the ranking Miss Universe, Stefania Fernandez, suddenly whipped out a Venezuelan flag in a patriotic but protocol-breaking gesture.

Fernandez waved her flag for the same reason Americans waved theirs after 9/11 — to convey resolution amid distress. Her flag had seven stars, significant because Chavez had arbitrarily added an eighth, making any use of a difficult-to-find seven-star banner an act of defiance.

Fernandez's countrymen went wild with joy on bulletin boards and Facebook, showing just how worried they are about their country. Their greatest fear is violent crime.

Ever since Chavez became president in 1999, Venezuelan cities have become hellholes in which murder rates have more than quadrupled. At 233 per 100,000, or one murder every 90 minutes, the rate in Caracas now tops that of every war zone in the world, according to an official National Statistics Institute study released Wednesday.

In fact, crime is the defining fact of life in today's Venezuela. About 96% of all murder victims are poor and lower-middle class, the very people Chavez claims to represent. "Don't venture into barrios at any time of the day, let alone at night," warns the Lonely Planet guide to Venezuela to hardy adventure travelers.

By contrast, the murder rate in cartel-haunted Juarez, Mexico, is 133 per 100,000, with Mexico's overall rate 8 per 100,000, about the same as Wichita, Kan. Colombia, fighting a narcoterror war since 1964, has an overall rate of 37 per 100,000, slightly higher than Baltimore at 36.9. The overall U.S. rate is 5.4.

Make no mistake, a murder rate like Caracas' is a crime against humanity. The absence of personal security renders all other human rights moot. By coincidence, that's just what Chavez seeks to eliminate as he turns his country into a Cuba-style socialist state. Instead of Castroite firing squads or Stalinesque gulags, Chavez outsources the dirty work of socialism to criminals while throwing dissidents in jail and threatening to censor newspapers.

He may try to suppress the Dante-like photos of corpses piled high at the Caracas morgue from the El Nacional newspaper, but the hard fact is that Chavez is responsible for what's going on.
Title: September 26, election day
Post by: captainccs on September 25, 2010, 10:38:30 AM
Tomorrow, September 26, is election day in Venezuela. We will be voting for members to the National Assembly, our version of Congress. After difficult and prolonged haggling, the opposition managed to agree on a unity slate. I wonder just effective this will be. In our system, half the candidates are elected by name, just like in the USA but the other half are elected by party list and I have no idea who might be on those lists. These lists could have a very strong dilutive effect on the results. In any case, this is the best chance we have had in a long time to take back the legislative body now controlled entirely by Chavez through his puppets.

The voting process is entirely mechanized and really well organized. We all have a national ID card. Enter your "Cédula" (the ID number) and you'll get all the info about your polling station.

You don't have a number to enter? Try this one:  22642082

The gentleman is Henry Castellanos Garzón alias "ROMAÑA." He will not  be voting tomorrow because he is dead! He was killed by the Colombian military in the recent raid that killed "Mono Jojoy" the second in command in the narco-terrorist FARC.

El abatido jefe de secuestros del 'Mono Jojoy' era militante del PSUV de Hugo Chávez (

These are the Chavez allies!

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 25, 2010, 07:23:00 PM

Good to have you with us again.  Your reports are always appreciated.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on September 26, 2010, 07:08:37 AM
Miguel Octavio of the The Devil’s Excrement blog is on election duty and he is reporting live from his polling station via his cell phone. If you want a minute by minute update, follow him at:

A day in the life of an electoral worker in Venezuela (
September 25, 2010
Title: Gerrymandering: How to "legally" steal an election
Post by: captainccs on September 27, 2010, 08:32:13 AM
Chavismo brags about having the most modern electoral system in the world, it's all computers and telecommunications and the data arrives at the CNE just as soon as the voting stations are tallied. Even Iran can report results in two or three hours but it took the Venezuelan CNE about eight to give "partial" results. Think what you will, I think data massage, not even Chavistas can be this incompetent. Maybe I'm over estimating them.

The National Assembly seats 165 deputies. Anyway, with 52% of the popular vote the opposition only gets 62 seats vs. 94 for Chavismo which leaves 9 undecided. The frightening aspect of this balance is that Chavismo retains 2/3 majority which they can use to pass "major" laws (leyes organicas) which they have used to further the expansion of XXI Century Socialism.

Frankly, I tire of politics. I tire of TV. I haven't had a TV set in my home for about 17 years.  If you want to add days to your life, I recommend you get rid of yours, it frees up time to live a life and not waste away as a couch potato. These days I keep up with the news via the WWW and the email I get from a select group of friends. Since I'm not as up to date as I could or should be with our political parties I had to study the voting card to see what was happening.

Can you believe there were 56 political parties represented in my district? It's mind boggling that such a system could ever produce a working government except through hour long haggling in smoke filled back rooms where the pork is cut up and parceled out. How can anything good for the country come from that? The opposition through the so called "Unity Table" (Mesa de Unidad MUD) and primary elections, managed to pick a single set of candidates backed by well over 95% of the opposition parties. Considering the distorted results achieved through gerrymandering against a united front, think what the results would have been against a divided opposition. Curiously, it was Chavismo that was divided, one or two Chavista parties broke ranks and fielded their own candidates. But even that does not seem to have helped the opposition in the final tally.

Sorry for the over long introduction but some background was necessary. I studied the 56 cards trying to figure out who was what. The Chavista parties were easy enough to single out (and discard) but that still left about 40 opposition parties. Can you believe it, there is not a single right wing party in the whole lot! Miguel Octavio of The Devil's Excrement fame, a banker, is voting for Causa R because he likes their leader. Causa R (what's left of it) happens to be a left wing party born of the Labor Union movement. What the  heck is a banker doing backing the Labor Movement just because this party is currently opposed to Chavez?

Do you see the muddle we are in?

When Venezuelans go to the poll we are offered three choices:

XXI Century Socialism
XX Century Socialism
IXX Century Socialism

Hard to tell which is worse. We know the XXI Century Socialism is the Road to Ruin. IXX Century Socialism led to communism and the failed Soviet Union. F. A. Hayek famously called XX Century Socialism The Road to Serfdom. Has Venezuela gone mad? Maybe not.

When the land is not overly bountiful Man has to work to make a living. As societies grow in size, the work of individuals has be organized and no better way has been found than Adam Smith's "invisible hand" of the market and free markets imply capitalism. When the land is oversupplied with wealth, there is much less need of work, just reach up and grab a banana or drill down and find oil. Since no work is required, the mechanism of wages is not available to spread the wealth. Instead, you distribute the wealth through government programs and subsidies.  This is not what socialism was supposed to be but it is what socialism has become.

There are hundred of "reasons" to give people subsidies: because they are old, or young, or students, or pregnant, or invalid, or out of work, or sick, or any other reason you care to come up with. All of a sudden, healthcare and food are "human rights" which they were not when we had to work for them.

One can live in a socialistic society like Venezuela has been for decades provided that your economic freedom is not impaired, as long as government is willing to let a free market coexist with government run socialism. During the 40 years between General Marcos Perez Jimenez and Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez we had eight more or less pragmatic socialist governments and life was mostly good, at least initially. Socialism or mismanagement eventually wore the economy down and social unrest brought our current despot to power. But the problem with Chavez is not that he is a socialist. The problem is that he is an idealist who thinks that only His way should be allowed. His inferiority complex is ruining my country!

Denny Schlesinger

Causa R (

The Road to Serfdom: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition ( F. A. Hayek (Author), Milton Friedman (Introduction)
Title: Venezuela: Chavez fails to reach critical two-thirds majority
Post by: DougMacG on September 27, 2010, 01:30:38 PM
Thank you Denny for firsthand accounts.  The whole Chavez story is very sad for the people.  I hope you will tell us what you think the U.S. can do to help; I assume it is nothing.  Here we seem to be headed down a similar road.  Now we have an uprising, the tea party, and maybe a shift in one body of congress.  After that I fear we will head further down the same road, what you call 21st century socialism, forced redistributionism and a dismantling of the freedoms and pillars that used to make this a great place.

Chavez fails to reach critical two-thirds majority in Venezuelan assembly
By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, September 27, 2010; 10:51 AM

Voters in Venezuela have stopped President Hugo Chavez from obtaining the two-thirds majority the Socialist leader said he needed in the National Assembly to effortlessly pass what he calls critical reforms.

According to incomplete returns released Monday, Chavez's United Socialist Party on Sunday won at least 94 of 165 seats, while his most ardent foes took 60. The rest of the votes had either not been determined or went to a small leftist party...
Title: Re: Venezuela vote
Post by: DougMacG on September 28, 2010, 11:17:39 AM
Rough translation ( of one paragraph of Denny's last Spanish post:

Opposition wins same number of votes to Chavez party but they win 37 fewer seats.  Why is that? No answer, attack the questioner.
More than a question, was "the" question:  "The difference among the votes obtained by its party, the Socialist Party United of Venezuela (PSUV), and the ones that has achieved the Table of the Democratic Unit (MUD) is of barely 100,000.  And it is difficult to understand that having obtained almost the same number of votes, the opposition have reached 37 seats less than the PSUV [finally would be from 33 the difference].  I ask me if would be being confirmed the thesis of the opposition that maintains that the redistribution of the electoral circuits was done with the intention of favoring to the PSUV or that perhaps the vote of the PSUV is worth for two. ..”.  What responded him Chávez?  Nothing.  Did not it know that to respond him and, faithful to its style, attacked against her. 
Title: Re: Venezuela: Chavez fails to reach critical two-thirds majority
Post by: captainccs on September 28, 2010, 12:14:59 PM
Thank you Denny for firsthand accounts.  The whole Chavez story is very sad for the people.  I hope you will tell us what you think the U.S. can do to help; I assume it is nothing.  Here we seem to be headed down a similar road.  Now we have an uprising, the tea party, and maybe a shift in one body of congress.  After that I fear we will head further down the same road, what you call 21st century socialism, forced redistributionism and a dismantling of the freedoms and pillars that used to make this a great place.

The only thing I wish from America would be for Obama and various Democrats and Hollywood types to stop backing Chavez. Unfortunately, Socialism is a world wide movement. They don't deny it, on the contrary, that is one more way they seek power. Not only that, they have co-opted the UN

On 20 September the Socialist International held the annual meeting of its Presidium with the participation of Heads of State and Government at the United Nations Headquarters.

XXI Century Socialism is the official Chavez slogan for his movement. He has publicly called himself a Marxist.

Countries have to relearn forgotten principles. America in great measure has discarded the principles of the Founding Fathers but maybe through the Tea Party movement, a true grass roots movement, there will be a revival of these principles. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between Chavez and Obama. The one big difference is that Chavez was able to rewrite the Constitution and to rearrange all the forces in Venezuela so as to take absolute control of the country. He has also committed treason by letting Cuba run the place. He even forced the Armed Forces to adopt the Cuban slogan: "Patria, Socialism o Muerte"  (Homeland, Socialism or Death).

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Venezuela-Columbia-FARC
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 08, 2010, 09:12:30 AM
There are a number of indications that the Venezuelan government has expanded its cooperation with Colombia to include possible intelligence sharing and restricting the movement of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels in Venezuelan territory. This cooperation will help strengthen a shaky rapprochement between Bogota and Caracas and sheds light on the growing vulnerabilities of the Venezuelan regime.

STRATFOR sources within the Colombian security apparatus recently indicated that during the past two months, the Venezuelan government has taken steps to undermine a safe haven for members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) along Venezuela’s border with Colombia. The sources claim Venezuelan military officials did not encounter substantial resistance when they quietly told the FARC leaders to pack up their camps. Colombia was already making steady progress in its offensive against the FARC, but once FARC members were flushed across the border back into Colombia, the Colombian military had fresh targets and leads to pursue. The most notable recent success for Colombia was the Sept. 22 killing of FARC deputy and senior military commander Victor Julio Suarez Rojas (aka Jorge Briceno and El Mono Jojoy) in a long-planned military operation in the La Macarena region of Meta department in central Colombia. Though it is unclear whether Venezuelan cooperation had anything to do with the operation, Suarez Rojas was apparently concerned about a drop in Venezuelan support in the days leading up to his death.

Prior to the Sept. 22 operation, Suarez Rojas allegedly wrote an e-mail acquired by the Colombian government attempting to elicit support from members of the Union of South American Nations, in which he claimed responsibility on behalf of FARC for an Aug. 12 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack on the Radio Caracol headquarters in Bogota. In the e-mail, which was read to the press by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Oct. 2, Suarez Rojas said the FARC’s autonomy in its operations had “angered the Cubans, Chavez and company. For this reason, they are disrespectful and at times joined the ideological struggle of the enemy (i.e. the Colombian government) to fight us.”

If the intercepted e-mail was, in fact, written by the slain FARC commander, the message is highly revealing of the tensions that have been building between the rebel group and the Venezuelan regime. Though Venezuela continues to deny the claims, Colombia has presented evidence that FARC members have for some time operated freely in the porous borderland between Venezuela and Colombia. The Venezuelan armed forces are believed to provide tacit support to these rebels, along with the Cuban advisers present throughout the Venezuelan security apparatus, and the FARC and military together benefit from the rampant drug trade along the border. The Venezuelan government shares a leftist ideology with the FARC that is often cited as the main factor linking the two. But in reality, just as Pakistan has backed Kashmiri militants against India and Iran backs Hezbollah against Israel, Venezuela’s support for the FARC is primarily designed to constrain its main regional adversary — and thus distract Bogota from entertaining any military endeavors that could threaten Venezuela’s territorial integrity, particularly the resource-rich Lake Maracaibo region. Venezuela’s fears of Colombia are also amplified to a large degree by the close defense relationship Bogota shares with Caracas’ other key adversary: the United States.

But a strategy to back the FARC also comes with risks, as Venezuela was reminded in mid-July when Colombia unveiled to the Organization of American States what it called irrefutable photographic evidence of Venezuela harboring FARC rebels. Though Venezuela vehemently denied the claims and painted the Colombian move as a power struggle between then-outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez and incoming Santos, there appears to have been real concern among the upper echelons of the Venezuelan regime that Colombia had a smoking gun to justify hot-pursuit operations and preemptive raids against the FARC in Venezuelan territory.

Generally, Venezuela will exploit the threat of a Colombian attack to rally the population around the regime and distract Venezuelans from the domestic economic turmoil and rampant violent crime. This time, however, the Venezuelan government publicly downplayed the threat and apparently made concrete moves to cooperate with the Colombians against the FARC. That decision is revealing of the regime’s insecurity, as it is already afflicted by a deepening economic crisis fueled by rampant corruption schemes in state-owned sectors. Following the Sept. 26 legislative elections in which the ruling party lost its two-thirds supermajority, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is now scrambling to get legislation passed that would augment his executive power before January 2011, when more seats in the National Assembly will be filled by the opposition. Rather than gamble that Colombia would refrain from military action, the Venezuelan government has instead offered its cooperation to keep Bogota at bay.

The extent and sustainability of that cooperation remains unclear, however. Venezuela is exercising caution in how it deals with Colombia for now, but the country’s internal conflicts are expected to grow. The weaker Venezuela becomes, the more anxious it will be about its rivals’ intentions. Moreover, Venezuela will want to avoid inviting a backlash by FARC rebels who are now feeling abandoned by their external patron. The Venezuelan regime will thus try to strike a balance, offering as much cooperation as necessary to keep relations steady with Colombia, while holding on to the FARC card as leverage for rougher days to come.
Title: Rogt/milt
Post by: G M on October 08, 2010, 09:25:12 AM
How's the socialism work out for you?

Thank you Denny for firsthand accounts.  The whole Chavez story is very sad for the people.  I hope you will tell us what you think the U.S. can do to help; I assume it is nothing.  Here we seem to be headed down a similar road.  Now we have an uprising, the tea party, and maybe a shift in one body of congress.  After that I fear we will head further down the same road, what you call 21st century socialism, forced redistributionism and a dismantling of the freedoms and pillars that used to make this a great place.

The only thing I wish from America would be for Obama and various Democrats and Hollywood types to stop backing Chavez. Unfortunately, Socialism is a world wide movement. They don't deny it, on the contrary, that is one more way they seek power. Not only that, they have co-opted the UN

On 20 September the Socialist International held the annual meeting of its Presidium with the participation of Heads of State and Government at the United Nations Headquarters.

XXI Century Socialism is the official Chavez slogan for his movement. He has publicly called himself a Marxist.

Countries have to relearn forgotten principles. America in great measure has discarded the principles of the Founding Fathers but maybe through the Tea Party movement, a true grass roots movement, there will be a revival of these principles. Yes, there are a lot of similarities between Chavez and Obama. The one big difference is that Chavez was able to rewrite the Constitution and to rearrange all the forces in Venezuela so as to take absolute control of the country. He has also committed treason by letting Cuba run the place. He even forced the Armed Forces to adopt the Cuban slogan: "Patria, Socialism o Muerte"  (Homeland, Socialism or Death).

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Chávez's Secret Nuclear Program
Post by: DougMacG on October 09, 2010, 07:09:45 AM
Note: Readers here knew this from Denny's posts since at least Oct.8 2009 and  May 25 2010 above: "Brazil and Venezuela have a nuclear deal with Iran."

The consequences from the U.N. or the Obama Administration will be what?


Chávez's Secret Nuclear Program
It's not clear what Venezuela's hiding, but it's definitely hiding something -- and the fact that Iran is involved suggests that it's up to no good.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez admitted last week that his government is "carrying out the first studies" of a nuclear program. He attempted to portray it as an innocuous program designed solely for peaceful purposes.

On Sept. 21, I held a briefing for journalists and regional experts where I revealed for the first time information about Chavez's nuclear program and his troubling and substantial collaboration with Iran. This research -- conducted during the past 12 months by a team of experts who analyzed sensitive material obtained from sources within the Venezuelan regime -- paints a far darker picture of Chavez's intentions.

Chávez has been developing the program for two years with the collaboration of Iran, a nuclear rogue state. In addition to showing the two states' cooperation on nuclear research, these documents suggest that Venezuela is helping Iran obtain uranium and evade international sanctions, all steps that are apparent violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to forestall Iran's illegal nuclear weapons program.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 09, 2010, 07:33:13 AM
The article goes on to discuss that it looks like Iran is getting Venezuelan uranium and more.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on October 09, 2010, 07:35:01 AM
The consequences from the U.N. or the Obama Administration will be what?

**The same China faces for seizing Japanese islands. The same Iran faces for building nuclear weapons to use on Israel and the US.**
Title: Network Intel
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 26, 2010, 09:41:20 AM
Venezuela - Chávez announces purchase of Russian missile system

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced the purchase of the Russian S-300 missile
system on 17 October 2010. Experts speculate Chávez may buy two Antónov 74 planes as
well. Iran previously attempted to buy the same missile system but was rejected in
accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1929.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on October 26, 2010, 11:14:41 AM
Buying missiles is a great way to fight poverty... in Russia!
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 26, 2010, 05:38:37 PM
As well as give the nervous willies to anyone thinking of doing an Osirak on a budding Venezuelan nuke program.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 16, 2010, 09:42:15 AM
Hat tip to BBG, this from the WOD thread

A Gangster With Oil
Posted 11/15/2010 06:57 PM ET

Colombian police escort suspected Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled Garcia in Bogota last August. He says Hugo Chavez protected his drug empire. AP View Enlarged Image

Geopolitics: Years ago, Americans worried about Venezuela's leftist Hugo Chavez becoming a new Castro — with oil. It happened. Now he's filling his cabinet with drug lords, and the threat morphs into something creepier.

Last week, Chavez promoted Major General Henry Rangel Silva to general-in-chief, the top position in the Venezuelan military command.

It was a rogue act because, in 2008, the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control named Rangel and two other Chavez loyalists as "Tier II Kingpins" for material support of drug trafficking.

The U.S. designation came of an administrative process so strict and thorough the U.S. government could indict someone if it's right — and be sued if it's wrong. There have been no lawsuits.

Rangel is said to provide material support for Colombia's FARC communist terrorists, who control 60% of Colombia's cocaine production, pushing it into Mexico and other destinations.

With Mexico endangered by local cartels' trade with Venezuela's government-linked suppliers, the link to Mexico's drug war is very real. And it's a national security problem for the U.S. — a big one.

The promotion shows Chavez is surrounding himself with drug lords. Most leaders would expel someone with those credentials. Not Chavez. He almost seems to be flaunting Rangel and others like him. One can only conclude that Venezuela is now a narcostate.

With seven other Chavez loyalists also on the Treasury's list (but not yet announced) the rot is far deeper than the U.S. wants to admit. The only real question left is what will we do about it?

It's important because drug lords have turned Mexico a battlefield. Violence on the U.S.-Mexico frontier began in 2005, the same year Chavez stopped cooperating with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon began his six-year term by declaring war against the drug cartels. So far, it has cost 30,000 lives, and the war's now spilling over our borders.

Two Fridays ago, Mexican marines killed Antonio Cardenas, the chief of the Gulf Cartel, in a shootout that shut the U.S. border with Mexico down. Cardenas' war was fueled by people like Rangel.

Now, there are even people who can prove it. Last August, Colombian forces captured a major Venezuelan drug lord named Walid Makled-Garcia, who'd had a falling out with Chavez.

Makled was so high-ranking the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration last week declared him the "King of Kingpins" after his indictment in New York. Until this summer, Makled commanded Venezuela's air and seaports. His gigantic jetliners loaded with tons of cocaine flew from "the presidential ramp" headed for Mexico.

Makled says he kept records and tapes of his encounters with Rangel, and other top Venezuelan military and intelligence leaders, bribing them to let his drug jets take off. He made $1.4 billion from his work — about the same amount as Chapo Guzman, Mexico's richest cartel chief, whom Forbes magazine estimates is worth $1 billion.

In 2006, Makled's records show, a DC-9 loaded with five and half tons of cocaine crashed in Mexico. It was discovered by Mexican police before it could reach its "buyer" — who happened to be the Sinaloa drug lord Guzman, known for his shootouts in Juarez.

There's also a political aspect emerging in that Mexican war: In recent news item about a child assassins turning up in Mexico, Mexican police report that these gangs are being protected by Chavez's leftist political ally in Mexico, the PRD Party. If PRD continues in this way, it may soon become a leftist drug insurgency, like FARC.

It all pushes the question of what to do about Chavez to a new level of urgency. Right now, Colombia must decide whether to extradite Makled to the U.S. to tell everything he knows about Chavez, or to send him to Venezuela, where he is likely to be killed.

Chavez asked for Makled first, and the murders he's charging him with are graver than the U.S.' cocaine-smuggling charges. Chavez badly needs to silence him to promote his generals.

The Obama administration has its own dilemma — does it want Makled to talk, or does it just want to sweep him and his shocking revelations under the rug as war continues to rage in Mexico?
Title: Venezuela to become base for Iranian missiles?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 09, 2010, 03:31:14 AM
Title: Venezuela: Hugo Chavez 'Critical Condition'
Post by: DougMacG on June 25, 2011, 07:10:35 PM
Too bad about him spouting off about the USA and bragging about Cuban Healthcare.  Other foreign leaders prefer the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, but if he likes Havana healthcare, good luck.
Report: Hugo Chávez in Critical Condition In Cuban Hospital

By Adrian Carrasquillo  June 25, 2011

Jun 17: Hugo Chávez poses for a photo with Fidel and Raul Castro from his hospital room in Cuba.

Hugo Chávez extended stay in a Cuban hospital is because he is in critical condition, according to a report in El Nuevo Herald.

The Venezuelan president, who was last seen in public June 9 and last heard from on June 12, on a phone call with Venezuelan state television, was said to have been treated for a pelvic abscess in Cuba.

During the call Chávez said that medical tests showed no sign of any "malignant" illness.

But according to the report in El Nuevo Herald, Chávez finds himself in "critical condition, not grave, but critical, in a complicated situation."

The Miami newspaper cited U.S. intelligence officials who wished to remain anonymous.

Chávez silence has led to chatter and speculation in Venezuela that the socialist leader is actually suffering from prostate cancer. Intelligence officials could not confirm a diagnosis of prostate cancer...

Photo Fidel, Hugo Raul:
Title: WSJ: To die or not to die?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 27, 2011, 10:36:21 AM
As Venezuela's Hugo Chávez convalesces in a Havana hospital, his condition is shrouded in secrecy. The party line is that he had emergency surgery on June 10 for a pelvic abscess. But he has not been seen in public for more than two weeks and speculation is rampant that he is battling something more serious.

His critics ought to be careful what they wish for. While conventional wisdom holds that the demise of Mr. Chávez would set Venezuela free, it may instead make the country more repressive. If there is any justice in the world, he will return to Venezuela to marinate in his own stew—the economic disaster he has created over the past 12 years. A serious illness that takes him out of play would leave Venezuela haunted by the ghost of chavismo much as Peronism has haunted Argentina for the past half-century.

Some Venezuelans think they smell a rat. With living standards steadily declining in their country and popular discontent rising, these skeptics say that Mr. Chávez is looking for a way to revive his image. A triumphant return to Caracas, after he was believed to be near death in Cuba, might do the trick. If his "resurrection" coincides with the July 5 celebration of the nation's bicentennial anniversary, for which a Soviet-style military extravaganza is planned, it would be even more spectacular.
For the half or more of the population that opposes the Venezuelan strongman, even the thought of such a comeback is unbearable. They detest his never-ending decrees and manipulation of the law. But what rankles most among those who oppose him are his theatrics, like seizing the airwaves several times a day to sing songs and deliver demagogic rants. A hero's return is likely to heighten this narcissistic behavior. It is also true that he has said he will not leave power even if he loses the election next year.

Still, it is worth considering the alternative outcome. Because Mr. Chávez has destroyed institutions in order to foster a cult of personality, his mortality implies sheer chaos—as well as opportunity for the violent and ambitious. The bloodbath for power would not be between democrats and chavistas. It would be between the many armed factions that he has nurtured. Once victorious the winner will try to inherit his power by insisting that the nation worship his memory. Since none of his likely successors shares his charisma, repression is likely to get worse.

Cuba will be ready to help. The Castro brothers have long provided the security and intelligence apparatus that Mr. Chávez uses to stifle dissent. In exchange, Mr. Chávez funnels at least $5 billion annually to the island regime. The survival of that symbiotic relationship would be a top priority for the Cuban military dictatorship.

That a recovered Mr. Chávez would organize a welcoming committee for himself there is no doubt, and he might even get a bump in the polls from it. But he will also have to take responsibility for a host of Bolivarian-made problems.

For starters, he will have to confront the heavily armed mob that has taken over the El Rodeo prison in the state of Miranda, and the families of nearly 2,000 inmates whose lives are at risk. These are his constituents and he has promised to make the prison system more just. But things have only gotten worse during his presidency.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.The nongovernmental organization, Venezuelan Prison Observatory (OVP), estimates that facilities built for 14,000 inmates now hold more than 49,000. It also says that almost 46% of those detained are in "judicial limbo" and do not know "the status of their case." According to the OVP, there was a 22% increase in prison deaths in the first quarter of this year over the same period last year. Since 1999 over 4,500 inmates have died.

El Rodeo is emblematic of a wider problem for Mr. Chávez: The most vulnerable Venezuelans are still waiting for him to deliver on his promises of a better life. Until now he has bribed them with subsidies and rhetoric. But near 30% inflation is destroying their income and his words are getting old.

The 30,000 families who lost their homes in the floods last fall were supposed to be a priority for his government. But they are still without shelter, and their protests are growing louder. Mr. Chávez has pledged to build 153,000 new homes this year, but in the first quarter only 1,600 were completed.

Add to this food shortages, electricity blackouts, capital flight and one of the worst crime rates in the hemisphere, and it's not surprising that the economic outlook is so bleak. Oil and drug trafficking have kept the military satisfied until now. But the patience of the masses will one day hit its limit. When it does, they ought to have the opportunity to direct their wrath at the architect of their misery.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on June 27, 2011, 11:36:59 AM
But the patience of the masses will one day hit its limit. When it does, they ought to have the opportunity to direct their wrath at the architect of their misery.

Let's see...

It took the USSR 70 years and a weak government for it to collapse.
Castro is in power after more than 50 years of misery.
The Red Chinese Communist party is still in power after more than half a century
Gaddafi is in power after 43 years and is stalemating NATO

I wonder what the WSJ reporter smokes? It must be THE BEST SUFF. There are some prerequisites for dictators to fall. A weak government like Gorbachev's that does not have a stomach for killing civilians. Weapons in the hands of the oppressed. This can happen if the military turns coat as happened in some Balkan states after Tito. A foreign invasion like Iraq. Absent one or more of the above, the dictator is likely to die of natural causes while still in power.

The rest of the article is pretty good. I believe that if Chavez dies there will be wars of succession on the Chavista side and possibly in the oppo side as well. I have become convinced that the revolution is about the drug trade. Evo Morales is a "former" drug cartel capo. The Colombian FARC is about drug trade. Adan Chavez, Hugo's brother, is the reputed Venezuelan Drug Chief. Whoever gains power gains immense wealth and influence as well. The drug wars in Mexico point out that killing competitors, like the Mafia used to do (or still does) pays huge dividends. That's the motivation on the Chavista side for a war of succession. The Venezuela oppo has been highly fragmented each contender going after a piece of the pie that is not theirs for the taking. Only after multiple electoral failures did the oppo manage to come up with "unity" candidates who did OK. If they now perceive a less charismatic Chavista candidate, a candidate easier to defeat, they are likely to go back to fragmentation and lose again.

BTW, there are plenty Chavistas out there meaning that if the fighting spills to the streets, it could get really ugly.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 28, 2011, 12:43:03 AM
The Perils of Succession in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called a number of his closest advisers Monday from Cuba, where he is reportedly recovering from emergency surgery. Chavez was visiting Cuba on June 10 when a sudden pain in his abdomen reportedly required his immediate hospitalization and surgery. STRATFOR sources close to the Cuban medical team say Chavez has prostate cancer. Chavez has refused to delegate power even temporarily during his absence, an indication of how little he trusts his closest advisers and allies in the government. Although Chavez seems likely to hold onto power in Caracas despite the current complications, the crisis in the country raises important questions about the future of the Venezuelan state, whose government and power structure have been built around a single, iconic figure.

“It remains plausible that a political transition would allow Venezuela the space to reconsider and potentially realign both its political and economic positions— whether the presidency goes to a Chavez loyalist or a representative of a new faction of power brokers.”
A regional precedent for the current predicament can be found among Chavez’s ideological brethren. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro suffered a medical complication in 2008 and was forced to step down, abdicating power to his slightly younger brother, Raul Castro. Fidel ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years and was the linchpin of the country’s governing strategy. In 2008, Fidel stepped into the background, allowing Raul to pioneer changes to the economy that have begun to bring Cuba closer to finding compromise with its neighbor, the United States.

Castro had the option to step down because he trusts his brother. It is not clear to whom Chavez can turn in the event he finds himself incapacitated. Although his brother Adan Chavez appears to be positioning to take over, Chavez has so thoroughly split power among all possible successors that any would-be ruler will have to fight to maintain control.

Nevertheless, Castro’s example shows us that even the most iconic leader must eventually hand over authority.

We do not know whether Chavez will have to make this choice now. It remains plausible that a political transition would allow Venezuela the space to reconsider and potentially realign both its political and economic positions— whether the presidency goes to a Chavez loyalist or a representative of a new faction of power brokers.

Venezuela must deal with a handful of fixed economic realities. Oil remains at the center of everything, from growth and investment to politics. With all capital concentrated in the oil sector, development without a redistributive model is very difficult. Venezuela’s efforts to develop agricultural self-sufficiency struggle against a mountainous geography and a tropical climate. A high reliance on imports for basic foodstuffs means that inflation will always be a present danger.

Some economic and political characteristics of the Chavez administration could undergo serious changes following a power transition. Since the failed 2002 coup, in which he perceived U.S. involvement, Chavez has been working hard to diversify fuel exports away from the United States and toward partners like China and Europe as a way of reducing his vulnerability to the U.S. market. However, not only is the United States the largest oil consumer in the world, it is also geographically close to Venezuela. Diverting oil exports to other markets — let alone markets on the other side of the planet — costs the Venezuelan oil industry. With oil at over $100 per barrel, there is room to maneuver, but when every dollar gained through oil exports is needed to satisfy populist demands at home, the opportunity costs of walking away from Venezuela’s largest natural market become apparent..

This practice and other economic policies have left the Venezuelan economy in a fragile state. Oil production is declining, the electricity sector is failing, inflation is perennially high, and the government’s debts are climbing higher. This month may not be the moment for change in Venezuela, but Chavez’s sickness highlights the vulnerabilities of a country that relies so heavily on the dictates of a single leader. Ironically, the system of dividing power among competing factions guarantees Chavez’s unchallenged control while he is healthy. However, it makes it exceedingly difficult for him to delegate power to a trusted second in this hour of need.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on June 28, 2011, 08:13:42 AM
It is good to hear from Denny S on the scene even though the message isn't exactly optimism: "It took the USSR 70 years and a weak government for it to collapse."

"I have become convinced that the revolution is about the drug trade."

Interesting take.  It always looks like the theme is Marxism, which really is some form of Stalinism.   Too many people for reasons unknown to me are willingly transferring what power they had over to tyrants to rule them. 

We do it on a different scale here in the U.S., but we are always devising programs and giving away rights in ways that can't be easily undone in the next election.
Title: Venezuela Oil
Post by: Crafty_Dog on June 30, 2011, 09:32:13 AM
Vice President of Analysis Peter Zeihan examines the challenges faced by the Venezuelan oil industry regardless of who holds political power in Caracas.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Oil production is typically an extraordinarily capital intensive industry. It uses a high amount of skilled labor, very specialized infrastructure and the type of facilities that are required are extremely expensive. This is triply so in the case of Venezuela. The Venezuelan oil patch is one of the most difficult in the world: the crude is low-quality, the deposits are complex, and the sort of infrastructure that is required is just lengthy. Very few of the oil fields are very close to the coast, so you also have an additional disconnect between getting the crude to market that requires even more infrastructure. They have to use a lot of steam injections sometimes just to melt the deposits and a lot of the crude comes up such low quality that they actually have to add higher quality crude to it, mixing it, sort of partially refining it before they even put it into the refineries and then take it to the coast.

Even then most of Venezuela’s crude production is of such low quality that only very specific refineries that have been explicitly modified or built to handle the crude can handle it. One of the great misconceptions in the global oil industry is that oil is oil. There is actually considerable variety between the various crude oil grades and most refineries prefer to get their crude from a single source, year after year after year, and typically there are only a couple dozen sources that might be able to meet their specific needs. Oil is not a fungible commodity and Venezuelan crude is one of the more exceptional grades in terms of just being unique. As such, PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela], the state oil company of Venezuela, has had to be a very sophisticated firm in order to manage all of these capital, infrastructure, staffing, technological and economic challenges.

The problem that the Chavez government had in the early years is when you have this large of a nucleus of skilled labor — these are intelligent people who are used to thinking through problems, they have opinions, they have political opinions — PDVSA became the hotbed of opposition to Chavez, culminating ultimately in the coup attempt in April 2002. Chavez, regardless of what you think of his politics, had a very simple choice to make: he could leave these people ensconced in their economic fortress of PDVSA, allowing them to plot against them at will, or he could gut the company of its political activists. He chose the latter option and that has solidified his rule but has come at the cost as a slow degradation of PDVSA’s energy capacity. As a result, ten years on, output is probably at a third below where it was at its peak.

With Chavez in Cuba recovering from surgery, the question naturally is, is he on his death bed, is he about to go out, is there about to be a transition to a different sort of government? From an energy point of view this is all way too preliminary because of the nature of the Venezuelan oil company. Let’s assume for a moment that Chavez dies tomorrow and that the next government is even worse than him: horrible managers that don’t understand the energy industry — a lot of the charges that have been brought against the Chavez government. You’d have no real change for the next six months. There is only so much that you can do differently in the oil industry if you want to keep it operational, and whoever the new government is has a vested interest in keeping the money flowing. So the slow, steady degradation of capacity that we’ve seen for the last 10 years? No reason to expect that that would change at all.

On the flip side, let’s assume for the moment that after Chavez’s death we have a new government that is remarkably pro-American and remarkably pro-energy. Again, for the first six months you’d probably not see much change. The capital investment to operate the Venezuelan industry is so huge that you’d probably need tens of billions of dollars applied simply to handle the deferred maintenance issues that have built up over the last ten years. Ultimately you’re going to be looking at years of efforts and tens of billions of dollars of new capital investment if you’re going to reverse the production decline. That’s something that you shouldn’t expect any meaningful progress in anything less than a two-year time frame.

Suffice it to say, Venezuelan oil is going to be a factor of life in global politics and American politics for the foreseeable future. But because of the sheer scope of the problems that face the Venezuelan oil industry, independently of anything that is related to Chavez’s political needs, the market is up against a problem of inertia. It takes years — honestly, a decade — if you want to make a meaningful change in the way that Venezuela works. The oil patch is just that difficult.

Title: Tragic
Post by: G M on July 04, 2011, 04:10:15 AM

When you've lost Chomsky.....
Title: Chavez returns to V.
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 05, 2011, 02:08:09 PM
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made a surprise return to Caracas early Monday morning just in time for his country’s bicentennial celebrations on Tuesday. Chavez’s medical condition appears to be quite serious and his extended recovery will continue to fuel speculation over the future stability of the regime.

Chavez appeared in his military fatigues on Monday to deliver a speech from the balcony of the Miraflores Palace. This 30-minute speech — along with the 15-minute speech he gave January 30th from Cuba — were pretty uncharacteristic for the usually loquacious and charismatic president. In both speeches, Chavez appeared a lot thinner, a lot weaker. He was reading from a script in both instances. Overall, he appeared to be in pretty bad medical shape, yet does not appear to be in a life-threatening condition by any means.

Chavez has admitted publicly that he has been treated for a cancerous tumor, but that that recovery will take time. Specifically, Chavez said in his speech Monday that “I should not be here very long, and you all know the reasons why.” That was an indication that this recovery is going to take some more time and that that time could be spent in Cuba.

It was very revealing that Chavez was both capable and sufficiently motivated to make an appearance on July 5th for the bicentennial celebrations. This is a highly symbolic event for the head of state and there was a lot riding on Chavez’s appearance, especially as speculation has run rampant on whether the president’s medical condition would cut his political career short. Chavez, of course, wanted to short-circuit a lot of that speculation and remind his allies and adversaries alike that he very much remains in the political picture.

What’s been most revealing about this whole episode is just how little trust Chavez has placed in his inner circle. By design, Chavez is the main pillar of the regime and he’s done an extremely good job of keeping his friends close and his enemies even closer. Close ideological allies like the president’s brother Adan, or Vice-President Elias Jaua, simply don’t have that support within the regime or outside to sustain themselves independent of Chavez. The same goes for military elites like the head of Venezuela’s strategic operational command, Gen. Henry Rangel Silva.

We expect that Chavez will be making some changes to his Cabinet very soon to manage the internal rifts within this regime. This is something I like to refer to as “rats in the bag management.” If you have a bag of rats and you shake them up enough you can prevent any one rat from gnawing their way out of the bag. When Chavez shakes up his Cabinet this time around, we expect him to keep potential rivals like Gen. Silva extremely close, while boosting more trusted allies like Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to manage day-to-day affairs.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, we expect that Chavez will be able to manage his regime pretty tightly, even during his medical leave. But given the apparent seriousness of his medical condition, and the potential for relapse in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, this also serves as a very good opportunity to identify those regime elites that Chavez has to worry about most in trying to manage the day-to-day affairs of the state most importantly and trying to manage any potential rivals within his inner circle.

Title: Venezuela: Chavez heading to Brazil for Chemo?
Post by: DougMacG on July 15, 2011, 02:08:51 PM
A Venezuela update and a healthcare story in one. One might recall that Cuba has the best doctors - or not.  Actually I think it is the US that highest the highest survival rate of the afflictions we are most likely to get like prostate cancer.  So Hugo is going to Brazil rather that eat his pride.

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, will travel to Brazil for cancer treatment, a source in the Brazilian government has told Reuters news agency.

The Venezuelan President will come to Brazil's Sirio-Libanes hospital, but no timeline has been set for his arrival, the source said on Thursday.

There was no immediate confirmation from Venezuelan government. Asked if Chavez would go to Brazil for treatment, a high-ranking government official said: "I don't know."

Last week Chavez said he may have to receive chemotherapy.

The Sirio-Libanes hospital is considered one of the best in Latin America and is renowned for its cancer treatment centre.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo had cancer treatment there and Brazilian Vice President Jose Alencar was treated there for years before he died earlier this year.

Earlier this month, the Venezuelan leader admitted in a television address that he had a tumour but had undergone a successful operation in Cuba to extract the cancerous cells.

This was his first televised speech to the nation, weeks after he was hospitalised in the Cuban capital, Havana, sparking widespread speculation about his health.

"They confirmed the existence of a tumourous abscess, with the presence of cancerous cells, which required another operation to extract the tumour completely," he had said.

Barely two days after the speech from Cuba, Chavez arrived at Maiquetia airport outside Caracas as the country was preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its independence from Spain.

Addressing his supporters from the balcony of his presidential palace, Chavez vowed to win the battle to regain his health.

He thanked Fidel Castro, the iconic Cuban leader, saying that the veteran leader has been practically his "medical chief" while recovering in Cuba. He said he will "win this battle for life."

Chavez's announcement that he had cancer shocked the country of 29 million people and upended the OPEC nation's politics, which he has dominated for 12 years.

It raised questions about whether Chavez will be able to run for re-election next year.

Last month, Venezuela's government postponed a regional summit, citing President Hugo Chavez's health.

Ever since the 56-year-old leader was rushed into emergency surgery in Cuba on June 10, news about his health has been a matter of great speculation, and even his close aides have little clue about the seriousness of his disease.
Title: Gustavo Coronel: Three Scenarios for Venezuela's Future
Post by: captainccs on July 21, 2011, 05:07:50 AM
Gustavo Coronel is quite knowledgeable about Venezuela having been a government bureaucrat and an employee of government owned enterprises most of his life.

While Gustavo Coronel is one of the "good guys" he still represents socialism in a country that has practically no private enterprise, now even less that when Colonel was in government. The entrepreneurs who wanted to survive under Chavez had to kowtow to him and in effect they cease to be legitimate businessmen becoming part of a government influenced Mafia.

In the best scenario Coronel paints, the new "liberal democratic" government that replaces Chavez quickly loses favor with the population as it is incapable of creating an instant gratification solution not only to the thirteen years of Chavez mismanagement but also to the previous forty years of corruption and populism that led to Chavez in the first place.

The one thing Coronel does not talk about is the emergence of a charismatic leader. Like it or not, if the country is run by faceless bureaucrats and lackluster politicians, chaos is even more likely. Think back to the darkest days of America and Britain. It was forceful leaders who energized the people to supreme effort and to supreme sacrifice. How do you do that with a "give me" culture when you have run out of gifts to give? Since 1958 Venezuelans have been trained not to work for a living but to beg for a living: government handouts everywhere, a.k.a. Socialism - Populism. So far, I have not seen an opposition leader capable of taking charge. The young are lacking in experience and the old -- the old guard ousted by Chavismo -- many of us don't want back in power. Catch-22!

The future looks uncertain, more than usual.

Denny Schlesinger

Gustavo Coronel: Three Scenarios for Venezuela's Future

With President Hugo Chavez already having had two emergency operations for cancer and having had to return to Cuba for chemotherapy, Venezuela expert Gustavo Coronel pontificates on what an ill Chavez means for Venezuela with three possible scenarios for the country's future.

By Gustavo Coronel

For the last five years I have been giving lectures and talks in about 20 cities of the U.S. -- including several think tanks and universities in Washington DC -- and in 10 Latin American countries, about the Venezuelan political and social situation and the impact of the Hugo Chavez regime on hemispheric stability, including U.S. national security. Rather than employing a scenario approach to the political future of the Hugo Chavez regime I have been "predicting" to my audiences that Hugo Chavez will not survive politically beyond his current term, if that much.

My "prediction" has been based on what I see as the significant weakening of Chavez's regime during this period of time, illustrated by the financial chaos experienced by his administration, the increasing collapse of national public services, the lack of food and other essentials in the markets, the intense disarray prevailing in the key state owned companies, PDVSA and CVG, (energy and raw materials sectors), the significant loss of domestic popularity due to reduced direct handouts to the poor, the noticeable internal power struggle within the government's party, the increasing loss of control over his Latin American allies, Correa, Kirchner and Lula/Roussef and the increasingly uncertain Cuban political situation.

Now a new and formidable challenge threatens Chavez: cancer. This health problem, recently detected, certainly could not have been predictable. In the best of cases it would probably render Chavez incapable of conducting the intense political activity he would require to be re-elected.

When all of these ingredients are analyzed, three main political/social scenarios for Venezuela suggest themselves for the short term.

   1.   Chavez either abandons the presidency in the next few months, or is defeated in December 2012, trying to be re-elected;
   2.   A military/revolutionary coup d'etat maintains chavismo, with or without Hugo Chavez, in power;
   3.   Hugo Chavez is "cured" and survives politically in good form, winning the 2012 presidential elections on the strength of his emotional link with much of the people.

Of course, there are many other possible scenarios but they might all be variations on one of the three mentioned above.

In the first scenario (45% probability) the medical condition of Hugo Chavez forces him to abandon his quest for a new term. This probably would mean that the presidential election is brought forward. Or, alternatively, he can run a campaign but would be defeated by the opposition candidate, given his uncertain medical condition and the continued deterioration of the country. A democratic, liberal government would take over and would introduce many policy changes in the country but it would have to face the enormous material and spiritual ruin left by 13 years of Chavez's disastrous regime.

In the second scenario (25% probability), Adan Chavez, the older brother of Hugo Chavez and the military officers connected with drug trafficking and the FARC, stage a successful coup d'etat in order to impose a military-socialist dictatorship in the country. This scenario could materialize in the short term but, most probably, it would not be long lasting due to the backlash generated at home and abroad.

In the third scenario (30% probability), Chavez wins a new term but both his health and the deterioration of the country become progressively worse. In this case his tenure would most probably be short-lived.

Paradoxically, the first scenario, where a democratic government replaces Chavez and he becomes the leader of the opposition would probably be the better one for him in the longer term. The new government would suffer severe loss of popularity due to the harsh economic and social measures they will have to take to put the country back on its feet. Because of this, the people, having a very short memory, would probably vote a relatively "healthy" Chavez back in power in 2017, just as they voted Carlos Andres Perez back into power in the 1990's, trying to recapture the "good old times" when money ran abundantly on the streets of Venezuela, corruption be damned.
Title: The mystery of the “Narco Avioneta” captured in Western Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on August 14, 2011, 08:27:22 PM
Earlier I posted (somewhere) that running Venezuela by now had very little to do with politics or ideology. It now revolves around who controls the drug trade. I think this article proves that I was right on target

The mystery of the “Narco Avioneta” captured in Western Venezuela
August 14, 2011


The bizarro world that Venezuela has become allows for everything, there are no longer surprises, least of all if our military is involved. The same military that has been talking openly about staging a coup, should Venezuelans choose a leader different than Chavez in the 2012 elections.

But the military does not seem to answer to anyone anymore in Chavezlandia. The latest bizarre episode already has a leading hashtag in Twitter: #narcoavioneta. You see, a small plane was captured in Falcon state full of drug, some 1,400 kilograms of cocaine was found in it.

Website has raised numerous (here, here, here) questions about this case, including the fact that it is supposedly not registered in Venezuela, despite having a registration number painted on it and freely and liberally flying around the country.

Now, I don’t know much about the case and its details, whether it was or not registered, where the drug was loaded onto it, whether the two people killed were involved or not.

What I do know, is that according to all reports, the plane took off from the La Carlota airport.

Now, it used to be, up to 2005, that private planes could fly in and out of the La Carlota military base in Caracas. This was stopped in 2005, unless, of course, you were a revolutionary or related to one, or had a connection to one, as I showed in 2006.

So, how could this supposedly unregistered plane, take off from the La Carlota military base, with or without drugs last Friday? Who allowed it? Who approved it? Who was involved?

Oh, I know, it was someone high up in the military, but like Makled and so many other cases, we will never know. No wonder these guys are so nervous that the Government could change in 2013 via the ballot box, who do you think will be fired first and investigated?

The same ones that protect and benefit from the mysterious “Narco Avioneta”. Bet on that!

La noticia en español
Aterrizó avioneta con una tonelada de droga en Falcón y tiroteo dejó 2 muertos y un herido (
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on August 14, 2011, 09:04:57 PM
Some people are speculating that it is this plane:

Honduras investiga si avioneta está en Belice

La coordinadora de fiscales en San Pedro Sula, Marlene Banegas, dijo hoy viernes que las investigaciones están en curso porque la aeronave encontrada en Belice es muy similar a la robada en Honduras, la única diferencia sería el color
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 15, 2011, 03:04:37 AM
Thanks for following up on this and keeping us informed Denny. 

With Chavez's apparently serious health issues, the growing military and nuclear connections with Iran, and Baraq at the helm here, it looks like Venezuela is going to be appearing on a lot more people's radar screens here in the next year or two; readers of the DB forum will be a step ahead of the curve once again:  :-)
Title: Analysis - Chavez seeks to contain voter angst over economy
Post by: captainccs on August 15, 2011, 09:00:28 AM
To solve the self-created foreign exchange problem, the Chavez government issues dollar denominated bonds that can be purchased with bolivars by the locals. There is a quota per account or per person that banks manage but their favored clients wind up with the bulk of the dollars. The "parallel" (black market) rate has been around Bs.F 8.50 per dollar. When the latest bond issue was announced, it was priced so that buyers would get an effective exchange rate 5.50 or so, below that black market rate but above the official rate. This paralyzed the black market for a couple of week until the bond buyer got theirs. Now that the bond rate is gone, the black market rate is back to Bs.F 8.50 per dollar.

It is "illegal" to even talk about exchange rates but the black market rates are published on the Internet.

Analysis - Chavez seeks to contain voter angst over economy
By Louise Egan

CARACAS | Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:35pm BST

(Reuters) - Venezuela's economy is plagued by shortages, high inflation and crippling currency controls, but a massive spending spree by President Hugo Chavez will likely keep an incipient recovery alive, at least until a 2012 vote.

Polls show support for the charismatic leftist leader has edged up since he announced in June he had cancer. But unless he can generate as much sympathy for his economic stewardship, his re-election bid could be at risk.

In the short term, Chavez can paper over underlying problems with subsidies, price controls and ramped-up spending on his flagship health and housing programs for the poor.

But eventually, falling oil production by the OPEC nation combined with mounting debt will make it harder to finance his socialist "revolution," analysts say, leading to sub-par growth and possibly another painful currency devaluation.

"We expect Venezuelan growth to lag behind the rest of Latin America over the coming years," said David Rees, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London.

"Of course Chavez, current health concerns aside, will try to pump the economy ahead of next year's presidential election with strong government spending."

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, according to OPEC. Yet it was the last in Latin America to pull out of recession, returning to growth in the fourth quarter of 2010.

The recovery advanced at a healthy clip in the first half of this year and is on track for 4.5 percent annual growth, the U.N.'s regional economic body ECLAC predicts.

High oil prices and public spending are powering the expansion. Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has nationalized large swaths of the economy, scaring off foreign investors and slowing domestic manufacturing, farm and even oil production as companies are reluctant to bet on new projects.

The 57-year-old former soldier's illness has slowed him, but he has made an effort to show he remains in charge, displaying his characteristic flair during regular phone calls to state television programs. He has undergone two chemotherapy sessions in Cuba as Fidel Castro's guest and says he is recovering well.

Oil prices may continue to work in Chavez's favour, rallying since a sharp sell-off last week over the U.S. and European debt crises and fears of another global downturn.

"Even if we see a Lehmann-style sell-off like we saw in 2008 ... as long as oil stays above $70 (42.69 pounds) a barrel, they're in pretty good shape," said Russ Dallen, head of Caracas Capital Markets.


Perhaps the biggest wrench in the economy is the mind-boggling set of rules limiting the amount of foreign currency businesses can obtain. The result is a dollar drought that hangs like a curse over a country that imports 90 percent of its needs and where basic items like milk and cooking oil are in short supply.

Annual inflation hit 25.1 percent in July, the highest in the region, but may not constrain growth as long as Chavez' redistribution of oil wealth provides stimulus.

"The main thing that the government needs to do is to maintain adequate levels of aggregate demand, to maintain growth and increase employment. said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Centre for Economic Policy Research.

"This it can do through spending on public works projects, including housing," he said.

But the system puts huge strains on the bolivar currency, seen as substantially overvalued at the official rate of 4.3 to the dollar and 5.3 for the central bank's SITME rate.

Still, few believe the government will devalue the currency again anytime soon but rather will seek stop-gap measures to increase the dollar supply. It devalued the bolivar twice last year in an attempt to make local businesses more competitive.

"It's buying time, the postponement of tough policy adjustments until the post-electoral period," said Angel Garcia, analyst at local think-tank Econometrica.

It is all a far cry from the oil boom days of the 1970s when the bolivar was one of Latin America's strongest currencies, letting middle-class Venezuelans enjoy foreign travel and cheap shopping at plush Miami malls.

To soften the blow of price hikes and shortages, the government introduced more price controls last month and said it was boosting local production of goods like cement and food.

Dollar-denominated bonds are one way authorities try to supply dollars to businesses, which buy the notes in bolivars before selling them abroad for hard currency. The $4.2 billion sovereign bond issued in July, however, shut out much of the private sector.

The opposition says these are temporary measures that further distort an already dysfunctional economy and look to the 2012 ballot as their best chance of stopping Chavez and luring back investment.

"If there's a regime change in Venezuela, this country is wide open for investment and the turnaround will be incredible. It will be like a Wild West stampede," said Dallen.
Title: WSJ: Venezuelan 3 Card Monte: Where's the money?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 16, 2011, 09:57:37 PM
CARACAS—Venezuela plans to transfer billions of dollars in cash reserves from abroad to banks in Russia, China and Brazil and tons of gold from European banks to its central bank vaults, according to documents reviewed Tuesday by The Wall Street Journal.

The planned moves would include transferring $6.3 billion in cash reserves, most of which Venezuela now keeps in banks such as the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, and Barclays Bank in London to unnamed Russian, Chinese and Brazilian banks, one document said.

Venezuela also plans to move 211 tons of gold it keeps abroad and values at $11 billion to the vaults of the Venezuelan Central Bank in Caracas where the government keeps its remaining 154 tons of bullion, the document says.

Venezuelan officials were tight-lipped. Representatives of the ministry of finance and the central bank said there was no official comment, and no one was authorized to address the issue.

Lately, senior Venezuelan officials have criticized Venezuela's dependence on the dollar. Last Saturday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said the world's financial system, based on the dollar, "had entered into a crisis of uncertainty and we are planning to construct a new international monetary system, and especially in South America, protect ourselves from this situation," he said.

The Bank of England recently received a request from the Venezuelan government about transferring the 99 tons of gold Venezuela holds in the bank back to Venezuela, said a person familiar with the matter. A spokesman from the Bank of England declined to comment whether Venezuela had any gold on deposit at the bank.

A spokesman for the Bank for International Settlements where Venezuela keeps $3.7 billion of its cash reserves, and 11.2 tons of gold, Venezuela values at $544 million, according to the document, also declined to comment.

Analysts said the planned move made little economic or financial sense, since Venezuela would be taking its money out of secure banks in safe countries and putting it in countries that are not as safe and perhaps in currencies such as the Chinese yuan or the Russian ruble, which are not reserve currencies. "It's a big risk," said José Guerra, a former official at Venezuela's central bank. Mr. Guerra said he also had heard about the documents whose authenticity was confirmed to him by Central Bank officials.

Mr. Guerra said one possible reason for the planned moves could be that Venezuela is afraid it could be compelled to pay billions of dollars in compensations to foreign companies that have gone to court to recover damages for companies Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has nationalized. Another reason could be that China may have asked for collateral for billions of dollars it has loaned Venezuela, Mr. Guerra said.

Venezuela faces a sizable bill from arbitration but it's difficult to pin down a reliable estimate.

"It's a wide range from $10 billion to $40 billion and beyond," says Tamara Herrera, chief economist of Síntesis Financiera, an economic consulting firm based in Caracas. "There are many ongoing negotiations; the major ones of course are with oil companies."

One of the documents outlining the moves appears to have been drafted by Jorge Giordani, Venezuela's planning and finance minister, in conjunction with Nelson Merentes, the central bank president, for Mr. Chávez's approval. It calls for the transfer of the cash and gold reserves as of Aug. 8 in a maximum of two months.

Another document prepared by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro for Mr. Chávez's approval calls for Messrs. Giordani and Merentes to prepare a plan to safeguard Venezuela's international reserves given "the recent U.S. debt crisis and its impact on the dollar as a world reserve currency."

The crisis, the document says, "has lit all the alarm signals as to whether it's convenient to maintain our reserves in that currency."

The document also notes that "the powers of the North" have "pillaged" Libya's international reserves as a result of the sanctions applied to Libya. "That makes us reflect on the need to elaborate a plan to monitor and secure the funds that the Republic maintains in international banks to meet its commitments abroad.

For some analysts, the reference to Libya signaled a possible political motive. The charismatic Mr. Chávez, who has said he will run again for president next year's elections, is being treated with chemotherapy for cancer in Cuba. Neither Mr. Chávez's type of cancer nor Mr. Chávez's prognosis has been made public. Moving the reserves may signal that Mr. Chávez and his associates could be preparing some drastic political moves—such as canceling elections—that could incur international condemnation and perhaps trigger sanctions.

"It doesn't augur well for Venezuela," says Roger Noriega, a former high-ranking state department official during the Bush administration.

Opposition congressman Julio Montoya said he received leaked copies of the proposal to move the funds from concerned officials of the finance ministry.

"We don't know if (Chávez) has signed it," Mr. Montoya said during a press conference Tuesday. The congressman from Zulia state criticized what he called the "secretive" nature of the president's deliberation over the measure.

Mr. Montoya said that the proposal raised the question if Venezuela was being pressured into transferring its reserves because of its growing ties with China and Russia.

To fund the country's large-scale social programs, Mr. Chávez has turned to resource-hungry China for assistance on everything from financing to housing and machinery. Last year, Venezuela received a $20 billion credit line from the China Development Bank for housing, which it is paying back with oil shipments.

While China has been Venezuela's largest creditor in recent years, Russia has been a major arms supplier to the South American nation.

Most recently, Venezuela announced it was finalizing agreements for two additional credit lines of $4 billion each with Russia and China, with a portion of the Russian funds earmarked for the Venezuelan military. Venezuelan officials have also said they have recently reached an agreement with Brazil for a $4 billion line of credit.

Title: Special report: Pension scandal shakes up Venezuelan oil giant
Post by: captainccs on August 17, 2011, 05:54:38 AM
Half a billion dollars embezzled
Venezuela under Chavez has become "a moral cesspool."

Special report: Pension scandal shakes up Venezuelan oil giant
By Marianna Parraga and Daniel Wallis | Reuters – August 8, 2011

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela received an enviable honor last month: OPEC said it is sitting on the biggest reserves of crude oil in the world -- even more than Saudi Arabia.

But the Venezuelan oil industry is also sitting atop a well of trouble.

The South American nation has struggled to take advantage of its bonanza of expanding reserves. And a scandal over embezzled pension funds at state oil company PDVSA has renewed concerns about corruption and mismanagement.

Retired workers from the oil behemoth have taken to the streets in protest. Their beef: nearly half a billion dollars of pension fund money was lost after it was invested in what turned out to be a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme run by a U.S. financial advisor who was closely linked to President Hugo Chavez's government.

The fraud case centers on Francisco Illarramendi, a Connecticut hedge fund manager with joint U.S.-Venezuelan citizenship who used to work as a U.S.-based advisor to PDVSA and the Finance Ministry.

Several top executives at PDVSA have been axed since the scandal, which one former director of the company said proved Venezuela under Chavez had become "a moral cesspool."

Pensioners are not the only ones still wondering how such a large chunk of the firm's $2.5 billion pension fund was invested with Illarramendi in the first place.

The question cuts to the heart of the challenges facing PDVSA, one of Latin America's big three oil companies alongside Pemex of Mexico and Brazil's Petrobras.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries issued a report last month showing Venezuela surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest holder of crude oil reserves in 2010.

PDVSA is ranked by Petroleum Intelligence Weekly as the world's fourth largest oil company thanks to its reserves, production, refining and sales capacity, and it has been transformed in recent years into the piggy-bank of Chavez's "21st Century Socialism."

The timing of the scandal is not good for Chavez: the charismatic, 57-year-old former coup leader underwent cancer surgery in Cuba in June and is fighting to recover his health to run for re-election next year. He needs every cent possible from PDVSA for the social projects that fuel his popularity.


The company does a lot more than pump Venezuela's vast oil reserves. Tapped constantly to replenish government coffers, PDVSA funds projects ranging from health and education to arts and Formula One motor racing. From painting homes to funding medical clinics staffed by Cuban doctors, the restoration of a Caracas shopping boulevard and even a victorious team at the Rio carnival, there's little that PDVSA doesn't do.

Jeffrey Davidow, a former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela who now heads the Institute of the Americas at the University of California, San Diego, points to the occasion when PDVSA senior executives turned down invitations to a regional energy conference at the last minute back in May, saying they were too busy because of PDVSA's leading role in the government's "Gran Mission Vivienda" project. It aims to build two million homes over the next seven years.

"In poorly-managed societies, national oil companies tend to be the most efficient organizations, so the government gives them more work to do, instead of letting them focus on being better oil companies," Davidow told industry executives in the ballroom at a luxurious La Jolla hotel.

That's the kind of criticism that Chavez, who has nationalized most of his country's oil sector since he was elected in 1999, says is rooted in a bankrupt "imperial Yankee" mind-set.

He purged perceived opponents from PDVSA's ranks in response to a crippling strike in 2002-2003 that slashed output, firing thousands of staff and replacing them with loyalists. Since then, the company has endured one controversy after another.

There was the "maleta-gate" affair in 2007, so-called after the Spanish word for suitcase, when a Venezuelan-American businessman was stopped at Buenos Aires airport carrying luggage stuffed with $800,000 in cash that U.S. prosecutors said came from PDVSA and was intended for Cristina Fernandez's presidential campaign in Argentina. Both Fernandez and Chavez denied the charge.

There have also been persistent allegations by industry experts and international energy organizations that Venezuela inflates its production statistics -- which PDVSA denies -- and a string of accidents, including the sinking of a gas exploration rig in the Caribbean last year and a huge fire at a giant oil storage terminal on an island not far away.

In a big blow to its domestic popularity, tens of thousands of tons of meat and milk bought by PDVSA's importer subsidiary, PDVAL, were left festering in shipping containers at the nation's main port last year, exacerbating shortages of staples on shop shelves. Opposition media quickly nicknamed the subsidiary "pudreval" in a play on the Spanish verb "to rot" - "pudrir".

In an apparent damage-limitation exercise after the pension scandal, five members of the PDVSA board were relieved of their duties in May, including the official who ran the pension fund. They were replaced by Chavez loyalists including the country's finance minister and foreign minister.

Gustavo Coronel, a former PDVSA director in the 1970s and later Venezuela's representative to anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, said the fraud had been going on right under the noses of the PDVSA board.

"What this scandal shows is that Venezuela has become a moral cesspool, not only restricted to the public sector but to the private sector as well," he wrote on his blog.

"Money is dancing like a devil in Venezuela, without control, without accountability. Those who are well connected with the regime have thrown the moral compass by the side Venezuelan justice will not move a finger. Fortunately, U.S. justice will."


U.S. investigators say Illarramendi, the majority owner of the Michael Kenwood Group LLC hedge fund, ran the Ponzi scheme from 2006 until February of this year, using deposits from new investors to repay old ones. He pleaded guilty in March to multiple counts of wire fraud, securities and investment advisor fraud, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice and defraud the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He could face up to 70 years in prison.

By those outside the circles of power in Venezuela, Illarramendi was seen as one of the "Boli-Bourgeoisie" -- someone who was already wealthy but grew much richer thanks to the "Bolivarian Revolution," named by Chavez after the dashing 19th century South American independence hero Simon Bolivar. In one widely-circulated image, Illarramendi is seen overweight and balding, wearing a dark blue overcoat and clutching a blue briefcase as he left federal court in Bridgeport, Connecticut after pleading guilty.

An ex-Credit Suisse employee and Opus Dei member in his early 40s who lived in the United States for at least the last 10 years but traveled frequently to Venezuela, Illarramendi is on bail with a bond secured on four U.S. properties he owns.

He was close to PDVSA board members and Ministry of Finance officials, but is not thought to have known Chavez personally. The son of a minister in a previous Venezuelan government, Illarramendi did enjoy some perks -- including using a terminal at the capital's Maiquetia International Airport normally reserved for the president and his ministers, according to one source close to his business associates.

His sentencing date has not been set yet, but a receiver's report by the attorney designated to track down the cash is due in September. In June, SEC regulators said they found almost $230 million of the looted money in an offshore fund.

That was just part of the approximately $500 million Illarramendi received, about 90 percent of which was from the PDVSA pension fund, according to the SEC.

PDVSA has assured its former workers they have nothing to worry about, and that the money will be replaced. But what concerns some retirees are allegations the company may have broken its own rules for managing its pension fund, which should have provided for more oversight by pensioners.

A representative of the retirees should attend meetings where the use of the fund is discussed, but no pensioners have been called to attend such a meeting since 2002.

PDVSA's investment in capitalist U.S. markets may seem to be incongruous given the president's anti-West rhetoric, but the scale of such transfers is not known, and the investment options for such funds at home in Venezuela are sharply limited, not least by restrictive currency controls.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told Reuters that Illarramendi only had an advisory role with PDVSA, and that it ended six years ago. So quite how he came to be managing such a big chunk of the pension fund is a hotly debated topic. Ramirez said the pension fund had been administered properly, and that the losses were of great concern to the company.

In July, PDVSA boosted pension payments to ex-employees by 800 bolivars a month, or about $188. The government also allocated nearly half the income from a new 2031 bond issue of $4.2 billion to the company's pension fund -- probably to replenish deposits lost in the scandal.

Still, ex-PDVSA worker Luis Villasmil says his monthly stipend barely meets the essentials for him, his wife, a diabetic son and a niece. One morning in April, he rose early and met several dozen other PDVSA retirees to march in protest to the company's local headquarters in Zulia, the decades-old heartland of Venezuela's oil production.

"I never thought we would be in this situation," the 65-year-old told Reuters with a sigh. "I think PDVSA should show solidarity with the retirees and pay their pensions whatever happens because it is responsible. But that's not the heart of the issue, which is to recover the money if possible."

Ramirez, who once proclaimed that PDVSA was "rojo rojito" (red) from top to bottom, says the firm's 90,000 staff have nothing to worry about. "Of course we are going to support the workers," he told Reuters in March. "We will not let them suffer because of this fraud. We have decided to replace it (the lost money) and to make ourselves part of the lawsuit (against Illarramendi)."


The latest scandal comes at a time when observers are focused on the future of PDVSA, given Chavez's uncertain health, next year's election and OPEC's announcement on reserves.

The producer group said in July that Venezuela leapfrogged Saudi Arabia last year to become the world's no.1 reserves holder with 296.5 billion barrels, up from 211.2 billion barrels the year before.

"It has been confirmed. We have 20 percent of the world's oil reserves ... we are a regional power, a world power," Chavez said during one typical recent TV appearance, scribbling lines all over a map to show where planned refineries and pipelines to the coast would be built.

The new reserves were mostly booked in the country's enormous Orinoco extra heavy belt, a remote region of dense forests, extraordinary plant life and rivers teeming with crocodiles and piranhas.

And there lies the rub. Not only is the Orinoco crude thick and tar-like, unlike Saudi oil which is predominantly light and sweet, it is also mostly found in rural areas that have little in the way of even basic infrastructure. It costs much more to produce and upgrade into lighter, more valuable crude.

So hopes now rest on a string of ambitious projects that Venezuela says will revitalize a declining oil sector, eventually adding maybe 2 million barrels per day (bpd) or more of new production to the country's current output of about 3 million bpd, while bringing in some $80 billion in investment.

The projects are mostly joint ventures with foreign partners including U.S. major Chevron, Spain's Repsol, Italy's Eni, Russian state giant Rosneft and China's CNPC, as well as a handful of smaller companies from countries such as Japan, Vietnam and Belarus. Even after the nationalizations of the past, investors clearly want a seat at the Orinoco oil table.

In June, Ramirez announced new funding for Orinoco projects this year of $5.5 billion through agreements with Chinese and Italian banks.

The question remains: will PDVSA have the operational capacity required as the lead company in each project, and will it be able to pay its share?

"Processing that extra heavy crude requires a lot of capital and equipment, and the climate is not good for that at the moment," said one regional energy consultant who has worked with PDVSA and asked not to be named.

There may be billions of barrels in the ground, but the pension scandal will only underline the risks going forward for foreign companies with billions of dollars at stake.

(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Washington; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Claudia Parsons and Michael Williams)
Title: Aircraft used in drug trade
Post by: captainccs on August 18, 2011, 08:36:14 AM
November 15, 2010

High Profile Officials Detained in Cocaine Drug Bust/Plane Discovered in Southern Highway (


- Press Release, Belize Police Department, Press Office - On Saturday, November 13, 2010 at about 2:00a.m. Independence Police (ISF) received information of an aircraft suspected to have landed somewhere in Bladden Village. As a result, ISF police proceeded to the area where a white van was seen coming through the area.

With the assistance of Belize Special Assignment Group (B-SAG), the van was intercepted at the San Juan Bus Stop. On board the van were the following persons: Renel Grant, a 33 year old Corporal of Police attached to Traffic Branch in Belize City, as driver; Nelson Middleton, a 39 year old  Corporal of Police  and Driver assigned to the Govenor General who is a resident of Camalote  Village; Lawrence  Humes, a 38 year old Sergeant of Police presently attach to Belmopan Police Station of #2 Grapefruit  Street in Belmopan; Jacinto Roches, a 42 year old Sergeant of Police attached to the Internal Affairs Desk in Belmopan and a resident of #22 Tangerine Street in Belmopan; and Harold Usher a 36 year old Boatman of the Customs Department from Finca Solana in Corozal Town.

All of the van passengers were detained and escorted to the Independence Police Station along with the van. At the station, a thorough search was conducted on the van resulting in the discovery of the following items: Several BDU’s with ADU markings, several wet clothing, 2 car size batteries Atlas brand, muddy jungle boots and tennis, can food, empty sausage cans, a licensed 9mm for Harold Usher. The said van has been processed by Scenes of crimes and Forensic. All items found have been labeled as exhibit.

ASP Alton Alvarez, Officer-in-charge for Independence Police sub formation, along with other police officers left en route to Bladden Village where between miles 56 and 57 they met BDF/B-SAG personnel. At the scene, they secured a white, twin engine, beech craft aircraft 300-FA 137; Black, Red and White in color with number N786B Super King Air 200. The aircraft was processed for finger prints. Also found at the scene was an Atlas brand car battery with 2 pieces of board that had three lights attached on both sides.

Further checks between miles 59 and 60 led to a small white container truck with VIN# JDAMEO8J2RGF75162 that contained twenty three, 17-gallons, plastic containers; three tank with about 500 gallons of aviation fuel and 3 fuel pumps. A total of 12 pine logs were also found in the area.

Searches by the police in the Hicatee Area about 5-10 yards inside some bushes led to the discovery of a GPS Garmin brand, a Iridium Satellite phone, four Hand Held radios, two RAYOVAC Flashlights, a Colt .223 semi-automatic rifle with Sr. No. 007865, a magazine containing five .56 rounds and 2 pairs of camouflage jackets. At around 5:00pm, as a result of further searches in the area conducted by Police, on a road at mile 65 near the Genus Saw Mill at about ¼ mile in led to the discovery of 80 Bails of suspected COCAINE and 17 loose packs of suspected Cocaine. The drugs have since been secured by a police and are being processed by Forensic personnel. ( (pictures by Patrick E. Jones/ PGTV)]


The above aircraft was "cloned" for the Venezuelan deal:

Venezuela’s Drug Plane; is it the same one from the Southern Highway?

On Saturday, media reports in South America linked a major drug bust in Venezuela to Belize. According to the newspaper, La Patilla, a Super King Air was busted with millions of dollars worth of cocaine. Several law enforcement officers were implicated in the bust and two of them were shot during the incident. But that is not where the only coincidence lies with the last year’s largest narco-trafficking bust in the Jewel. The newspaper was claiming that the plane, when its registration was checked on, linked to Belize. It claimed that the drug plane was the same one that landed on the Southern Highway in Belize on November tenth, 2010. The website furnished pictures of the Belize incident and also alleged the plane was sold to a company in Florida and consequently resold to owners in Venezuela. But News Five spoke to Belize Defense Force Chief of Staff who refutes the allegation.

Lieutenant Colonel David Jones, B.D.F. Chief of Staff David Jones

“What I can tell you from the time that aircraft was in the drug bust on the Southern Highway. From the time that aircraft was flown into the Philip Goldson and then subsequently held by the Belize Defence Force, we still have that aircraft. That aircraft is currently at our B.D.F. air wing. And it is going to remain there until we get further direction from our government. As far as to the reports, I don’t know where they got their information, but we still have that aircraft—it hasn’t move sicne and it’s not going to move now.”

Jose Sanchez

“What they did was that they linked it through information received from different websites that track VIN numbers and they were saying that the aircraft was exported from Belize to the U.S. and back to Venezuela. So it is not the same aircraft?”

Lieutenant Colonel David Jones

“It must be a different aircraft because we still have the aircraft we captured on the highway. We still have it in custody and it is going to remain there.”

Jose Sanchez

“The minister of police says that the aircraft will in the future belong to the B.D.F. for future use. Will it be part of your air wing?”

Lieutenant Colonel David Jones

“That has been in discussion that possibly it will go to the Belize Defence Force. If it does go to us, then it will be part of our air wing. But that hasn’t been finalized as yet with the government so we are not sure of that yet. But that is the plan if it does happen and of course the B.D.F. would love to have it at the air wing.”
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 31, 2011, 04:12:01 AM

Venezuela - Chávez meets with Russian Minister; produces action plan for bilateral cooperation

On 24 August 2011 Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergery Lavrov to produce a Plan of Action outlining the two nations’ bilateral cooperation efforts through 2014. Discussions centered on a US$4 billion loan to equip the National Armed Forces and improve Venezuelan defense capabilities, including a modern air-defense system based on Russian technology. Also discussed was the expansion of the joint Venezuelan-Russian bank to finance bilateral socioeconomic development projects with allies as a counterpart to the World Bank.

MARC:  Perhaps this sheds some light on recent moves by Chavez to move Venezuelan reserves , , ,  Note a word from our State Dept or the White House about Russian military sales in the western hemisphere , , , perhaps the fact that we no rely upon Russia to get the majority of our supplies to our troops in Afghanistan has something to do with this?

Venezuela – Iran; Venezuela begin construction of petrochemical complex in Iran

On 21 August 2011, The Managing Director of the National Iranian Petrochemical Organization Abdolhossein Bayat stated that Iran and Venezuela began construction of a petrochemical complex in Bushehr, Iran, pursuant to an agreement signed in October 2010. The agreement stipulates that Venezuelan oil company PDVSA will be able to participate in the Iranian South Pars natural gas field. The two countries are discussing a similar construction project in Venezuela
Title: Medical Evaluation of Hugo Chavez
Post by: captainccs on August 31, 2011, 06:05:02 PM
Medical Evaluation of Hugo Chavez:

What follows are comments about the health of Hugo Chavez. I don't know the qualifications of the writers but the picture they paint sounds plausibe. To look at the pictures, please visit The Devil's Excrement (

JMA commented on Hugo Chavez' Physical Evolution part II, July 17th. to August 28th.


It is difficult to ascertain what is going on with the gorilla, because he gives too much contradictory information about his health. I even doubt that he had surgery. If he is really ill, he may be experiencing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or an early stage of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. If chemotherapy is needed to treat these tumors, the regimen would include a steroid, which can cause cataracts, e.g.: decreased visual acuity. But, the other drugs in the regime can also cause ocular toxicity. Finally, if he used to wear contact lenses, then he had to stop using them to prevent an infection.

With the info that he has provided, it is very unlikely (if it is true that he has cancer) that he is experiencing any other type of malignancy. Based on what he has said and the treatment he is receiving, the only possible conclusion is that he has an advanced stage cancer.

Having said that, colon or rectal cancer seem pretty off the table. First, the surgery is really hard on the patient. If he had an abscess as he said or a rectal cancer, it would have most certainly required a colostomy. Let me tell you. When this happens to you, your life changes radically. I have seen it first hand in a most beloved family member. You LOSE weight, and I mean lots of it. The cancer’s chemical mediators, its feeding on the patient, and the anorexic effects of chemotherapy make sure that happens. Plus, if the Cubans extracted a tumor the size of a baseball, like he said, well, that is stage IV colon cancer, with metastases to peritoneum (only God can save you from that) and liver, for starters.

Renal cancer does not get treated with chemo. You take the mass out, and then give radiotherapy. They respond very nicely to it.

Bladder CA does not get steroids. Ever. So, you don’t get bloated like a pig.

Prostate CA: there is some blatant ignorant mumbling some words about it in an above comment. Suffice it to say that if you get into a stage in which you need chemo, you are basically dead. The pain from the bone metastases is unbearable almost all the time, and your bone marrow gets infiltrated so you have all kinds of blood disorders (like having leukemia). Pathologic fractures are less likely since these patients are bedridden. So, again, for the ignorant above, no, prostate CA does not produce osteoporosis, it’s osteomalacia with its attendant pathologic fractures if any, and, no, your height is not reduced, because as I said these patients stay in bed because of pain, avoid fractures of the vertebral spine, and thus its height is preserved. I have yet to meet a stage IV prostate cancer patient walking. That would indeed be a miracle.

So, for the reasons above, I will say that if the gorilla has anything it would be a Lymphoma. If it is Hodgkin’s disease, it is very treatable and he is likely to survive. If it is a NHL, his chances are not good, but still he may survive.

Finally, regarding his freaking eyes, a decreased visual acuity could be the result of malignancy, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

However, don’t ever underestimate the lengths to which a malignant narcissistic-psychopath would go to reach his goals. I know you don’t have to be versed on this, but let me tell you it is hair-raising knowledge. The books of Dr. Robert Hare come to mind. Read them, and your perception of life in this planet changes completely.

A very good night to all of you guys!


Roberto N commented on Hugo Chavez' Physical Evolution part II, July 17th. to August 28th.

For what it’s worth, I translated JMA’s comment by Franzel Delgado Senior into English because it was so interesting. Any mistakes in translation are mine.

Franzel Delgado Senior reaffirms that universal statistics demonstrate that the majority of sociopathic personalities, in which president Chavez is classified, come to a tragic end. The psychiatrist believes the president is biologically and irrevocably designed for conflict. “To pretend he will change is to wait for his eyes to change from brown to blue”

“I have no interest in disqualifying anyone. I simply believe that, without the contribution of psychiatry, it will not be possible to understand the complex scenario in which Venezuela has entered.”

The thesis of assasination is recurrent in president Chavez. Is there a psychological explanation for the fact that the president constantly refers to this in his discourse?

The president has, as does every human being, a personality configuration. This process that feeds the construction of the personality ends, on average, at age 21 in all people. After age 21, it is not modifiable. When the personality loads are well distributed, we can speak of a normal personality. But when this process of structuring happens inadequately and ends with unbalanced loads (many loads of one sort and few of others), then the personality configures itself pathologically. And this pathologic configuration is for life.

Is there a pathologic configuration in the case of the Head of State?

There are very clear characteristics that allow, without great difficulty, to pose a personality structure of a sociopathic and narcissistic type. Sociopathic personality disorders are defined in the universal classifications of psychiatry. These are people that are biologically designed to violate norms; they do not exercise loyalty; they do not act with truth; they have affective lives that are very unstable; there is no sensibility in their structures; there are no regrets; they always have to live in conflict; they cannot live in peace with others and are very manipulative.

And the narcissistic personality?

In the case of narcissism, the perception that the person has of him/herself is not real; it is exaggerated; it has the conviction of being unique; he or she is above the rest. Any bad action is possible to satisfy these narcissistic necessities of the personality. Because narcissists believe they are pre-destined for special situations, it is perfectly understandable that they could hold the fear that there are people interested in eliminating them. The fear of the President of that magnicide is absolutely justified. If we examine universal statistics, we find that a very significant proportion of people with sociopathic disorders end up dead. Because they are aggressive, conflictive, violate the rights of others and at some point in their life, someone gets even.

Can you classify the President’s personality even though he has not been your patient?

I cannot diagnose as a physician, because he has never been my patient, but we psychiatrists can aver that the observable behaviors of the President correspond to those types of personality disorders that I mention. Aside form those characteristics, I believe that Chavez is a person with a very basic intellect; a man with little culture; to go to bed Catholic and wake up Evangelical 8 hours later is a great example of this.

But intelligent

He could be intelligent. What happens is that sometimes a person’s intelligence fools you. For too long, international classifications showed that one of the characteristics of sociopathic personalities was intelligence. But, over time, this criterion was revised, because it began to be apparent that it wasn’t so much intelligence, but the ability to manipulate the others that made them appear to be intelligent. To believe that the President will change is to pretend that his brown eyes become blue.

But couldn’t he change even by some feat of genetic engineering?

You cannot act on personality. We cannot expect peace while Chavez is the president of Venezuela. It’s not that Chavez doesn’t want to be different, it’s that he can’t be different. He is designed biologically to do what he does. Not even if he wanted to could he be any different. While we fail to understand this, we will fail to understand why we are declaring war on the US, or why we are buying one hundred thousand rifles form Russia or why he destabilizes life and peace in Latinamerica.

The idea of magnicide is also mentioned recurrently by Fidel Castro, who keeps count the number of times the US has tried to assassinate him.

Chavez and Castro, although intellectually different (the first is the warrior, the second the oracle), must have similar personalities. To be a dictator for over 40 years, Castro must have, without doubt, a sociopathic structure. If there is no sociopathic structure, you cannot be a dictator because to be a dictator is to violate the rights of others, the disrespect of limits; conflictivity; cruelty. And that, a healthy personality cannot gloss over. No person that does not have a narcissistic component, that does not believe they are superior to others, can be dictator. Because, precisely, the dictator looks for power, for submission, to subjugate eternally.


JMA commented on Hugo Chavez' Physical Evolution part II, July 17th. to August 28th.

And, that is the point my dear friend: don’t ever underestimate what this guy would be capable to do. He would burn the whole country if he thought that was what was needed. But, don’t just take it from me, because I am not a psychiatrist. Here I will present you with some pearls from Dr. Franzel Delgado Senior, one of the best psychiatrists in Venezuela (My apologies for our non-Spanish speaking friends):

Franzel Delgado Sénior recuerda que las estadísticas universales demuestran que la mayoría de las personalidades sociopáticas, en cuya clasificación incluye al presidente Chávez, tienen un final trágico. El psiquiatra cree que el mandatario está biológica e irrevocablemente diseñado para el conflicto. “Pretender que cambie es como esperar que sus ojos pasen de marrones a azules”

‘Yo no tengo ningún interés en descalificar a nadie. Simplemente creo que, sin el aporte de la psiquiatría, no va a ser posible comprender el escenario tan complejo en el que ha entrado Venezuela.

La tesis del magnicidio es recurrente en el presidente Chávez. ¿Tiene alguna explicación psicológica el hecho de que el mandatario apele a esta constante en su discurso?

El Presidente tiene, como todo ser humano, una configuración de la personalidad. Ese proceso que nutre la construcción de la personalidad cierra, en promedio, a los 21 años en todas las personas. Y, después de los 21 años, no es modificable. Cuando las cargas de la personalidad están bien repartidas, podemos hablar de una personalidad normal. Pero cuando ese proceso de estructuración se produce de manera inadecuada y cierra con cargas desproporcionadas (muchas cargas de un tipo y pocas de otra), entonces la personalidad se configura patológicamente. Y esa configuración patológica es vitalicia.

¿Hay alguna configuración patológica en el caso del jefe de Estado?

Existen características muy claras que permiten, sin mayor dificultad, plantearse una estructura de personalidad de tipo sociopática y narcisista. Los trastornos de personalidad sociopáticos están definidos en las clasificaciones universales de la psiquiatría. Se trata de personas que están diseñadas biológicamente para violar las normas; no ejercen la lealtad; no actúan con la verdad; tienen vidas afectivas sumamente inestables; en su estructura no hay sensibilidad; no hay arrepentimientos; tienen que vivir permanentemente en el conflicto; no saben vivir en paz con los demás; y son muy manipuladoras.

¿Y la personalidad narcisista?

En el caso del narcisismo, la percepción que la persona tiene de sí misma está fuera de la realidad; es exagerada; tiene la convicción de ser única; se siente por encima de los demás. Cualquier mala acción es posible para satisfacer esas necesidades narcisistas de la personalidad. Como los narcisistas se creen predestinados para una situación muy especial, perfectamente es factible que puedan abrigar el temor de que hay gente interesada en eliminarlos. El temor del Presidente ante un magnicidio es absolutamente justificable. Si revisamos las estadísticas universales, encontramos que una proporción muy significativa de personas con trastornos sociopáticos termina muerta. Porque son agresivas, son conflictivas, violan los derechos de los demás, y, en algún momento de su vida, alguien les cobra.

¿Usted puede clasificar la personalidad del Presidente sin que él haya sido su paciente?

Yo no hago un diagnóstico como médico, porque él nunca ha sido mi paciente, pero los psiquiátras podemos precisar que las conductas observables del presidente de la república se corresponden con este tipo de trastornos de la personalidad que menciono. Aparte de estas características, creo que Chávez es una persona con un grado intelectual muy básico; un hombre con muy poca cultura; acostarse católico y despertarse a las 8 horas evangélico, es una muestra fehaciente de ello.

Pero inteligente.

Podría ser inteligente. Lo que pasa es que a veces la inteligencia de una persona engaña. Durante mucho tiempo, las clasificaciones internacionales señalaban que una de las características de las personalidades sociopáticas era la inteligencia. Pero, con el tiempo, ese criterio se revisó, porque se comenzó a percibir que no era tanto la inteligencia, sino la habilidad para manipular a los demás lo que los hacía aparecer como inteligentes. Esperar que el Presidente cambie es pretender que sus ojos marrones pasen a ser azules. No es posible.

¿Pero no podría cambiar ni siquiera apelando a un trabajo de ingeniería genética?

Sobre la personalidad no se puede actuar. Aquí no podemos esperar paz mientras el presidente de la República sea Chávez. Porque Chávez no es que no quiera ser distinto, es que no puede ser distinto. Biológicamente está diseñado para hacer lo que está haciendo. Y ni que él se lo propusiera pudiese ser distinto. Mientras no entendamos eso, no vamos a comprender por qué le estamos declarando la guerra a los Estados Unidos, o por qué un gobierno que habla de paz anda comprando cien mil fusiles a Rusia o porqué desajusta la vida y la paz en Latinoamérica.

La idea del magnicidio también la asoma recurrentemente Fidel Castro, quien ha inventariado la cantidad de veces que Estados Unidos habría intentado asesinarlo.

Chávez y Castro, aunque intelectualmente son diferentes (el primero es el guerrero y el segundo el oráculo), deben tener personalidades muy parecidas. Para ser un dictador durante más de cuarenta años, Castro debe tener, sin duda, una estructura sociopática. Si no hay una estructura sociopática, no se puede ejercer la dictadura, porque la dictadura es violación de los derechos de los demás; el irrespeto de los límites; conflictividad; es crueldad. Y eso una personalidad sana no lo puede cohonestar. Ninguna persona que no tenga un componente narcisista, creerse superior a los demás, puede ser dictador. Porque precisamente el dictador lo que busca es poder; sumisión; subyugar eternamente.

I hope this helps understand how his mind works, and what is he capable of.
Title: Stratfor: Venezuela's search for economic security
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 01, 2011, 07:51:53 AM
The Venezuelan government has announced four key policy moves designed to enhance the country’s economic security. The first is the transfer of $6.3 billion in currency reserves to banks in Russia, China and Brazil. In the second move, Venezuela announced that it would transfer $11 billion worth of gold, mostly held abroad in Swiss banks, back home to the Venezuelan Central Bank. Third, was the nationalization of Venezuela’s gold sector, and fourth, was the creation of joint ventures between Venezuelan state firm PDVSA [Petroleos de Venezuela] and state mining firms.

The Venezuelan Central Bank lists its currency reserves at $6.5 billion and its gold reserves at $18 billion. A whopping 60 percent of Venezuela’s reserves are thus distributed in gold, while the rest are distributed in bonds and cash. Many in the investor world have written off these moves as irrational moves by Chavez’s economic team that will only enhance investors’ skittishness in Venezuela. In our view, the moves make good political sense for the Chavez regime but are also extremely revealing of the government’s growing vulnerabilities.

We pointed out at the beginning of the year that the rising level of economic decay, runaway corruption and growing political uncertainty in Venezuela would make the Venezuelan regime more reliant on its allies, particularly China and Russia. But both Russia and China have become increasingly skittish over the rising level of political uncertainty in Venezuela. Both of these countries have deep insight into the state of PDVSA’s financial disarray, and they both can see very clearly that there is no clear successor to Chavez who would be able to manage the regime as tightly as he has. For that reason, every time Venezuelan delegations go to Beijing and Moscow asking for larger installments on these loans, the Chinese and the Russians are coming back asking for greater collateral. And this likely explains Venezuela’s decision to transfer its currency reserves to Russian and Chinese banks. This allows Venezuela to draw larger amounts from these loans, but it also gives Russia and China the option, theoretically, to block Venezuelan reserves down the line should they feel the need to insulate themselves against a potential Venezuelan default.

Now, Chavez has had a lot of reasons for trying to insulate his country’s reserves. More recently, Chavez has likely been unnerved by the West’s freezing of assets of his close friend and ally, Moammar Gadhafi. There is also a very active sanctions lobby in Washington D.C. that has been spending a lot of time highlighting the links between PDVSA and IRGC-linked companies in Iran that is putting Venezuela on the sanctions radar. Another likely reason behind this move has to do with pending arbitration disputes on Venezuela’s nationalization decrees. Venezuela has a number of lawsuits now exceeding up to $30 billion with Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobil, among other major firms.

Now, the Venezuelan move to transfer the majority of its gold assets back home and nationalize the gold sector likely have a lot to do with PDVSA’s increasing cash flow problems. In trying to address this problem of improving PDVSA’s efficiency as well as the efficiency of key mining companies, the Venezuelan government has announced a policy to create joint ventures between PDVSA and mining firms in the country. Theoretically, this type of consolidation could lead to greater efficiency, but if you look at the history of PDVSA’s nationalizations, the company’s expanded portfolio has led to greater inefficiency and not less.

Given the rising political uncertainties of the day especially given that Chavez is his sick with cancer, the Chavez government cannot afford to see its social development projects held back by PDVSA’s cash flow problems. Those projects are crucial to the regime’s political support and with elections slated for 2012 and the potential for those elections to be moved up sooner depending on Chavez’s health, you can see why the government is so eager to have reserves at home, and that is the gold assets back home, so it can draw on its reserves more easily and thus have the cash flow to support these politically crucial development projects. And the Chavez government made the nationalization move at a time when gold prices are at an all-time high. Nationalizing the gold industry allows Venezuela to add more gold to its existing reserves while reducing its exposure to the dollar while relying on local resources. In other words, Venezuela can sell oil abroad in dollars and then transfer its currency reserves to gold, which will now be much more accessible at home. Venezuela can then issue bonds at much lower rates, offering its gold as collateral, thus getting the cash it needs to support these politically crucial social development programs.

Title: Hugo Chavez is very sick
Post by: captainccs on September 25, 2011, 04:48:00 PM
Rumor has it that Hugo Chavez is terminally ill with cancer. The rumors are based on published photographs which are then interpreted by people who pose as medical doctors or otherwise experts on the subject. On the web it's hard to know who is who so it has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The linked blog entry has a recent picture of Chavez with Raul Castro. The blogger, Gustavo Coronel, is a well know and trusted fellow (he's not the one diagnosing Hugo's condition). Chavez certainly looks sick:


Denny Schlesinger
Title: Hugo Chavez terminally ill
Post by: captainccs on September 25, 2011, 04:54:54 PM
Here is a comment by "JMA" who is supposed to be a medical doctor. His web posts sound credible but I don't know the guy from Adam:

JMA commented...

Up to some point in time, the changes that he underwent were perhaps not sufficient to really believe that he was very sick. But, Jesus! he now looks almost terminally ill.

The fact that worries me is that from this point on anything can happen to him. He could die suddenly from a myriad of acute complications that would be too long to post here, or from a longer protracted course lasting no more than several weeks or a few months. After seeing that photo, I have trouble believing that come December he will still be alive. If my above speculation proves correct, then the origin of his cancer does not matter anymore. I’ll bet his doctors would be now trying to avoid or treat the wide variety of complications caused by metastatic disease.

In light of these considerations, it may very well be possible that shortly the country is plunged into a severe crisis.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Chavez is terminally ill
Post by: captainccs on September 27, 2011, 05:10:45 AM
All the secrecy is falling away. The guy is not long for this world. I wonder what preparations the opposition has made. They better be prepared to battle the Chavistas. When Carmona and other oppo leaders arrived in Miraflores -- our White House -- in April 2002, they were CLUELESS. They acted so poorly that the military brought back Chavez. This time, when the opportunity comes, I hope they are better prepared to take the day. A military-drug-cartel dictatorship by brother Adan Chavez would be as bad as North Korea and even worse than Cuba.

From the same thread as above:

It’s a bit late in this thread, but nobody commented on this: (

I believe it’s quite relevant since during this ceremony (mass actually), HCh received last rites from Monsignor Mario Moronta, while not exactly the ones for somebody that will die in the next 15 minutes (there are several within this sacrament), but last rites nevertheless, the type usually given to very sick people. So the NY official and pompous church prayer service was actually not the first one.

Now, Deanna commented towards the beginning of this thread “that some Venezuelan prelates (example Msgr. Mario Moronta)” support Chaves. I have information from a 100% reliable source that Mario Moronta does NOT support HCh, or in other words MM is not a Chavista. He also wrote an essay “Jesus was no socialist…), see: (

They have known each other from before HCh was president and now Monsignor Moronta supports him in the function of a PRIEST which is his duty. And Chavez for some reason trusts him.

As a result of the absolution that goes with the application of this last rites or “Anointing of the Sick” sacrament, it was conditioned to him freeing some of the ill political prisoners, which he reluctantly did.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela post Chavez
Post by: DougMacG on September 27, 2011, 08:01:41 AM
I would much rather see Hugo Chavez leave power defeated in elections by the Venezuelan people than to die prematurely as a pretend national hero, but I can't say I will be actively  praying for his health or recovery.   In one of the elections he stole IIRC the polls showed him losing 40-60 and his election apparatus put him winning 60-40.  Where I live the margin and theft for Obama's 60th senate vote, Al Franken, was just a few hundred votes.  Different facts, same lesson IMO, the margin of victory or loss matters.

Wishing you a peaceful and successful transition to more freedom, less government and better government than these last dozen years.  What happens in Venezuela matters throughout the hemisphere and the world.
Title: Chavez rushed to hospital due to emergency kidney failure
Post by: captainccs on September 29, 2011, 05:26:19 AM
Chavez rushed to hospital due to emergency kidney failure: (

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on September 29, 2011, 01:28:03 PM
A rough translation from the espanol thread:

It is unfortunate that the popularity of this thread is due to the wickedness of our leaders, especially that of Hugo Chavez.

The story these last 12 years could have been how the Venezuelan voters rejected Chavez and moved instead boldly in the direction of individual liberty and private enterprise and transformed a nation of oil wealth, high literacy rates and strategic location into one of the freest and fastest growing economies on the planet.  Can't change history but how about from here forward...
Title: Eva Golinger, Chavez dis-information mouthpiece, in NYC
Post by: captainccs on October 08, 2011, 05:42:31 PM
Is Chavez medding with the Empire?

Are foreign state employees agitating in New York?

To the embarrassment of the Left, it appears that protesters are being paid to protest on Wall Street. The presence of Eva Golinger is particularly notable.

Written by The Commentator on 7 October 2011 at 8am

Over the past several days, anarchists, anti-capitalists, environmentalists, communists, and probably several other varieties of left-wing crackpots have converged in small numbers on New York to protest against Wall Street.  

In the United States, these types of protests are common; to an extent, they’re welcome manifestations of democracy. To be sure, not everybody agrees with the messages portrayed on the streets of Manhattan today, but there is general consensus that it is the people’s right to protest peacefully.

But to the embarrassment of the left-wing Twitterati, details have emerged of cash passing hands from labour unions to protesters. That’s right; a protest supposedly organised against the capitalist system is being run on supply and demand.

But it’s not only trade unions funding pinko activists to kick up a stink.

The presence of Eva Golinger should also be noted. Ms. Golinger has said the aim of her group, the Venezuela FOI Info, is 'to save Chavez'. For this amongst other actions she has been referred to as a key Chavez propagandist.  According to Golinger’s own twitter feed, she has been actively participating in the operation #OccupyWallStreet (that's Twitter-talk for those unfamiliar) while feeding inaccuracies and untruths back to Venezuelan media – mainly through VTV, Venezuela’s state owned channel.  

As an editor of Correo del Orinoco, a Venezuelan state run newspaper, she is an employee of President Chavez. 

The irony, however, is not lost on the careful observer. In Venezuela, Ms. Golinger has made a name for herself by leading a virulent, if relatively unsuccessful attack against Venezuelan civil society organizations.  

She is on Venezuelan government TV several times a week naming Venezuelan citizens who have dared to advocate for human rights or democracy in their country. Her main scapegoats, it would seem, are the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Agency for International Development; two U.S. government organisations that provide support to civil society in monitoring Venezuela’s democratic collapse; a collapse in which Ms. Golinger is, of course, actively involved. 

Ms. Golinger’s presence in New York is not illegal – although as an employee of the Government of Venezuela, technicalities could emerge regarding the Foreign Agent Registration Act. 

Be that as it may, for Ms. Golinger the inconsistencies are risible. Condemning civil society organizations who receive international cooperation in Venezuela – something that is a mainstream, accepted, common practice for NGO’s everywhere – while serving as an employee of the Government of Venezuela and participating in anti-government protests in New York serves to expose the double standard inherent in Caracas.

Thankfully, the world seems to be losing patience with the antics of Chavez and his “revolutionary” employees. And new revelations that Venezuela is, in fact, a narco-state serve to wrest what little legitimacy remained from the Venezuelan government.  

Add this to the fact that President Chavez appears to be critically ill, and a power struggle has erupted among his inner circle over succession and it would appear that Ms. Golinger should enjoy her last few moments in the sun.  

She may very well find herself shortly unemployed; looking to the US government, who she condemns at every turn, for a welfare check.   

You can follow The Commentator on Twitter at  @CommentatorIntl (!/CommentatorIntl) (

Title: Venezuela Missile Crisis
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 24, 2012, 05:47:38 AM
The tone here tends towards hypervenitlating, but the question presented is important.
Title: Stratfor: Chavez dying?
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 23, 2012, 07:53:15 AM
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with key administration officials Wednesday to discuss how to run his re-election campaign and manage the country during his recovery from an upcoming surgery. In a public appearance Tuesday and then in a telephone interview with Venezuelan state TV channel VTV, Chavez confirmed that he has a 2-centimeter (approximately 0.8-inch) tumor that will have to be surgically removed no later than this coming weekend. Chavez will undergo the surgery in Havana, Cuba, with the same medical team that removed a cancerous tumor from his body in June.

This confirmation follows months of rumors and leaked reports about Chavez's worsening health. In this week's announcements, Chavez was careful to omit all but the barest details of his illness and of his plan to be absent from politics for several weeks. However, what he did say appears to confirm a January report by Spanish newspaper ABC that claimed a tumor had reappeared in Chavez's abdomen. According to the report, Chavez refused medical recommendations to seek treatment in the wake of his diagnosis. Without the treatment, his doctors had reduced his life expectancy to 9-12 months.

In the short term, the announcement raises questions about the stability of the Chavez regime. Chavez is an integral player in the vast majority of political and technocratic decisions in Venezuela. He also has no clear successor. Although a circle of prominent elites surrounds him, not one of those "Chavistas" has the public legitimacy to be his successor. At this point, the political power struggle that arose when Chavez first announced his illness appears to have settled. In January, Chavez appointed two men who maintain significant support among the military, Diosdado Cabello and Henry Rangel Silva, to be president of the National Assembly and minister of defense, respectively. With this move, it became clear that the more pragmatic and militarily connected -- but not necessarily politically popular -- faction had risen to the fore.

The political mechanics behind the appointments are not entirely clear. Cabello and Rangel Silva are both powerful in their own right but are largely dependent on Chavez's political legitimacy to maintain the regime. Combined with persistent factionalism within the military, this dependence on Chavez makes a coup d'etat unlikely as long as Chavez is alive. Considering that Chavez's life expectancy without treatment is less than a year, his decision to undergo surgery may actually lower the potential for a crisis within the Chavez regime ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential election.

But stability among the Chavistas does not diminish the potential impact that news of a recurrence of cancer could have on Chavez's prospects for re-election. The opposition in Venezuela recently selected Henrique Capriles Radonski to oppose Chavez in the presidential election, and Capriles is counting on the public's uncertainty about Chavez's longevity and the Chavistas' lack of a clear succession plan to inspire voters to support the opposition in October.

With Chavez's earlier claims of being completely cured having been proved incorrect, events seem to be working to Capriles' favor. Chavez must choose whether he can risk holding office for one more term under such uncertain health circumstances or if he should choose a successor. With no one in Chavez's inner circle possessing significant charisma or influence, it's not entirely out of the question that Chavez could accept a transfer of power to Capriles.
Title: Venezuela: After Chávez, the Narcostate (?)
Post by: DougMacG on April 15, 2012, 02:49:48 PM
I wonder what Denny S thinks will be coming next to Venezuela?  I wonder if the Obama administration preparing a U.S. contingency to a military situation in the faux-democracy?

After Chávez, the Narcostate
There are powerful men in Venezuela who are far worse than Hugo Chávez. And if Obama keeps "leading from behind" in Latin America, that's who we very well might get.

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez has tried for 10 months to conceal the fact that he is losing his bout with cancer, determined to appear in command of his revolutionary regime and the nation's future. This past Holy Week, however, television cameras captured him pleading for his life before a crucifix in his hometown church, his mother looking on without the slightest glint of hope on her face. Chávez's raw emotion startled his inner circle and led some to question his mental health. As a result, according to my sources inside the presidential palace, Minister of Defense Gen. Henry Rangel Silva has developed a plan to impose martial law if Chávez's deteriorating condition causes any hint of instability.

Pretty dramatic stuff. So why isn't anyone outside Venezuela paying attention? Some cynics in that country still believe Chávez is hyping his illness for political advantage, while his most fervent followers expect him to make a miraculous recovery. The democratic opposition is cautiously preparing for a competitive presidential election set for Oct. 7 -- against Chávez or a substitute. And policymakers in Washington and most regional capitals are slumbering on the sidelines.

In my estimation, the approaching death of the Venezuelan caudillo could put the country on the path toward a political and social meltdown. The military cadre installed by Chávez in January already is behaving like a de facto regime determined to hold onto power at all costs. And Havana, Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing are moving to protect their interests. If U.S. President Barack Obama were to show some energetic engagement as Chávez fades, he could begin to put the brakes on Venezuela's slide, reverse Chávismo's destructive agenda, and reclaim a role for the United States in its own neighborhood. But if he fails to act, there will be hell to pay.

Sources close to Chávez's medical team tell me that for months, his doctors have been doing little more than treating symptoms, trying to stabilize their workaholic patient long enough to administer last-ditch chemo and radiation therapies. In that moment of Chávez's very public prayer for a miracle, he set aside his obsession with routing his opposition or engineering a succession of power to hardline loyalists. Perhaps he knows that his lieutenants and foreign allies are behaving as if he were already dead -- consolidating power, fashioning a "revolutionary junta," and plotting repressive measures.

One of them is longtime Chávista operator and military man Diosdado Cabello, who was installed by Chávez to lead the ruling party as well as the National Assembly in January. Cabello's appointment was meant to reassure a powerful cadre of narcomilitares -- Gen. Rangel Silva, Army Gen. Cliver Alcalá, retired intelligence chief Gen. Hugo Carvajal, and half a dozen other senior officers who have been branded drug "kingpins" by the U.S. government. These ruthless men will never surrender power and the impunity that goes with it -- and they have no illusions that elections will confer "legitimacy" on a Venezuelan narco-state, relying instead on billions of dollars in ill-gotten gain and tens of thousands of soldiers under their command.

Chavismo's civilian leadership -- including Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, Vice President Elías Jaua, and the president's brother, Adán Chávez, the governor of the Chávez family's home state of Barinas -- are eager to vindicate their movement's ideological agenda at the polls this fall. Maduro is extraordinarily loyal to the president, and is considered by Venezuelan political observers as the most viable substitute on the ballot. Above all, these men crave political power and will jockey to make themselves indispensable to the military leaders who are calling the shots today.   - More at the link...
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 16, 2012, 06:12:43 PM
Good find Doug.  (Someone please remind me to reach out to Denny S. for his input when I get back)

As best as I can tell the narcostate cancer is already mestastizing so the article's speculation rings true for me (haven't clicked on the URL yet). 

I would remind us of the growing connections with Iran and that China is now beginning to make moves into the Carribean. (Do not ask me for specifics, I am working from memory here)

Lets start tracking this more closely.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on April 16, 2012, 06:26:07 PM
From memory, the Cuban DGI has had "former" officers working for various drug cartels since at least the 80's and Castro sold access rights to drug smugglers to cross Cuban waters/airspace enroute to Estados Unidos. After the Soviets fell, China bought their massive listening post located in Cuba.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 16, 2012, 06:28:51 PM
IIRC the Chinese bought a company located at the mouth of the Panama Canal (the implication being a listening post) when Carter gave it back to the Panamanians too, but what I am trying to remember was reported in the last few weeks.
Title: Growing Venezuela-Iran alliance
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 17, 2012, 08:49:17 AM

Please watch and discuss.
Title: Re: Growing Venezuela-Iran alliance
Post by: bigdog on May 17, 2012, 09:35:09 AM
This appears to be an exaggeration.  He claims that the Shahaab 3 could hit Florida, Texas and Washington, DC.   However, this seems unlikely.  The Shabaab 3 has a maximum range of 2100km (;  That's a lot.  But, Caracas to Miami is 2152 (  I realize that is close, and the missles might not be placed in or near the capital.  However, to hit Texas the missles would need 50% more range (  And DC is about the same (  Therefore, Morris seems to be exaggerating the threat. 

Morris also claims that the US is the only market for Venezuelan oil.  I don't think this is true.  For example, "[Chavez] provides oil at a preferential price to many countries in the Caribbean through the Petrocaribe initiative" (  Morris is right that Venezuela's oil is heavy, "[a]s a result, much of Venezuela’s oil production must go to specialized domestic and international refineries" (  In fact, according to Wikipedia (for whatever that is worth, "n 2005, PDVSA opened its first office in China, and announced plans to nearly triple its fleet of oil tankers in that region. Chávez has long stated that he would like to sell more Venezuelan oil to China so his country can become more independent of the United States. The United States currently accounts for 65 percent of Venezuela's exports."  So, not only is it NOT true that only the US buys the oil, if the US stopped buying the oil, it might strengthen the ties between Chavez and China.  That seems counterproductive. 

All of that said, Hezbollah in the Americas seems to be a genuine threat.  "Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and other radical anti-American populists have made common cause with Iran and Hezbollah in waging asymmetric warfare against the United States" (;  There is some disagreement with even this point, however.  A Christian Science Monitor report questions the AEI report linked about, stating "this support is largely financial, and Hezbollah is not believed to actively direct criminal enterprises in the region. Instead, the group likely obtains donations from individuals who are sympathetic to the cause of spreading Islamic revolution....[T]here is scarce evidence for allegations that the group is developing its political connections in the region" (

Please watch and discuss.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 17, 2012, 10:00:33 AM
I readily grant that DM feels unrestrained to staying within his areas of competence and often hyperventilates, and acknowledge the possibility that moving his book sales can play a role.

That said, given the quite active Iranian missile development program and its trajectory of rapidly increasing range capabilities, I put little weight on the fact that currently the capabilities are a couple of hundred miles short-- its not like we are getting to inspect what is there and keep it limited to stuff than can't reach us!.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: bigdog on May 17, 2012, 10:33:38 AM
But the missles he is talking about are the ones that fly short.  It imight become a problem in future missle purchases, but as of now it isn't.  He is also wrong about the oil purchases and refining capacities, and seems to ignore the role of China with Venezuela and growing in the region.  

It should also be pointed out that he is shilling his book, in which he makes this false arguments. 
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 17, 2012, 10:35:57 AM
It makes more sense to me to draw a bright line with regard to missiles.

Title: Re: Venezuela - Hugo Chávez ruthlessly consolidates his power
Post by: DougMacG on July 31, 2012, 04:05:51 PM

The Post’s View
Facing election, Hugo Chávez ruthlessly consolidates his power

By Editorial Board, Published: July 26  Washington Post

Having the caudillo at the top of the ticket makes a big difference: While most polls show Mr. Chávez leading opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, they also indicate that the opposition would trounce any of Mr. Chávez’s potential successors. The president’s personal popularity lingers with some Venezuelans, who do not fault him for the soaring inflation, power and food shortages and world-beating murder rate that have emerged during his 13 years in office.

Mr. Chávez, however, is leaving little to chance. He is pouring tens of billions of dollars, much of it borrowed from China, into the economy, producing a preelection boomlet. More significantly, he is employing all the leverage of a legal system and mass media that he has politicized and subordinated to his personal control. Just how far that process of corruption has advanced is illuminated in a report by Human Rights Watch, which concludes that “the accumulation of power in the executive, the removal of institutional safeguards, and the erosion of human rights guarantees have given the Chávez government free rein to intimidate, censor and prosecute Venezuelans who criticize the president or thwart his political agenda.”

Title: Chavez’ Nationwide Address Interrupted, As Guayana Workers Protest
Post by: captainccs on August 20, 2012, 08:11:18 PM
Venezuelan presidential election is on October 7,_2012 (,_2012)

Tonight was bad news for Chavez.

Chavez’ Nationwide Address Interrupted, As Guayana Workers Protest

Tonight, Chavez nationwide address was interrupted when Guayana workers broke into the stage and started protesting. Chavez tried to go into the Hornest Nest, but it did not work well. Guayana workers are tired of promises. Is this a turning point in the campaign?


And this was the preamble to the protest: Mr. President, we haven’t had a collective contract for three years. And one more thing…!

[youtube][/youtube] (

Title: Refinery gas leak blast kills 7
Post by: captainccs on August 25, 2012, 04:40:21 AM
In Venezuela we don't need terrorists to blow up things, we have our government that does it just as well. The lack of maintenance in many government run operations has been throughly documented over the years. Just a week ago a bridge on the main highway east of Caracas broke in two:

( (

Not too long ago it was the electric infrastructure falling to pieces. There have been plenty warnings about the lack of maintenance and dire predictions of the consequences but they have fallen on deaf ears until the inevitable accident occurs. Then denial and crisis management kick in.

I just hope this is a wake-up call for our voters. We need to kick Chavez out come October 7th.

Blast rocks Venezuela's largest refinery, kills 7

By Sailu Urribarri | Reuters – 2 hrs 15 mins ago
2 hrs 34 mins ago

PARAGUANA, Venezuela (Reuters) - A large gas explosion shook Venezuela's biggest refinery, the 645,000-barrels-per-day Amuay facility, in the early hours of Saturday, killing seven people, authorities said.

Another 48 people were injured by the blast, which originated in a gas leak and caused damage both within the facility and to nearby houses, the local governor said.

Based in the west of the South American OPEC nation, Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refining Center, one of the biggest refinery complexes in the world with an overall capacity of 955,000 bpd.

"There was a gas leak," Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told state TV. "A cloud of gas exploded ... it was a significant explosion, there are appreciable damages to infrastructure and houses opposite the refinery."

Emergency workers were at the scene, where smoke and flames could be seen over the facility.

Local Falcon state governor Stella Lugo said the situation was, however, under control several hours after the explosion at about 1 a.m. local time.

"There's no risk of another explosion," she told state TV. "Right now, we're attending to the injured."

Amuay is operated by state-owned PDVSA which has struggled with repeated refinery problems in recent years, affecting its production figures and ability to fulfil ambitious expansion plans.

Power faults, accidents and planned stoppages for maintenance have hit deliveries from South America's biggest oil exporter.

Ivan Freites, a union leader at PDVSA, said foam was being used to control the fire.

(Reporting by Sailu Urribarri and Deisy Buitrago; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Rosalind Russell) (
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 25, 2012, 07:51:26 AM
Glad to have you with us again CCCS.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on August 26, 2012, 04:03:08 AM
Glad to have you with us again CCCS.

Crafty Dog, if one were to pay attention continually to politics one would lose one's mined! My interest remains constant but my attention to detail (and reporting) waxes and wanes as events unfold, specially events that can change the direction of the country like a election.

BTW, the refinery explosion toll had risen to 24 dead and 80 wounded by noon yesterday.
Title: Death toll rises to 39
Post by: captainccs on August 26, 2012, 04:21:46 AM
Many of the victims were national guard. Now they realize that the barracks were "too close" to dangerous installations. So much for planning!

Explosion kills 39 at Venezuela's biggest refinery
By Sailu Urribarri and Marianna Parraga | Reuters – 10 hrs ago

PARAGUANA/CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - An explosion tore through Venezuela's biggest refinery on Saturday, killing at least 39 people, wounding dozens and halting operations at the facility in the worst accident to hit the OPEC nation's oil industry.

Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told Reuters no production units at the Amuay refinery were affected and that there were no plans to halt exports, a sign that the incident will likely have little impact on fuel prices.

Photographs taken shortly after the pre-dawn blast showed wrecked vehicles, flattened fences and giant storage tanks buckling and crumpling as flames lit the night sky. A National Guard building in the area was shattered and officials said a 10-year-old child was among the dead.

A gas leak caused the explosion and most of those killed were National Guard troops who were providing security for the 645,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) facility, Ramirez said, adding that the fire was under control.

"There was a National Guard barracks near the explosion. ... The installation was too close to the operations," Ramirez told Reuters in an exclusive telephone interview, adding that production could resume at Amuay within two days at most.

"We need to boost production at other refineries and look for floating storage near the complex," he said.

The incident follows repeated accidents and outages during the last decade across installations run by state oil company PDVSA that have limited output and crimped expansion plans.

Amuay has partially shut operations at least twice this year due to a small fire and the failure of a cooling unit.

Those problems have spurred accusations of inept management by the government of President Hugo Chavez, who is running for re-election on October 7.

Acrimony over the explosion could spill over into an already bitter campaign, but s unlikely to overtake larger political concerns such as crime and the economy.

"I want to convey the deepest pain that I've felt in my heart and soul since I started to get information about this tragedy," Chavez said in phone call to state TV. He declared three days of mourning.


Venezuela has traditionally been a big supplier of fuel to the United States and the Caribbean, but refinery shutdowns have become so common that they rarely affect market prices.

Traders told Reuters the docks at the refinery were shut, and tankers were anchored offshore waiting. They said this would cause delays to some of the country's exports.

The explosion broke windows at homes in the area, a peninsula in the Caribbean sea in western Venezuela, as well as at Amuay's main administrative building.

The blast was also felt out at sea in the Paraguana bay, where some crew members on moored tankers were knocked off their feet by the shockwave, one shipping source said.

Ramirez said the fire that started after the explosion had only affected nine storage tanks holding mostly crude oil and some processed fuels including naphtha.

Officials said two tanks were still burning off residual fuel, and a Reuters witness at the scene said large black clouds of smoke still hung above the area.

Ramirez said existing fuel stocks around the country were sufficient to guarantee 10 days of exports and local sales. PDVSA has no plans to invoke force majeure, he said, which lets companies stop shipments due to accidents or extreme weather.

Amuay, together with a neighbouring facility, forms part of the Paraguana Refining Center, the second-biggest refinery complex in the world, with an overall capacity of 955,000 bpd.

In 2010, there was a massive fire at a PDVSA fuel terminal on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, then a blaze at a dock at the Paraguana complex that halted shipping for four days.

Also in 2010, a natural gas exploration rig, the Aban Pearl, sank in the Caribbean. All 95 workers were rescued safely.

(Additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago, Marianna Parraga and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Kieran Murray, Sandra Maler and Todd Eastham) (

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on September 14, 2012, 06:11:53 AM

Text Size



Men hurl objects before a Sept. 12 campaign stop by opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela

Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez fought with supporters of opposition candidate Miranda state Gov. Henrique Capriles Radonski on Sept. 12 in the biggest instance of political violence so far in Venezuela's presidential campaign. Voters will go to the polls Oct. 7 to determine whether Chavez will serve a fourth consecutive term as president. Over the course of the next three weeks, more violent political clashes can be expected throughout the country.

It is unclear how the Sept. 12 clashes started, but the altercation occurred after an advance team from the Capriles campaign arrived at the airport in Puerto Cabello, Carabobo state, about 122 kilometers (75 miles) west of Caracas. Dozens of Chavez and Capriles supporters threw rocks at one another, several vehicles were reportedly set on fire, and more than a dozen people sustained minor injuries.

The campaigns have traded accusations about whose supporters instigated the incident. United Socialist Party of Venezuela members have accused the Capriles campaign of starting the clash. Puerto Cabello Mayor Rafael Lacava said Capriles collaborated with Carabobo state Gov. Henrique Salas Feo to hire mercenaries to generate anxiety in the crowd, thus bringing about the clashes. Capriles' supporters have made similar accusations against the Chavez campaign. Tomas Guanipa, the head of Capriles' Justice First party, claims to have a document generated by the Chavez campaign directing party members to incite "hatred and violence." During an earlier incident on Sept. 2 in western Venezuela, opposition politician Vicente Bello from the New Era party, which is supporting Capriles in the election, claimed that Chavez supporters shot into a crowd of opposition supporters during a voting drill, injuring four.
These developments have created an atmosphere of tension and likely presage more violent incidents at political events throughout the country. Even before the recent clashes, Venezuela had been experiencing increased volatility. Throughout early 2012, the government's internal stability was threatened by Chavez's illness. While Chavez appears well enough to stand for election, questions about his health remain. During the campaign, Chavez and members of his administration have said they believe civil war will erupt if the opposition wins the election. While this is obviously intended to scare voters away from voting for the opposition, it could also be a warning to Chavez's fractious inner circle, which the Venezuelan president has taken several measures to keep under his control.
In 2007, Chavez announced the creation of Bolivarian militias that would report to Chavez and whose mission was to support the ideological goals of the administration. These and other pro-Chavez armed groups exist today and serve as an insurance policy of sorts for the Chavez administration. By forming an armed force that can instigate chaos in the event of a coup, Chavez made any attempt to depose him directly or destabilize his government more risky. The existence of these armed groups, the plethora of small arms trafficking in South America and the extreme political polarization in Venezuela all lend credence to Chavez's warnings of conflict, if not outright civil war, in the event of an opposition victory. But the militias also serve as a bulwark against any elements within the military or political elite who see a future for Venezuela that does not include an ailing Chavez.
The main purpose of the increasingly forceful rhetoric is to generate enthusiasm for the election. While polls are inconsistent and unreliable in Venezuela, there are some indications that Capriles may be gaining against the still quite popular Chavez. Possibly as a result of these perceived advances, the Chavez campaign is being extremely aggressive. Throughout Venezuela, loudspeakers on main streets have been playing Chavez speeches and issuing calls to support the government, adding to the sense of uncertainty and tension surrounding the upcoming elections.
The occasional violent confrontation is not unusual for political events in Venezuela, and clashes can be expected in Venezuela in the remaining three weeks before the elections. After 13 years in power, the stakes are high for Chavez and his inner circle. Chavez's election in 1999 unseated Venezuela's previous political elite. In the time since, Chavez and his associates have become the new political elite, and they can be expected to take assertive measures to retain that status.

Read more: Venezuela's Stability at Risk Ahead of Election | Stratfor
Title: A Day In The Life Of The Venezuelan Opposition Candidate
Post by: captainccs on September 14, 2012, 06:23:04 AM
This article has lots of good pictures, I suggest you go read the original at:

A Day In The Life Of The Venezuelan Opposition Candidate (

A Day In The Life Of The Venezuelan Opposition Candidate
September 12, 2012

Most days, the Capriles campaign tries not to pre-announce where they are going, in order to avoid Chavista thugs from trying to boycott the opposition campaign. This can not be done when he is going to a large city, where preparations are more complex, particularly in terms of security. A couple of weeks ago, Chavistas closed the Ciudad Bolivar airport to stop him from holding a rally that took place anyway. Today, it was Puerto Cabello´s turn.
From the early hours of the morning Chavista bands were blocking the roads and the airport, some arriving in Government owned vehicles. This is a picture of the main road to Puerto Cabello from the airport:

Is not a great picture, but you can see the red shirts blocking the road. this was not accidental, one of the Chavista organizers had tweeted it early in the morning:

“Today at 7 AM, in front of the Bartolome Salom airport the working people of Puerto Cabello say “no” to the fascist who sucks up to the Empire” said @denniscandanga, shown on the right pane as he participated in the violent actions of the day today.
And here is the picture of the airport:

where you can see how violent they got, and there is more in the following picture, where you see some action by the pro-Chavez thugs in the highway leading to the airport:

Of course, it was the property of the Capriles campaign that was damaged. This is what was left of the sound truck:

This is the truck that suffered less damage, the other one was not so lucky:

shown burning in the above picture and then later after it had been incinerated:

But it did not matter, candidate Capriles pressed on, arriving in Puerto Cabello by boat:

And holding the planned rally, which I am sure was much larger than expected as news of the aggression spread around Puerto Cabello (Although a third day of blackouts I am sure helped):

Of course, as Daniel reports, after the events, Government media said the injured were Chavistas and the aggressors were the opposition in the upside down world of Chavismo.

But Capriles did not let himself be intimidated, he pressed on and had a very successful day.

Just a day in the life of the opposition candidate in Venezuela.
(Who is the fascist here?)
Title: Chavez can no longer walkj
Post by: captainccs on September 15, 2012, 09:05:51 PM
Hugo Chavez: “As You Know, I Can No Longer Walk”
September 15, 2012


An emotional and weeping  Chavez confesses that he can no longer walk at a rally in Apure. Slip of the tongue or once again appealing to pity?
Title: Another refinery fire
Post by: captainccs on September 22, 2012, 09:36:27 AM
Lightning supposedly set ablaze two storage tanks in the El Palito refinery, the old Mobil Oil refinery. Mercifully no one was hurt.

That part of Venezuela has the most awesome electrical storms I have ever seen, the night lights up almost like day but with an erie blue amid terrifying crashes of thunder. But a properly protected installation should not fall victim to lightning and it hadn't for decades. I can only assume that it is part of the lack of maintenance on the part of our national oil company, PDVSA.

Crews extinguish fire at Venezuela's El Palito refinery


CARACAS (Reuters) - Firefighters extinguished a blaze in a fuel storage tank at Venezuela's El Palito refinery, state oil company PDVSA said on Saturday.

The fire was started by a lightning bolt during a storm Wednesday night, but the 146,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) El Palito facility continued operating. Two tanks were initially set alight, but the fire in one was put out within hours.

In a statement, PDVSA said the blaze in the second storage tank was completely extinguished late on Friday.

No one was hurt in Wednesday night's lightning strike.

The second refinery accident in a month has increased concerns about state oil company PDVSA's safety record and practices ahead of an October 7 presidential election.

In August, PDVSA halted almost all output at the country's biggest refinery, Amuay, for six days after a gas leak caused an explosion that killed 42 people.

PDVSA has suffered a string of accidents, outages and unplanned stoppages for maintenance across its refinery network in recent years, hurting the OPEC nation's vital fuel exports.

Title: Re: Venezuelan elections this Sunday, Time to retire Chavez
Post by: DougMacG on October 04, 2012, 02:07:46 PM
I don't know how Chavez could lose if he still controls the counting of votes, but let us hope...

Looking forward to first hand reporting on the forum.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 04, 2012, 02:10:14 PM
We are fortunate to have captainccs reporting for us.
Title: Re: Venezuelan elections this Sunday, Time to retire Chavez
Post by: captainccs on October 04, 2012, 02:43:49 PM
I don't know how Chavez could lose if he still controls the counting of votes, but let us hope...

He does and he doesn't. Each polling place is divided into "tables" depending on the number of voters assigned to the place. To vote you first check in then you vote on a voting machine which is connected to the CNE (Consejo Nacional Electoral) which is in charge of elections. That does give the government an advantage in that they can monitor the progress of the vote in real time. But the electronic results are not the official results. After you vote, the machine gives you a ticket with your choices printed on it. You deposit this ballot in a box. The vote is then manually counted at each table. Since there are members of most parties as witnesses at most tables, the opposition can easily tally the vote by sending the results by cell phone to the opposition headquarters. There are likely to be differences but they cannot be extreme. The opposition does need a resounding victory because if it is "too close to call" we'll lose.

The most recent trustworthy poll had Capriles wining by 3%. Pundits are hedging which is probably a good thing. Here is the latest:

Win or lose, Capriles may win in Venezuela

By Andres Oppenheimer

Anything is possible in Venezuela’s elections Sunday, but there is a good chance that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski will do better than any of his predecessors in the polls, and that — win or lose — he will put President Hugo Chavez’s 14-year-old regime against the ropes.

There is a plausible scenario that even if Capriles loses by a narrow margin, a good showing in Sunday’s election will allow him to keep the opposition unified, and to become a viable alternative to a president who may have terminal cancer, and who has no successor who could beat Capriles.

Under Venezuela’s constitution, if the president dies within the first four years of his term, new elections must be held within 30 days. If Capriles emerged as a strong opposition leader from this election, he would have a good chance of becoming the next president before Chavez’s term expires.

Many analysts see change in the air. In a Sept. 26 report entitled “Now or in a little while,” Barclays bank told its clients that “even in the event of a Chavez victory, we think that given the signs of his weak health conditions, if not now, political change could come in just a little while.”

While Chavez looks better than a few months ago and says that he is free from cancer, there are serious doubts that he has fully recovered. There are some reasons to believe that he now looks better not because he is cured from cancer, but because he has interrupted his treatment.

A study of Chavez’s daily public appearances by ODH, a Venezuelan consulting firm, shows that the president’s average daily television appearances during the first three weeks of September were significantly shorter than during the same period in August, and also shorter than his public appearances during the same period before the 2006 elections.

That would be hard to explain unless Chavez is ill: It doesn’t make sense for him to reduce his public appearances in the final stretch of the campaign. And it doesn’t make sense for him to have campaigned much harder in 2006 — when he enjoyed a huge lead in the polls — than nowadays.

As for Sunday’s vote, Chavez enjoys a clear advantage thanks to a combination of slanted electoral rules, intimidation of opposition voters, massive use of government petrodollars and a virtual control of television time.

As Capriles told me in a recent interview, “this is a fight of David versus Goliath, where I’m running against all of the state’s resources” and “against a government that controls all the institutions, and plays dirty.” Still, Venezuelans are suffering from Latin America’s highest inflation levels, record crime rates, food shortages and power outages, and are eager for change, he said.

Several polls give Chavez a 10-point lead, although a recent poll by the respected Consultores 21 and others show Capriles winning by a 3 percent margin.

But most pollsters agree that they have never seen the Venezuelan opposition as energized as today. While in the 2006 presidential elections Chavez won 63 percent of the vote and opposition leader Manuel Rosales got 37 percent, most expect a much closer result on Sunday.

Barring a Capriles upset victory — much like happened in Chile in 1989 or in Nicaragua in 1990, where the opposition won despite facing equally unfair election conditions — he is likely to get closer to 50 percent of the vote. If he gets close to that, he will be seen by many as a president-in-waiting.

Skeptics say the “Capriles now-or-a-little-later” scenario is too optimistic, because Capriles has generated so much enthusiasm among his followers that a defeat on Sunday would demoralize them, paralyze the opposition and perhaps even divide it. Millions of anti-Chavez Venezuelans would conclude there was fraud, and that there is no hope for democratic change, the argument goes.

My opinion: I’m somewhat more optimistic. If Capriles gets close to 50 percent of the vote, he will play his cards well, and will not allow his political momentum to evaporate.

He is not likely to cry fraud if he loses by a margin that he can’t dispute, because doing so would encourage a widespread perception within the anti-Chavez movement that Venezuela’s elections are rigged, and that would lead many to stay at home for the December 16 governors’ elections, and for the April 2013 mayoral elections.

The odds are against Capriles, but he has better chances than any previous opposition leader to succeed Chavez. Win or lose on Sunday, he could still win in the end.

Read more here:
Title: Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on October 04, 2012, 02:50:50 PM
Received via email:

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Venezuela
Presidential elections in Venezuela will be held this Sunday, October 7. While the electoral campaign to date has been generally peaceful, incidents of violence have occurred. Demonstrations by supporters of the two main candidates may occur in coming days, particularly in the vicinity of polling centers and traditional gathering points. In addition to previous guidance provided to U.S. citizens, we offer the following recommendations for Sunday October 7, and prudentially, for Monday, October 8:
Minimize being out in public.
Keep cellular telephones charged.
Where possible, avoid polling stations and other large public gatherings.
 We wish to remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. Since the timing and routes of marches and demonstrations are always subject to change, American citizens should monitor local media sources and the Embassy’s website, through the American Citizens’ “Demonstrations” link, for new developments.
Please review your emails for subsequent updates on the situation during the next few days.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). To receive the latest security information American citizens traveling or residing overseas are encouraged to enroll in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas is located on Calle F con Calle Suapure, Lomas de Valle Arriba. The telephone number during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) is (011) 58-212-975-6411. For after-hours emergencies use (011) 58-212-907-8400. The fax is (011) 58-212-907-8199. Please check the Embassy website for additional information at
Title: Stratfor: Possible change
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 05, 2012, 07:50:11 AM
The Implications of Possible Regime Change
October 5, 2012 | 1046 GMT


Venezuela is at a crossroads in history. Should he win the Oct. 7 vote, presidential challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski would be constrained greatly by the policies and systems left by President Hugo Chavez's administration. But a change in leadership could transform Venezuela and its regional role, possibly to the extent that Cuba could seek reconciliation with the United States.
The run-up to the election has been tumultuous. A little more than a year ago, Chavez was diagnosed with cancer, for which he received several surgeries. The past year has been rife with rumors of his impending death and although questions about his health remain, Chavez insists he is strong enough to stand for another six-year term amid collapsing infrastructure and increasing unrest.


Chavez's opponent, Capriles, is the young governor from Miranda state. Capriles' campaign relies on emphasizing Chavez-like redistributive policies while promising reforms designed to attract foreign investment, increase oil production and solve Venezuela's profound economic problems.
Though it is not accurate to say that governance in Venezuela is synonymous with "Chavismo" -- Chavez's political ideology -- the Venezuelan president has decisively changed the nature of Venezuelan politics. Chavez is deeply influential in every aspect of government. Moreover, he has set a precedent that will force future Venezuelan politicians to prioritize populism and income redistribution.
When Chavez came to power in 1999, it was in the wake of more than a decade of profound public dissatisfaction with a shaky economy amid regional economic instability. Despite decades of exorbitant oil profits flowing into Venezuela, the management of that wealth by two main parties who took turns in power -- the Democratic Action Party and the Christian Democratic Party -- left millions of Venezuelans in poverty and created stark socioeconomic divisions.
Chavez's populist policies were predictable. Venezuela's political and economic elite maintained power by controlling oil resources and the government. Chavez came to power by promising to address the country's poverty and to use the government to give Venezuelans a share of the country's oil wealth. With enormous popular support, Chavez uprooted the elite and established his own inner circle. In 2002, when a coup attempt supported by the managerial staff of Petroleos de Venezuela attempted to unseat Chavez, the president cut the national oil company's staff and took control of the country and its many resources. In doing so, Chavez crippled Petroleos de Venezuela's production capacity. By breaking the national oil company, Chavez also broke the country's elite -- the kind of populist policy that was a natural evolution of Venezuelan politics.
Since then, his management style -- ad hoc consolidation of the economy -- has led to rising inefficiencies across numerous sectors. The electricity sector that was aged when he came to office is now falling apart. Transportation infrastructure is literally collapsing, and prisons are overcrowded with heavily armed gangs, many of whose members have been incarcerated for years without ever being tried.
These problems would face Capriles just as they have faced Chavez. Capriles will be able to make some changes, but he will encounter profound difficulties. Open questions remain about the loyalties of the military, which is deeply involved in the drug trade. Moreover, Capriles will not be able to drastically reduce social spending without facing significant social unrest, which means that large portions of the central government and Petroleos de Venezuela budgets will be locked in place, reducing fiscal flexibility. His main policy and key hope will be attracting foreign investment to increase oil production and national revenues.
Venezuela's International Reputation
During Chavez's presidency, Venezuela's external influence has expanded greatly, and international relations have become more important to the administration. Because of suspicions that the United States was at least peripherally involved in the 2002 coup attempt, that event was for Chavez what the failed Bay of Pigs invasion was for Cuban leader Fidel Castro: a trigger for a strategic repositioning away from the United States. But where Castro was able to form an alliance with the Soviet Union, Chavez has spent the past decade building a foreign policy around establishing piecemeal relationships with countries whose relationships with the United States are strained. Without a clear global power to serve as a political ally, Chavez has established himself as a symbol of international resistance to U.S. global domination.
Nevertheless, Venezuela's independence has largely remained in the realm of symbolism and rhetoric. The United States is still far and away Venezuela's largest trading partner. Efforts to diversify away from the United States as an oil export market have resulted in a complex trade and financing relationship with China that has almost certainly required Venezuela to accept a lower market price for its oil -- a likely factor in domestic cash flow problems.
However, in its immediate region, Venezuela has found opportunities for partnership and some influence with many governments with similar aims. Countries like Ecuador and Nicaragua, whose leaders have pursued strategies largely independent of U.S. influence, have benefited from Venezuela's oil expertise and oil exports. Argentina, though largely focused on its own domestic challenges, has found Venezuela to be a willing and convenient trade partner (Argentina has an advantage in food production, which has declined in Venezuela). For these countries, a change in leadership in Venezuela may mean cooler relations, but a change in Venezuela's policy toward these countries will have a relatively limited impact.
Two Countries to Watch

VIDEO: Evolving U.S.-Colombian Relations (Dispatch)
.The two most important relationships for Venezuela are with Colombia and Cuba. Venezuela and Colombia are strategic rivals and will remain so regardless of who holds power in Caracas. Nevertheless, a Venezuelan government that is more open to U.S. influence could benefit Colombia, whose fight against international drug trafficking groups is critical for economic development prospects. Venezuela's lack of domestic enforcement hinders Colombia's efforts, so a shift in Caracas' domestic law enforcement priorities could help Bogota, which is betting on peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to stabilize the volatile security environment and allow sustained economic growth in Colombia.
Cuba's relationship with Venezuela has been a key element of both Venezuela's role in the region and the geopolitical tensions in the Caribbean Basin. Venezuela's deliveries of around 100,000 barrels per day of petroleum products to Cuba are a lifeline for the island nation. Outside of tourism, Cuba's development prospects without significant reforms historically have been limited, and after the social and economic chaos of the 1990s that resulted from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba turned to Venezuela to keep the island's economy afloat.
A change in government in Caracas would not necessarily mean an immediate abrogation of that relationship. However, Capriles has made it clear that he will reconsider the relationship. Even if Chavez is re-elected, Cuba is vulnerable to any challenges to Venezuela's economic stability. With this in mind, Cuban planners have been slowly implementing reforms to the domestic economy.
The big question is when Cuba will reconcile its relationship with the United States. If Capriles is elected, Caracas may accelerate these considerations, removing the guarantee of Venezuelan subsidies, pushing Havana to make the concessions necessary for the United States to lift the embargo and speeding up economic reforms. Depending on the results of the U.S. elections, political dynamics in Washington could evolve enough to make this move in tandem with Cuba.

Read more: Venezuela: The Implications of Possible Regime Change | Stratfor
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on October 05, 2012, 08:48:18 AM
Moreover, he has set a precedent that will force future Venezuelan politicians to prioritize populism and income redistribution.

Not really. Populism has been the centerpiece of all governments since 1958. What has changed is that Chavez is more anti business than his predecessors. It has been a see-saw.

Rómulo Betancourt, the first democratic president, unlike Chávez, was a real communist, but a pragmatic politician. When he started out he put an end to the so called "white elephants" -- grandiose public projects by General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. He soon realized that oil is what brings in foreign exchange but being capital intensive it employs few people. Construction, on the other hand, is labor intensive. Being pragmatic, Betancourt soon started up new public infrastructure projects. It took Chavismo almost a decade to start working seriously on infrastructure projects.

With successive governments the labor laws were made ever more labor friendly until production faltered badly. Then the governments reversed gears. Same with price controls, CAP instituted them during his first government and eliminated them in his second. Raising the price of gas at the pump cost him his job.

I've said it before and I say it again, Venezuela has never had a right of center government since 1958 nor is it likely to have one in the visible future, not until the private productive capacity matches the fossil fuel wealth, an unlikely scenario considering that Venezuela has one of the largest oil deposits in the world for a relatively small population.

To get a better understanding of Venezuela, Stratfor should read Los Amos de Valley (The Owners of the Valley, the valley being where Caracas is located), a humorous novel based on history. Venezuela has always had an "elite" but one that changes over time. The original elite was composed of conquistadors. Over time old members disappeared and new ones rose. The new ones came from distant places, the USA, Germany, the Canary Islands, Lebanon, Bohemia. Venezuela is as much a melting pot as the USA. What has happened now is that Chavistas have displaced some of the incumbent Owners of the Valley.

There is no revolution in Venezuela, no matter how loudly Chávez claims one. All that has happened is a "coup d'etat" or as we like to say: "quítate tu pa' ponerme yo" (let me have your place). Chávez is just a question of time. He is charismatic any wily. But he is as mortal as the rest of us.

It's a fun read! Los amos del valle (Spanish Edition) (  by Francisco J Herrera Luque (Author)

Denny Schlesinger
Title: The Oligarchy of Money
Post by: captainccs on October 05, 2012, 10:33:30 AM
Would you build your capitalist marketing plan on a communist tract?

We did when we set up our management consulting business in Caracas. We had to decide who to market to. We identified three markets:

1.- Government
2.- Local subsidiaries of multinational companies
3.- Venezuelan private enterprise

We decided on the third group, but, ¿Who to attack first? We figured we should go after the most prominent business groups because, if we succeeded with them, it would be easy to sell to smaller groups. The next question was ¿Who are they?

The answer was provided by a notable communist professor of the Universidad Central de Venezuela (our main communist hatchery, like UC Berkeley?), Doming Alberto Rangel. His 1971 book "la oligarquía del dinero" (The Oligarchy of Money), mapped the then current Owners of the Valley:

 1.- Vollmer-Zuloaga (then the richest group in Latin America)
 2.- Mendoza (Old man died, group broke up)
 3.- Banco Unión (Bank group broke up)
 4.- Boulton
 5.- Polar (Going stronger than ever)
 6.- Delfino
 7.- Neuman
 8.- Phelps
 9.- Sosa Rodriguez
10.- Blohm
11.- Tamayo
12.- Dominguez

Several groups have disappeared and current powerhouses like Cisneros (not on the list) were just upstarts. Vollmer caved in to Chavez to survive.

La oligarquía del dinero ( by Doming Alberto Rangel

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Back from voting
Post by: captainccs on October 07, 2012, 11:42:54 AM
I walked  from Los Caobos to Altamira, a leisurely one and a half hour walk. There was a big turnout al all the polling stations I went past but one. Despite being "3a edad" (senior citizen) it took me from 9:30 to 12:00 noon (2.5 hours) to vote. They were applying "operación morrocy" (delaying tactics). Only four fingerprint machines (capta huella) were working and getting past them was snail paced. The actual voting was quite fast. Early on the picture of your candidate took a long time to show up and if you pressed the vote button before the picture was complete you vote was null. The notice spread quickly. For me the picture of the candidate appeared instantly. Earlier there were stories about the picture taking for ever.

The delay at the fingerprint machines was so bad that they had to allow people (at least senior citizens) to go past them but to do that you first had to find out the book and page where you are listed. There was only one set of lists and the crowding and shoving was quite disagreeable.

Why they had the fingerprint machines when you had to use a second fingerprint machine to vote is quite beyond me. Either bureaucratic stupidity or purposeful delaying tactics. During the several days leading up to Sunday it had rained and my gut feeling is that the government was trying to get the opposition to go home without voting. Today was a beautiful sunny day in Caracas. When the process got to be very slow people started chanting "we want to vote!" I'm not sure if that had any effect on the "authorities" but it did get me past the fingerprint machines.

Turnout was strong at all the polling stations I went past but one but that one never seems to have a lot of people. People were happy and determined to vote. I think we will have a good turnout.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Electoral Tourism In Caracas
Post by: captainccs on October 07, 2012, 11:52:30 AM
Electoral Tourism In Caracas ( (visit the link)
Title: Chavez's socialist rule at risk as Venezuelans vote
Post by: captainccs on October 07, 2012, 02:07:01 PM
It's 4:30 VE (local time) and the weather is holding up just fine which is good news as people won't need to flee the rain.

Chavez's socialist rule at risk as Venezuelans vote

By Daniel Wallis and Todd Benson | Reuters – 14 mins ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelans lined up for hours in searing tropical heat on Sunday to vote in the biggest electoral test yet to President Hugo Chavez's socialist rule from a young rival tapping into discontent over crime and cronyism.

Henrique Capriles, a centrist state governor, narrowed the gap with Chavez in final polls thanks to a vigorous campaign that generated widespread enthusiasm, giving the opposition its best chance in 14 years to unseat the popular president and take the reins of South America's leading oil exporter.

Chavez has used record oil revenue to support ideological allies around the world while preaching a fiercely anti-American line, so the election is being watched eagerly from the United States and Cuba to Belarus and Iran.

Thousands of Chavez supporters lined the streets to welcome him as he arrived at the school in a Caracas hillside slum where he cast his vote. Some handed him flowers, and one elderly woman serenaded the president with a folk song in his honor.

"Today is a day of joy, a day of democracy, a day for the fatherland," Chavez said, adding that a massive turnout meant that voting could take longer than expected.

In a show of vigor, Chavez - who underwent grueling cancer treatment in the past year - shadow-boxed with U.S. actor Danny Glover, who was on hand with some other celebrity fans of the Venezuelan leader to watch him vote.

In poor neighborhoods, where Chavez draws his most fervent following, supporters blew bugles and trumpets in a predawn wake-up call. In the run-down center of Caracas, red-clad loyalists shouted "Long live Chavez!" from the back of trucks.

Despite his remarkable comeback from cancer, Chavez, 58, could not match the energy of past campaigns - or the pace set by his 40-year-old basketball-loving opponent.

Capriles, who showed up to vote in his lucky shoes, struck a conciliatory tone, urging Venezuelans resolve their differences at the ballot box.

"Whatever the people decide today is sacred," he said to screaming applause from supporters. "To know how to win, you have to know how to lose."

In wealthy enclaves of the capital, Capriles supporters geared up for the vote by banging pots and pans overnight.

"Today I'm doing my bit to build a new Venezuela," said Francesca Pipoli, 26, walking to vote with two friends in the city's upscale Sebucan district. "Capriles for president!" all three sang in the street. "Henrique, marry me!" said one.

In the United States, Venezuelan expats flocked to New Orleans to vote - mostly for Capriles - after Chavez closed the country's consulate in Miami earlier this year.


Most well-known pollsters put Chavez in front. But two have Capriles just ahead, and his numbers have crept up in others.

Some worry that violence could break out if the result is contested. There are no formal international observers, but a delegation from the UNASUR group of South American nations is in Venezuela to "accompany" the vote.

Local groups are also monitoring the election and both sides say they trust the electronic, fingerprint voting system. The opposition deployed witnesses to all of the 13,810 polling centers, from tiny Amazon villages to tough Caracas slums.

In a politically polarized country where firearms are common and the murder rate is one of the world's highest, tensions have risen in recent weeks as both campaigns used harsh rhetoric. Three Capriles activists were shot and killed by alleged Chavez loyalists on September 29 at a campaign rally in rural Venezuela.

After voting, Chavez pledged to respect the election results and called on the opposition - who he suggested could cry foul if he comes out on top - to do the same. Some opposition activists fear Chavez could refuse to step down if he loses.

A Capriles victory would unseat the most vocal critic of the United States in Latin America, and could lead to new deals for oil companies in an OPEC nation that pumps about 3 million barrels a day and boasts the world's biggest crude reserves.


Capriles wants to copy Brazil's model of respect for private enterprise with strong social welfare programs if he is elected - but he would face big challenges from day one. For starters, he would not take office until January 2013, meaning Chavez loyalists could throw obstacles in the way of the transition.

He would also have to develop a plan to tackle high inflation, price distortions and an overvalued currency, while surely butting heads with the National Assembly, judiciary and state oil company PDVSA - all dominated by "Chavistas."

Another big task would be to figure out the real level of state finances. Last month, a Reuters investigation found that half of public investment went into a secretive off-budget fund that is controlled by Chavez and has no oversight by Congress.

The president has denounced his foes as traitors and told voters they plan to cancel his signature social "missions," which range from subsidized food stores to programs that build houses and pay cash stipends to poor women with children.

Tens of thousands of new homes have been handed over this year, often to tearful Chavez supporters at televised events.

If Chavez wins, he would likely consolidate state control over Venezuela's economy and continue backing leftist governments across Latin America such as communist-led Cuba, which receives Venezuelan oil at a discount.

Any recurrence of Chavez's cancer would be a big blow to his plans, however, and could give the opposition another chance.

Investors who have made Venezuela's bonds some of the most widely traded emerging market debt are on tenterhooks.

"There is a perception that a tight electoral outcome may trigger social and political unrest and market volatility," Goldman Sachs said in a research note.

Voting runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (1030-2230 GMT), although polls will stay open later if there are still queues. Results are due any time starting late on Sunday evening.

The electoral authority says it will only announce the results once there is an "irreversible trend" and parties are barred from declaring victory in advance of that announcement. (To follow us on Twitter: @ReutersVzla) (For multimedia coverage, go to

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne, Deisy Buitrago, Mario Naranjo, Liamar Ramos and Girish Gupta; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Title: It's official, Venezuela lost.
Post by: captainccs on October 07, 2012, 08:10:11 PM
It's official, Venezuela lost.

Very high turnout, less than 20% abstention. First bulletin with about 90% of the votes counted:

Chavez 54.44%
Capriles 44.97%
Others 0.60%

Denny Schlesinger

Hugo Chávez Reelected With More Than One Million Votes (

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on October 08, 2012, 12:23:00 AM
So very sorry to hear that Denny.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on October 09, 2012, 09:16:44 AM
So very sorry to hear that Denny.

Likewise.  This is a very bad thing for the people of the world and a really really bad thing for the people of Venezuela.

I wonder what to think of exit polls that showed Capriles leading narrowly.  I would think exit polls understate his support.  I didn't notice if we sent Jimmy Carter again to 'certify' the vote.

Interesting is the idea that if/when there is a demise of Chavez that Capriles from the opposition could be the next leader instead of some hand picked successor.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on October 09, 2012, 09:41:06 AM
I wonder what to think of exit polls that showed Capriles leading narrowly.  I would think exit polls understate his support.  I didn't notice if we sent Jimmy Carter again to 'certify' the vote.

It should not be surprising because the vote is very polarized. Where I voted you can be sure it was 80% for Capriles. In other places surely it's 80% Chavez. In the US Republicans and Democrats might live side by side. Here adecos and copeyanos (people voting for the former two major parties) would also live side by side but not so for chavistas and anti-chavistas although the chavistas who have enriched themselves are moving out of the barrios and into the upscale neighborhoods.

I visited my beach condo two weeks ago. It's full of chavistas. I was told that the apartment sold to the local mayor fetched more than the owner thought she would get. Prices are back up to US$1,000 a square meter. They had been as low as $375 around 2004. Nothing has changed, only we have new "Amos del Valle."

If Jimmy Carter came likely he would be lynched -  the weasel. As far as I know there were no foreign observers, for all the good they did in the past, I certainly didn't miss them.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: The Death Watch Continues
Post by: captainccs on January 04, 2013, 01:38:03 AM
Yesterday I was struck by the headline: "The Post Chavez Era Is Here." In our highly regulated news industry, papers are not allowed to print what the government does not want people to see. If this headline was allowed it must mean that the government wants the people to get ready for a transition. Maduro, the bus driver turned vice president, has said that Chavez's condition was delicate. There are only six days to go to Chavez's inauguration. There has been talk about inaugurating Chavez on his sick bed in Havana, a truly preposterous idea but inline with Chavista opportunism.

This arrived by email:

Venezuela: Chavez In Coma - Report
January 2, 2013 | 0049 GMT

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's health continued to deteriorate Jan. 1, Colombia's Caracol Radio reported, citing a report from Spanish newspaper ABC. The report said Chavez is in a medically induced coma with weak vitals and that a biopsy during a Dec. 11 operation to extract 43.1 centimeters of his small intestine that left him unable to ingest solid food revealed cancerous cells in his intestinal wall and bladder. The report also said Chavez's cancer had spread to his spinal cord, the treatment of which requires a bone marrow transplant that he is unable to undergo because of respiratory complications.

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Title: The Death Watch Continues
Post by: captainccs on January 04, 2013, 01:48:12 AM
Spanish Newspaper Says Hugo Chávez Is In A Coma And On Life Support
Matthew Boesler    | Jan. 2, 2013, 10:58 AM | 3,177 | 8

Sources told Spanish newspaper ABC that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in an induced coma and being kept alive on life support in a Cuban hospital following emergency cancer surgery on December 10.

UPI has more details from the report:

Sources told ABC Chávez was breathing through mechanical ventilation and being fed intravenously and rectally, and Russian doctors treating him said his kidneys were failing.

The doctors were considering ending the life support, the newspaper said.

However, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolás Maduro denied the report, saying that Chávez was in a conscious state.

Chávez recently named Maduro as his chosen successor should he be unable to serve his third term as president following his re-election in October. While Chávez has battled cancer for a while now, never has he taken the step of naming a successor, making the announcement significant.

Chávez is well known for his socialist government and economic policies. Investors have bid up both Venezuelan stocks and bonds this year (Venezuela was the world's best performing stock market in 2012) on hopes that the end of Chávez's rule in Venezuela will mean an end to those socialist policies and usher in a more business-friendly government.

Today, yields on Venezuelan government bonds are falling toward multi-year lows. The move reverses a climb upward in recent weeks after the Venezuelan government downplayed fears that Chávez's December 10 surgery didn't go well.

The yield on the Venezuelan 15-year government bond has fallen 40 basis points today.

Torino Capital CEO Jorge Piedrahita told Bloomberg News, "There is a clear correlation between the price of Venezuela’s debt and Chávez's health."

Today's report from ABC cites anonymous sources inside the hospital. Although it's been refuted by Maduro, it appears as if it's been enough to re-ignite investor speculation.

Read more:
Title: Re: Venezuela - new election by Feb. 10?
Post by: DougMacG on January 04, 2013, 10:01:57 AM
If coma reports reports are true, then?

The constitution says Chávez, who in October won re-election to a new six-year term, is supposed to be sworn in a week from today, on Jan. 10. But his condition would appear to preclude that happening. So here’s what Article 233 says:

"When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election … shall be held within 30 consecutive days.”
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 04, 2013, 10:20:51 AM
"When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election … shall be held within 30 consecutive days.”

That is the crux of the matter. If Chavez can be sworn in Maduro becomes president. If not, chavistas have a good chance of losing the presidency. We fear that chavismo will go to any trickery to get Chavez sworn in, dead or alive.

Six days to go.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: The DIRTY TRICKS Continue
Post by: captainccs on January 05, 2013, 04:19:47 AM
The chavista Venezuelan Supreme Court is not an independent body. The court is populated with Chavez pupets and it acts like a rubber stamp. Now Maduro wants to use the rubber stamp to delay the swearing in of the president which it totally illegal.

I never doubted the dirty tricks were coming, the only unknown was the form they would take.

Chavez swearing-in can be delayed: Venezuelan VP

By Andrew Cawthorne and Deisy Buitrago | Reuters – 9 hrs ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez's formal swearing-in for a new six-year term scheduled for January 10 can be postponed if he is unable to attend due to his battle to recover from cancer surgery, Venezuela's vice president said on Friday.

Nicolas Maduro's comments were the clearest indication yet that the Venezuelan government is preparing to delay the swearing-in while avoiding naming a replacement for Chavez or calling a new election in the South American OPEC nation.

In power since 1999, the 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public for more than three weeks. Allies say he is in delicate condition after a fourth operation in two years for an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area.

The political opposition argues that Chavez's presence on January 10 in Cuba - where there are rumors he may be dying - is tantamount to the president's stepping down.

But Maduro, waving a copy of the constitution during an interview with state TV, said there was no problem if Chavez was sworn in at a later date by the nation's top court.

"The interpretation being given is that the 2013-2019 constitutional period starts on January 10. In the case of President Chavez, he is a re-elected president and continues in his functions," he said.

"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court at the time the court deems appropriate in coordination with the head of state."

In the increasing "Kremlinology"-style analysis of Venezuela's extraordinary political situation, that could be interpreted in different ways: that Maduro and other allies trust Chavez will recover eventually, or that they are buying time to cement succession plans before going into an election.

Despite his serious medical condition, there was no reason to declare Chavez's "complete absence" from office, Maduro said. Such a declaration would trigger a new vote within 30 days, according to Venezuela's charter.


Chavez was conscious and fighting to recover, said Maduro, who traveled to Havana to see his boss this week.

"We will have the Commander well again," he said.

Maduro, 50, whom Chavez named as his preferred successor should he be forced to leave office, said Venezuela's opposition had no right to go against the will of the people as expressed in the October 7 vote to re-elect the president.

"The president right now is president ... Don't mess with the people. Respect democracy."

Despite insisting Chavez remains president and there is hope for recovery, the government has acknowledged the gravity of his condition, saying he is having trouble breathing due to a "severe" respiratory infection.

Social networks are abuzz with rumors he is on life support or facing uncontrollable metastasis of his cancer.

Chavez's abrupt exit from the political scene would be a huge shock for Venezuela. His oil-financed socialism has made him a hero to the poor, while critics call him a dictator seeking to impose Cuban-style communism on Venezuelans.

Should Chavez leave office, a new election is likely to pitch former bus driver and union activist Maduro against opposition leader Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state.

Capriles lost to Chavez in the October presidential election, but won an impressive 44 percent of the vote. Though past polls have shown him to be more popular than all of Chavez's allies, the equation is now different given Maduro has received the president's personal blessing - a factor likely to fire up Chavez's fanatical supporters.

His condition is being watched closely by Latin American allies that have benefited from his help, as well as investors attracted by Venezuela's lucrative and widely traded debt.

"The odds are growing that the country will soon undergo a possibly tumultuous transition," the U.S.-based think tank Stratfor said this week.

(Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Christopher Wilson)
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on January 05, 2013, 10:28:18 AM
Chavez cronies addressing the inauguration question make the coma rumor look true.  I know nothing but it seems to me that cancer in the very late stages is a one way street.  The one saying otherwise is VP Maduro, as his one big shot at the Presidency may be slipping away.  "Chavez was conscious and fighting to recover", said Maduro.  If so, then what is the question about inauguration on schedule as required?

I would hope the opposition start right in with their campaign on Jan. 11 no matter what 'ruling' comes down.
Title: Chavez's Health and Schrodinger's Cat
Post by: captainccs on January 07, 2013, 09:32:31 AM
Received by email

Chavez's Health and Schrodinger's Cat

It is not often that we get to discuss quantum mechanics in relation to Venezuela, although my colleague Miguel does have a PhD from Harvard in physics, so over the years sitting on a trading desk next to each other you get to speak about almost everything as the days roll on.  (By the way, did you know that Venezuela had an experimental nuclear reactor -- the first in Latin America -- fifty years ago?  That came to light in one of our riffs back in 2008 when Venezuela President Hugo Chavez was promising to build a nuclear reactor with Russia in oil-rich Zulia state. ) 
But I could have never foreseen that we would be able to allude to Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger in this missive.  Yet, Chavez has become Schrodinger's cat.  In that theoretical experiment (for you cat-lovers out there, no actual cats were injured), a cat is in a sealed box and may be alive or dead. Or both, in theoretical quantum mechanics.  Likewise, we don't know if Chavez is alive or dead. Some reports say Chavez is basically in a coma or being kept alive on life support. The government keeps saying that his situation is 'delicate' and that he will return 'sooner rather than later.' But the fact is that we have neither seen nor heard from Chavez in almost four weeks since December 10 and we don't know what his real situation is.  Nobody is letting us see inside the box in Cuba and everyone (including Chavez) is lying or obfuscating the truth.  And yet, people are trying to continue to rule in his name, even bending the Constitution to allow them to stay in power after the Constitutional term ends.  And worse, because Chavismo controls the legislature, the courts and all the other governing institutions of the country, there is no place for the Opposition to go to resolve it.   As Opposition Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma put it "Our President has been kidnapped" and we don't even have a "proof of life." This could get messy.

Russ Dallen
Title: Chavismo Takes The Path Of Maximum Illegallity In Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 08, 2013, 05:27:43 PM
Why am I not surprised?

Chavismo Takes The Path Of Maximum Illegallity In Venezuela

January 8, 2013

Chavismo and the Venezuelan National Assembly have today decided to follow the path of maximum illegality when they announced that Hugo Chávez will not show up on Thursday and will be sworn in a some time in the future by the Venezuela Supreme Court. At the same time, the National Assembly approved that President Chávez can take an unlimited leave of absence, something that it is unconstitutional and illegal.

The whole show is a bizarre and unnecessary twist to the problem of what to do with Chávez’ inability to be sworn in due to his illness, as this is simply a break with the laws and the Constitution that is likely to have repercussions beyond what Chavismo apparently believes.

The whole sequence of events is bizarre to say the least:

-It all starts by a letter by Vice-President Maduro, the person with the largest conflict of interest in all this, as his tenure as Vice-President clearly ends on Jan. 10th. with Chávez’ six year term. Moreover, there is not even the pretense of having Chávez sign the letter. If Chávez is doing better and will be able to be sworn in sometime soon, why didn’t he even sign the letter? Maduro clearly has no legal right to make this request for the Venezuelan President.

-As if this was not enough the National Assembly approves a spurious resolution, giving Chávez an unlimited leave and without even following what the law requires for a President, which is a medical committee giving an opinion and the Assembly approving the recommendation of such a committee. Only the Supreme Court could approve that you can extend to Art. 233 of the Constitution a President-elect, but under no circumstance could the Court or the Assembly grant Chávez an unlimited leave.

-In the case of a temporal absence, the Vice-President would become President, but since Chávez has not been sworn in, it is absolutely unconstitutional for current Vice-President Nicolás Maduro to extend his Vice-Presidency into the next term. Since Chávez has not been sworn in yet, and it Maduro says he will not be for a while, then the only legal solution is for the President of the National Assembly to become President until the situation is resolved with the approval of the Venezuelan Supreme Court (Which may still happen before Jan. 10th.)

What is scary about this whole situation is that if it does extend into Jan. 10th. Chavismo (And not Chávez! We do not know his opinion!) will be taking the country on a path of piling up one illegality on top of the other. This could take years to unravel, as someone has to run the country, but all decisions after Jan. 10th. will lack any legality and could be challenged some day. This could have dire consequences for the stability of the country medium and long term. Moreover, once someone decides to bypass the Constitution, all sorts of demons are unleashed among all of those aspiring for power.

I wonder if those demons are what is already causing these bizarre situation.

The question remains why this path has been chosen. Either Chavismo does not want or does not trust Diosdado Cabello as President or Chavismo (and the Cubans) have decided to turn the country into a Dictatorship, the Constitution be damned. The question is in the former case is why would Diosdado follow Maduro on this?

And as one analyst asked me yesterday: Will these guys even hold elections if Chávez dies?

You have to start wondering…

For the last few days, I have believed that a Constitutional crisis would be avoided when push came to shove. Right now, I can only sit here and hope that the Supreme Court will say something tomorrow, before Venezuela is taken into an unknown path packed with instability.

After Jan. 10th. anyone that sides with Chavismo and this foolishness will be on the side of illegality and and a coup. Remarkably, not one person on the Chavismo side has yet raised a voice of concern.

They have less than two days to speak up or side with those breaking with Venezuela’s Constitution.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on January 08, 2013, 06:40:05 PM
Denny S. post already states this but CNN also reporting Chavez will not be coming to inauguration.

Looks to me like it is all over midnight Thursday and the 30 day campaign begins.

IBD opins, among others regarding Chavez and the Cuban cancer treatments, that "it didn't have to happen this way."  The cancer may have been treatable at the Sirio-Libanese Hospital in Sao Paulo in Brazil.  (Chavez could have swallowed his socialist, anti-American pride and visited the Mayo clinic where other world leaders go.)
Hugo Chavez Hit By Cuba's Surgical Strike
Title: Re: Venezuela - Inauguration Day Came and Went without Chavez
Post by: DougMacG on January 11, 2013, 10:00:25 AM
Looking forward to our reports from Denny S.

"But in a telling sign of the severity of his illness, Mr. Chávez apparently sent no greeting to the crowds wishing him well. There was no message from him read to the tens of thousands of followers who attended the rally in front of the presidential palace. There was no video or recording from the once-omnipresent president, who has not been seen or heard from directly in a month.  There was not even any mention that Mr. Chávez might be watching the televised broadcast of the huge get-well rally held in his honor."

They had their celebration anyway - with a cardboard cutout of Chavez.

NY Times continued: "On Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Chávez could be sworn in at a later date — but set no time limit." ...  "The opposition has called for a team of medical experts to go to Havana to evaluate his condition."

Venezuela does not have a President, the old term is over and the new term didn't start.  The constitution requires a new election in less than a month.  Both sides should get busy with their campaigns. 
Title: Russ Dallen on Venezuelan Supreme Court decision
Post by: captainccs on January 14, 2013, 08:14:55 AM
Received via email:

Good morning from Washington, D.C.  I have attached our latest BBO Report on Venezuela in which we take a look at the Venezuela Supreme Court's decision last week to interpret the Constitution to allow President Hugo Chavez to take the oath of office at a "later time and place" by being sworn in before the Supreme Court using the innovative new legal theory they introduced of "continuity."
I was fascinated to see that the Venezuelan Supreme Court reached all the way back to the one example in US history where a US Vice President was sworn in on foreign soil -- late and in Cuba, at that!
In 1852, Franklin Pierce had won the presidency and was sworn in on March 4, 1853, but his Vice President, Alabama Senator William R. King had developed tuberculosis (TB) and was in Cuba for the winter to get the warm air on his lungs to ease his symptoms.  TB was usually a death sentence in those days and he missed the presidential inauguration and in sympathy, his friends in Congress passed a law allowing him to be sworn in as Vice President from Cuba so that he might die with that title, and on March 24, 1853, 20 days late and on foreign soil, he took the oath of office.  Most ominously for Chavez, King returned to the US and died a few weeks later on April 18,1953.  Interestingly -- and confirming FDR Vice President John Nance Garner's comment that "the vice presidency is not worth a pitcher of warm spit" -- Pierce never filled the Vice President position for the rest of his term.
Of course, inaugurations took place later in the calendar in the 1800s, but Washington is all spiffed up and getting ready for Barack Obama's second inauguration on January 20.  In the spirit, I finally got to see Steven Spielberg's/Daniel Day Lewis's "Lincoln" at the movies.  Brilliant movie and you can see why it has 12 Academy Award nominations -- and why it is the first time Hollywood has voted for a Republican President in a long time!
I am in D.C. because I, along with former US Ambassador to Venezuela Charles Shapiro, former Senior
Advisor to the White House Special Envoy for the Americas Eric Farnsworth, and Chris Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of the Americas Quarterly, will be speaking about Venezuela and our predictions and prognosis for what will happen there at the Carnegie Endowment today at 11 here in Washington, D.C.  You can watch the session on C-Span on your TV or online here:
As always, please don't hesitate to let me know if we can be of any assistance.

Title: Venezuelans wonder how long they can go without a president
Post by: captainccs on January 15, 2013, 07:52:51 AM
If the president is Hugo I can do without him for ever.  :-D

Venezuelans wonder how long they can go without a president 

President Hugo Chávez is in power but incommunicado and the Supreme Court says he can stay that way indefinitely. But how long can Venezuela go on without a president?


CARACAS -- Huddled in a doorway outside the pink and red presidential palace, Alexis León said he has faith that its tenant, ailing President Hugo Chávez, will be home soon.

Government officials insist that Chávez is alert and speaking to his family as he recovers from cancer surgery in Cuba. But in Caracas — where he hasn’t been seen or heard from in more than a month — there’s little to do but worry and wait.

“If he was my family member, I would also keep him from making any public appearances until he was completely recovered — anything for his health,” said León, 51, a theater professor. “He’ll be back; we just have to give him time.”

But many wonder how long Latin America’s fourth-largest economy can function with its leader in absentia and incommunicado.

On Monday, the coalition of opposition parties, known by its Spanish acronym MUD, released letters sent to the Organization of American States and the Mercosur trade group asking them to weigh in on what they see as a violation of the constitution that could “affect the stability of the region.” The coalition also asked to make its case before the permanent council of the OAS.

Despite Chávez’s frail health, the Supreme Court insists he is still in charge. That means that Vice President Nicolás Maduro does not have the power to appoint ambassadors or cabinet members or sign international treaties, legal experts said.

“How long do we have to wait for the president?” asked Miriam Berdugo de Montilla, an opposition lawmaker. “Who can tell us where the president is? What condition is he in? Where are they keeping him? Nobody really knows.”

The government says Chávez is in Havana being treated by an international team of experts for an undisclosed form of cancer that he’s been battling since at least June 2011. On Sunday, officials said he was alert and reacting “favorably” to treatment for a severe respiratory infection that has plagued his recovery.

But there are reasons for concern. Last week, Chávez purportedly sent a letter to congress asking for permission to miss his Jan. 10 inauguration. But the letter was signed by Maduro, not the president. And when tens of thousands of Chávez followers crammed downtown Caracas to mark his new six-year term, there were no recorded messages from Havana, as many were hoping.

“Imagine President Barack Obama not being touch, not even a picture or proof of life for 35 days,” Russ Dallen, a Caracas-based investor and journalist told a panel in Washington, D.C. on Monday. “It’s an amazing, amazing scenario.”

To complicate matters, the Supreme Court has turned down requests to send a medical team to Havana, and no doctors or independent observers have commented on his status. When a Brazilian diplomat visited earlier this month he called the president’s condition “grave,” but provided no details. Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Bolivia’s Evo Morales have also been recent visitors, but have remained mum about his condition.

The fact that the only people talking about the president’s health have a vested interest is suspicious, said Nelson Madrid, a 59-year-old music teacher who has lost confidence in the government reports.

“We need to hear from our president,” he said. “I really don’t know what’s going to happen we just have to hope it’s not bad.”

If Chávez were to die or step down, it should trigger new elections within 30 days. Before he traveled to Cuba, the president asked the nation to rally behind Vice President Maduro if he were sidelined by the illness. That would likely pit Maduro — a long time foreign minister — against Miranda Gov. Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chávez in October.

But none of the president’s followers have openly acknowledged life after Chávez. And the Supreme Court ruling presumes not only that he’s in charge but will return to be sworn in.

The opposition argues that Chávez’s absence on inauguration day required the president to be declared temporarily absent and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, also another Chávez loyalist, to take charge until the president returns.

“The most troublesome part is that the [Supreme Court] has, astonishingly, declared President Chávez is not absent and is in full control of his functions even though he’s been out of the country for more than a month and not even in condition to sign an official communiqué,” the MUD wrote to Mercosur, the influential trade group, which Venezuela joined in July.

For its part, the administration has called the Supreme Court decision a victory for democracy in a nation that overwhelmingly supported Chávez in the Oct. 7 presidential race.

The ruling has left the opposition with little room for legal maneuvering, but they have called for a peaceful march on Jan. 23 in defense of the constitution.

The government seems prepared for a showdown. Shortly after the protest was announced, Maduro called on security forces to be vigilant and shutdown opposition attempts to instigate violence.

“They’re trying to stain our politics and the victories this nation is conquering every day,” Maduro said of the protest.

For the moment, the constitutional debate has caused few international ripples. More than 20 international delegations were in Venezuela last week to mark Chávez’s new six-year term. And the Organization of American States and the U.S. State Department, among others, have said they respect the high court’s ruling.

But the longer the president is absent, the less tenable the situation will be, said Gregorio Gaterol, an opposition lawmaker.

“This Supreme Court sentence is a straightjacket for the opposition,” he said. “But over time, they’re going to get tied up in this decision also.”
Title: Council of the Americas roundtable on Venezuela's choices
Post by: captainccs on January 15, 2013, 09:56:56 AM
The Council of the Americas hosted a roundtable discussion on Venezuela's choices as it faces a potential political transition.

Experts on the country discussed the uncertainty created by the potential transition, the prospects for change, the implications for Venezuela’s economy and how the U.S. and other countries will respond.

Participants included:
 •Charles Shapiro, President, Institute of the Americas, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela
 •Russell Dallen, President and Editor-in-Chief, Latin American Herald Tribune, Caracas
 •Christopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief, Americas Quarterly and Senior Director of Policy, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
 •Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas
You can watch the High-Def C-Span feed, which they carried live, here:

Or the Council of the Americas Website stream here
(skip the first 16 minutes, just the backs of the heads of the audience):

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 15, 2013, 11:44:10 AM
Ambassador Charles Shapiro hit the bulls-eye when he said (in reply to Gustavo Coronel) that it must be the Venezuelans who solve their political issues. I agree entirely but people are not really interested in ideology, the interest is in making a living. As we say "redondear la arepa." The way to weaken the government is by dropping the price of oil but this hurts the people as much as it hurts the regime.

All in all I would give the panel high marks.

Denny Schlesinger

Title: Stratfor: Venezuela food shortages
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 22, 2013, 08:52:13 AM

Text Size


Posters of food prices in Caracas

Venezuela's worsening food shortages should be manageable through raising fixed prices on goods and decreasing the value of the country's currency, but these efforts will likely lead to more political pressure on the new government. Overall scarcity has reportedly reached its highest level in four years and comes at a time when President Hugo Chavez may be near death and uncertainty surrounds the next government. If the economy deteriorates, the public's support for the Venezuelan government is likely to do the same.

According to the Venezuelan Central Bank, the overall scarcity index in Venezuela -- which relies on regular checks of store shelves to document when stores run out of basic goods, such as corn flour and cooking oil -- was reportedly 16.3 percent in December 2012. The actual scarcity index in December 2012 may have been as high as 20 percent, according to statements by the chief of Datanalysis, a reputable but opposition-oriented economic analysis firm. The average rate of scarcity between 2007 and 2012 was 14.2 percent. The worst scarcities were recorded in January 2008, when the scarcity index registered 24.7 percent. For comparison, during the period before Chavez's rule, from 1994 to 1999 the scarcity index averaged 4.34 percent.
Traffic disruptions may be responsible for some of the recent shortages. According to transportation groups, potholes in roads and other infrastructure deterioration have lengthened the amount of time it takes to transport goods to the degree that what had previously been one-day trips now take two or three. These traffic problems have been exacerbated by a decree in October that barred heavy trucking on holidays (including around the elections) and on weekends. The decree has been lifted, so this aspect may begin to improve. Public holidays may also have led to decreased production at state companies responsible for food products.
However, these logistical challenges are not likely to provide a full explanation for the shortages. For one thing, shortages have primarily affected the products that have the strongest price controls, like chicken, milk, sugar, flour and cooking oils. A few factors contribute to these shortages. First, stores may not be able to afford to sell at regulated prices if input costs experience inflationary pressure, which would increase costs for the store. Indeed, according to Venezuela's Central Bank, the price of agricultural products in Venezuela rose 35 percent in 2012, and farmers report that transportation and fertilizer costs have increased and can be difficult to secure. Rising input costs for price-controlled goods reduce profit margins, which could force producers to go out of business. Shortages caused by this process will prod the government to raise fixed prices once again, but continued inflationary pressure will shrink profit margins on goods even with the new price.
The second factor contributing to shortages is that people likely are moving goods out of the government-regulated market into black-market sales to get a better price. Though it is difficult to verify the degree to which this is occurring, the government has accused people of hoarding food to manipulate the market. Two such incidents have occurred in the past several days, including the seizure of 900 metric tons of powdered milk, announced by Venezuela's Bolivarian National Guard on Jan. 11. In an earlier case, Venezuelan officials arrested four employees of transportation and logistics firm TBC in the El Soco Industrial Zone in La Victoria, Aragua state, on charges of hoarding about 8,900 metric tons of refined sugar. TBC and PepsiCo Inc. protested the move, claiming that the sugar was legally imported in accordance with the processes of the central bank for the purpose of making soda. In total, the government claims to have confiscated 46 metric tons of foodstuffs in recent weeks that were stored for more than a week.


Scarcities are exacerbated by an active black market, particularly on Venezuela's border. The controlled prices in Venezuela are as low as one-third of the price of basic staples in Colombia. As a result, Colombians living along the border with Venezuela frequently travel over the border to buy cheaper -- and in many cases subsidized -- goods. This has long been true for gasoline, which is sold at far below the cost of production throughout Venezuela. It is also true for basic foodstuffs, and the additional demand cannot help but place additional strain on supplies. To the extent that Venezuelan producers are government-subsidized, this is also a drain on public resources. Nevertheless, cross-border purchases have a limited impact. The border of Venezuela and Colombia is lightly populated, and the bulk of the populations in both countries live farther into the interior. This distance and the difficulties associated with traveling in the Colombian countryside naturally limit the black- and gray-market exchanges between Colombia and Venezuela.
Perhaps the biggest challenges, and those most likely to affect Venezuela's economic stability in the long term, are issues associated with the country's import-export systems and the availability of hard currencies to the private sector. The application process for importing anything into Venezuela is inefficient, and companies frequently report delays in processing that disrupt commerce. In the final quarter of 2012, delays in licensing caused three bulk maritime shipments of wheat to sit at the dock in Puerto Cabello, resulting in wheat shortages, according to a report from Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. This is a case where, like in the hoarding instances mentioned above, the long-term storage of foodstuffs can flood the market once released. In some cases, food spoils because of these delays.
Imports are also limited by dollar availability, which is strictly controlled by the branch of the Venezuelan Central Bank that controls currency exchange. The central bank must be careful about its allocation of dollar reserves, since the bank is also responsible for financing a range of government activities, from transferring bulk funds to government slush funds like Fonden, or directly financing struggling state-owned industries.
Because the unofficial value of Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, has fallen to near 20 bolivares per U.S. dollar over the past two months and the central bank needs to hold the official exchange rate around 4-to-1, there is huge pressure on the central bank to devalue the official rate of the bolivar. Doing so would also relieve pressure on Venezuela's $29 billion in foreign exchange reserves, which would immediately cause inflation, forcing the Venezuelan population to accept a lower purchasing power for imports of consumable goods. This would surely have negative political consequences, but it would not be the first time Venezuela has had to devalue its currency. The government can be expected to react in other ways as well. Seizures of productive facilities cannot be ruled out, and the government may attempt to exert greater control over imports, as it has attempted to do previously.
Ultimately, as long as oil prices are high, Venezuela's macroeconomic picture will remain relatively stable. The political management of oil flows and the management of an increasingly state-dominated economy will be the test for a post-Chavez government. Changes such as exchange rate shifts that were made under Chavez's leadership may be more difficult without him present. From Vice President Nicolas Maduro's perspective, these difficult economic choices add to concerns about an erosion of support from the Venezuelan armed forces, government and populace. Chavez commanded the loyalty of all these groups, but a new government not led by the ailing Venezuelan president may lose public confidence if the economy continues to deteriorate.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this report misstated the time frame for the rate of scarcity.

Title: Re: Venezuela - Chavez statement??
Post by: DougMacG on January 29, 2013, 11:40:38 AM
Odd story:  Chavez allegedly released a statement to a international summit meeting in Chile yesterday.  Odd that he has not communicated to his own country yet and odd that the only person saying he is well and coming back and now providing and reading his alleged statement is the VP who would become President if Chavez ever gets inaugurated and has to step down.

"Chávez calls for Latin American unity"
Title: Re: Venezuela - Chavez statement??
Post by: G M on January 29, 2013, 03:38:15 PM
Odd story:  Chavez allegedly released a statement to a international summit meeting in Chile yesterday.  Odd that he has not communicated to his own country yet and odd that the only person saying he is well and coming back and now providing and reading his alleged statement is the VP who would become President if Chavez ever gets inaugurated and has to step down.

"Chávez calls for Latin American unity"

How do you say "Weekend at Hugo's" in Spanish?
Title: Stratfor: Venezuela begins controversial economic reforms
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 03, 2013, 06:52:02 AM
Venezuela Begins Its Controversial Economic Reforms
January 31, 2013 | 1130 GMT


With Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez out of the country to receive medical treatment, Vice President Nicolas Maduro is leading the Venezuelan government's push to implement critical and overdue economic reforms. The government plans to address a number of challenges, including adjusting the currency exchange system, boosting the government's oil revenue and possibly even raising fuel prices, a maneuver that has led to massive unrest in the past. If mismanaged, the reforms could destabilize the country, but Caracas believes it must act now to keep the economy from deteriorating further.

Uncertainty has surrounded Venezuela's leadership since Chavez arrived in Cuba on Dec. 11 for treatment after his cancer came back. Despite concerns that infighting among Chavez's inner circle might weaken the government in Chavez's absence, a team of ministers including National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello and Foreign Minister Elias Jaua appears to have overcome internal differences for now. A series of events in recent days and weeks has underlined the ministers' determination to deal with a number of economic problems that the government has long acknowledged but felt were not politically feasible to tackle until after the Oct. 7 elections.
Economic Troubles
Food shortages have hit the capital and a shortage in dollars has sent the parallel (gray market) exchange rate to new lows. The Venezuelan government's levels of subsidization, which were already high, grew steadily throughout 2012 as the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela campaigned for Chavez's reelection. These expenditures -- many of which are directly controlled by Venezuelan state energy company Petroleos de Venezuela -- have strained government resources, sending international borrowing up throughout the year. Although these fiscal expenditures reportedly declined in the wake of the October election, the government still has a serious cash flow problem despite high oil revenues.
The biggest immediate problem is pressure on the reserves at the Venezuelan Central Bank. The bank is struggling to meet demand for foreign currency while simultaneously transferring billions of dollars to the state's general fund. Changes made this week to laws regulating how Petroleos de Venezuela transfers windfall oil revenues to the government will see the Central Bank receive an additional $2.47 billion in 2013, and government officials are using that influx of cash to assure Venezuelans that dollars will soon become more available to facilitate the import of a range of basic consumer goods.
The move comes amid a national debate about the possible devaluation of the country's currency. The parallel market in Venezuela is selling dollars for 18-20 bolivars. The low value on the parallel market drives up demand for dollars at the cheaper official rate of 4.3 bolivars to the dollar and makes it imperative for the Central Bank to release only limited amounts of foreign currency to avoid draining its reserves. If the additional funds do not satisfy this demand, the government may have no choice in the near term but to devalue the bolivar.
Venezuelan Economy and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani has publicly opposed devaluation out of fears that it could increase inflation, the official rate of which decreased to around 20 percent in 2012 but has run as high as 30 percent in previous years. In addition to increasing the amount of revenue it hopes to pull from the energy sector, the government might require gold mining companies to sell gold to the government, according to reports from Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional on Jan. 28. On that same day, Ramirez announced the opening of three additional gold blocs for exploration.
Perhaps most startling is a report from the website, which frequently reports leaked information from the regime's inner circle, alleging that the government is concerned enough about the country's economic situation to seriously consider raising the domestic price of gasoline. With enormous pressure on Petroleos de Venezuela to subsidize government economic activities, it makes a great deal of financial sense to raise the price of gasoline. Petroleos de Venezuela has a limited ability to absorb the costs associated with a very low domestic price of gasoline, which is sold for around 2 U.S. cents per liter. While a reasonable option in financial terms, the move could pose serious political challenges.
The State Oil Company's Role
For better or worse, Petroleos de Venezuela plays a pivotal role in the Venezuelan economy. Since the early 20th century, when commercial exploitation of Venezuelan oil began, the oil sector has absorbed nearly all investment into the country. Likewise, government revenue has depended on the national oil company, which has over the past century experimented with a variety of ways to manage the resource. The belief that the country's oil wealth should be spread among its citizens is widespread in Venezuela. That sentiment has for decades driven populist policies, including austere price controls on refined petroleum fuels.
Some small adjustments to the price of gasoline have occurred over the years, most recently in 2000. The most significant attempt to raise the price of gasoline came in 1989, at the end of a decade of economic turmoil and at a point when the government could no longer afford to absorb the cost of subsidizing fuels. In one of his first acts as president, Carlos Andres Perez announced an austerity package created in partnership with the International Monetary Fund. The changes included drastic reductions in state subsidies on a range of goods, including transportation and most notably fuel. Further changes included currency devaluation and raising interest rates to 35 percent.
The changes were deemed necessary because, under the leadership of Perez's predecessor, Jaime Lusinchi, social spending policies had drained government coffers and eroded the oil industry's ability to subsidize the country. The elimination of fuel and other subsidies sparked riots that lasted several days, left several hundred people dead and injured thousands. Known as the "Caracazo," the Caracas riots of 1989 left a lasting impression on the Venezuelan public and continue to serve as a warning to Venezuelan politicians regarding the potential costs of unpopular economic choices.
The situation leading up to the 1989 reforms was not terribly different from the challenges facing the Venezuelan government today. In this context, any report that Venezuela's top leadership might seriously consider raising gasoline prices is notable. But today's politicians know how real the possibility of violence is. Consequently, if the government is indeed serious in considering these reforms, any major cuts in spending or changes in the subsidization of fuel and other basic goods will be done in a gradual and targeted manner.
Chavez is reportedly recovering, but his role in governing is unclear and likely limited. Still, the Maduro-led government will be able to use the ailing president, even in absentia, to minimize public opposition to these gradual changes. Venezuela is already dealing with significant food shortages and deteriorating infrastructure, and the risk of domestic unrest should not be underestimated. Some sort of leadership transition over the course of the next year still appears likely, and Maduro and his allies, in order to use Chavez's popularity to support the moves, will try to enact these economic reforms before Chavez is removed from the political stage.
The current changes under way demonstrate the Venezuelan government's belief that it can secure additional resources. Its options also include foreign direct investment or loans from friendly countries like China and Russia. Indeed, Caracas announced Jan. 30 that Russian oil firm Rosneft will invest $10 billion over eight years in Venezuela's Junin 6 oil block, where Rosneft will take the lead in a consortium, partnering with PDVSA. But relying on foreign direct investment and on the potential for future increases in oil and gold income is a long-term strategy. In the meantime, the government will likely be pushed to make changes to currency exchange rates and boosting revenue within the next several months.

Read more: Venezuela Begins Its Controversial Economic Reforms | Stratfor
Title: Total apathy
Post by: captainccs on February 05, 2013, 04:05:43 AM
February 4 is the anniversary of the failed Chavista coup that left over 100 people dead. Yesterday, total apathy!

I was out running errands yesterday, February 4. Nobody gives a damn. Not about the coup, not about the revolution, not about Chavez, not about the opposition. Everyone is busy surviving. The revolutionary speeches blare from radios, I comment out loud that these were assassins. People smile and go about their business. The grocery store owner has time enough to say: “They will do anything to hang on to power” and turns to take care of the next customer.

Total apathy.

Nothing To Celebrate In Venezuela, Twenty One and Fourteen Years Later

Title: Venezuela Devalues Bolivar by 32% Amid Shortage of Dollars
Post by: captainccs on February 08, 2013, 02:16:30 PM
I have yet to see these Bloomberg news confirmed in the local press.

Last June the parallel exchange rate was around 9 per dollar. Today it is 20 per dollar. See: El Liberal Venezolano (

Venezuela Devalues Bolivar by 32% Amid Shortage of Dollars

By Charlie Devereux & Jose Orozco - Feb 8, 2013 5:04 PM GMT-0430

Venezuela devalued its currency for the fifth time in nine years as ailing President Hugo Chavez seeks to narrow a widening fiscal gap and reduce a shortage of dollars in the economy.

The government will weaken the exchange rate by 32 percent to 6.3 bolivars per dollar, Finance Minister Jorge Giordani told reporters today in Caracas. Companies with operations in Venezuela, including Colgate-Palmolive Co., Avon Products Inc. and MercadoLibre Inc., fell on the announcement.

A spending spree that almost tripled the fiscal deficit last year helped Chavez, 58, win a third six-term term. The devaluation can help narrow the budget deficit by increasing the amount of bolivars the government receives from oil exports. Chavez ordered the move from Cuba, where he is recovering from a fourth cancer surgery, Giordani said.

“Any tackling of the massive economic distortions, even if far more is required, is positively viewed by markets,” Kathryn Rooney Vera, a strategist at Bulltick Capital Markets, said in an interview from Miami. “We expected more and more is indeed needed to correct fiscal imbalances and adjust economic distortions, but this is something and there may be more to come.”

Yields Fall

The yield on Venezuela’s dollar bonds maturing in 2027 fell 10 basis points, or 0.10 percentage points, to 8.70 percent at 4:43 p.m. local time. Venezuelan bonds have returned 39 percent over the past year, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s EMBIG index.

While a weaker currency may fuel annual inflation of 22 percent, it may ease shortages of goods ranging from toilet paper to cars.

In the black market, the bolivar is trading at 18.4 per dollar, according to Lechuga Verde, a website that tracks the rate. Venezuelans use the unregulated credit market because the central bank doesn’t supply enough dollars at the official rates to meet demand.

Venezuela’s fiscal gap widened to 11 percent of gross domestic product last year from 4 percent in 2011, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The government will keep the currency at 4.3 per dollar for certain imports that were ordered before Jan. 15, he said. The new exchange rate will begin operating Feb. 13, central bank President Nelson Merentes said.

The central bank-administered currency market known as Sitme that traded at 5.3 bolivars per dollar will be eliminated, Merentes said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at; Jose Orozco in Caracas at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on February 08, 2013, 05:12:37 PM
A currency doing worse than the US$ is in trouble.

How is inauguration going?  No news for almost a month?
Title: Re: Venezuela - Chavez undergoing more treatments?
Post by: DougMacG on February 14, 2013, 01:22:34 PM
Still no public appearance of Hugo Chavez.  The updates come only from the VP.  Has anyone else heard from him?

Chavez undergoing "delicate" cancer treatment: Venezuela's vice president

    Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro (C) and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello (R) stand next to a painting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as they attend the commemoration of the 21st anniversary of Chavez's attempted cuop d'etat in Caracas February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge SilvaView Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is undergoing "complex" alternative treatments more than two months after having cancer surgery in Cuba, his vice president said on Wednesday.

The 58-year-old socialist leader has not been seen in public since he went to Havana for the operation on December 11, his fourth surgery for cancer in 18 months.

Vice President Nicolas Maduro did not give details of the alternative treatments the president was receiving. Chavez has never said what type of cancer he is suffering from, and critics accuse the government of excessive secrecy over his condition.

"Today our commander is undergoing alternative treatments ... they are complex and difficult treatments that must, at some point, end the cycle of his illness," Maduro said in comments on state TV.

The government, which rejects allegations it has not been transparent about Chavez's health, says he has completed a difficult post-operative period and has started a "new phase" of his recuperation. It has not given details of this new phase.

Any new vote in South America's top oil exporter would probably pit Maduro, Chavez's heir apparent, against Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state, who lost to Chavez in last October's presidential election.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on February 14, 2013, 02:50:41 PM
The "alternative treatment" is likely to be embalming so he doesn't stink up the place too badly!
Title: Students Chain Themselves In Front Of Cuban Embassy In Caracas And Other Stories
Post by: captainccs on February 15, 2013, 05:54:04 AM
I was out and about the streets of Caracas for  good part of the day yesterday. If I hadn't read the news I would never have known that thing were that bad around here. There is a huge disconnect between the political activists and the ordinary people who just want to go about living their lives.

That is not to say things are "normal" [whatever normal might mean]. Recently there was a shortage of some of the drugs I use on  regular basis, metformin, the one controlling my type two diabetes, being a critical one. That does not mean I had run out of the drug. We know that with price controls shortages are the norm, not the exception, so we stockpile critical items: drugs, powdered milk, olive oil, rice, toilette paper. Some people stockpile frozen meat in industrial size freezers...

I could not get the slow release version, instead I was pleasantly surprise that the pharmacy bill came to only BsF 80.00 (US$3.65 at the parallel rate) for 50 days worth of metformin, 60 days worth of another drug and a jar of Tums (75 tablets). A closer look at the bill revealed:

Metformin (50 days): BsF.8.74 (US$0.40) -- about the price of 4 bananas
Allopurinol (60 days): BsF.13.52 (US$0.61) -- about the price of 3 heads of garlic
Tums (75 tablets): BsF.58.18 (US$2.65) -- probably more in line with US prices

I said above "pleasantly surprised" because the controlled release version of Metformin, which is not price regulated, would have cost closer to BsF. 200.00 (US$9.00), 23 times the price of the regulated drug.

This tinkering with prices kills any economy which is why socialist countries tend to suffer shortages. With us this is not a new Chavista phenomenon, it has been the norm ever since we had price controls.

Powdered milk, usually absent from grocery stores, is a case in point. Our cows don't seem to make enough milk and we import the powdered milk, not that you would know it from the tins which never mention any country other than Venezuela. The other day I saw a pile of 100 pound sacks of powdered milk from New Zealand in a delivery truck. I asked where they were delivering the milk. They replied that it was charcoal. It seems the sacks get recycled, good show! But the powdered milk is imported, nonetheless.

BTW, Miguel, the author of the following article, is safely in Miami. He used to work for the government a long time ago as head of one of our better research labs. He quit because politics was getting in the way but that was a long time before Chavez. I mention it only to show that the Chavez show is not all that different from our previous "demodesgracia" (demo disgrace), our pseudo democracy. It's mostly that there is a new set on "ins" and the old "ins" who are now "outs" are mad as hell.

Students Chain Themselves In Front Of Cuban Embassy In Caracas And Other Stories
by moctavio

Today there were protests by Venezuelan students in front of the Cuban Embassy in Caracas. The National Guard decided to repress and seven students were jailed (later freed). Some students went to where the others were being held, while twenty six of them chained themselves in front of the Cuban Embassy, where there is a sot of Mexican stand off at this time.


Meanwhile, the Government no longer knows how to explain the devaluation. Maduro says that it is a speculative attack by the private sector, in a country with draconian foreign exchange controls. Jaua says that the "people" were not benefiting from the "cheap" dollars. Giordani says that they have screwed up all along, that SITME was "genetically perverted", that Venezuelans have a "dollarized nymphomania" and he knows all about the tricks to get CADIVI dollars illegal but has done nothing about it. Merentes gives Globovision a rambling non-sensical interview. (As a former scientist, I loved (cringed?) at his statement that scientists never rule out anything. Really Nelson?)

Meanwhile, Jaua cancels his visit to Peru to go to Cuba in the middle of rumors that Chavez is back in intensive care, while Marquina (@Marquina04)  says "La razón de la falla respiratoria es sin duda las metástasis a nivel pulmonar e invasión del drenaje linfático" (The reason for the respiratory failure is without any doubt the metastasis at the lung level and invasion of the lymphatic fluid"

A normal day elsewhere in Venezuela. Historian Napoleon Pisani, a fellow blogger,  was killed in a robbery at a museum, while a former national water polo champion was killed in a robbery.

Something seems to be reaching boiling point in Caracas.
Title: Chavez is dead
Post by: captainccs on March 05, 2013, 01:59:45 PM
Live signal from Globovision:
Title: Re: Chavez is dead
Post by: G M on March 05, 2013, 02:14:53 PM
Live signal from Globovision:

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 05, 2013, 02:30:54 PM
I can't rejoice about anyone being dead as glad as I am that Chavez is gone. It is eerily quiet in Caracas. When the announcement was first made I heard a couple of kids shouting the news, that's how I found out. But the kids were quickly silenced.

Back in 2004 I said that Chavez would die of natural causes while still in office. I got that right.

Now the fun begins, can Chavismo survive without the charismatic leader? It's not a question of politics but one of immense wealth from oil, from drugs, from kickbacks.
Title: Dems mourn for Hugo
Post by: G M on March 05, 2013, 04:52:14 PM

Breaking: Hugo Chavez is dead; Update: Democratic rep mourns; Update: So does Jimmy Carter
posted at 5:21 pm on March 5, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Well, that’s that: Chavez’s lieutenants have been insisting for months that the Venezuelan president would be making a full recovery from his cancer-related operations and that Venezuelans had no cause for alarm — but they’ve been getting notably less vociferous about the whole thing recently, and that charade is officially over. The Associated Press is reporting that the longtime socialist-Marxist leader died on Tuesday afternoon:

Vice President Nicolas Maduro, surrounded by other government officials, announced the death in a national television broadcast. He said Chavez died at 4:25 p.m. local time. …

Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June 2011 to remove what he said was a baseball-size tumor from his pelvic region, and the cancer returned repeatedly over the next 18 months despite more surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He kept secret key details of his illness, including the type of cancer and the precise location of the tumors. …

Two months after his last re-election in October, Chavez returned to Cuba again for cancer surgery, blowing a kiss to his country as he boarded the plane. He was never seen again in public. …

After a 10-week absence marked by opposition protests over the lack of information about the president’s health and growing unease among the president’s “Chavista” supporters, the government released photographs of Chavez on Feb. 15 and three days later announced that the president had returned to Venezuela to be treated at a military hospital in Caracas.
Update: So, what’s next for Venezuela now that their corrupt, destructive, America-hating, socialist leader is no more? Either Vice President Nicolas Maduro or National Assembly leader Diosdado Cabello will become interim president for thirty days while the country engineers a special election — and without Chavez to figurehead his “Chavismo” movement, the outcome isn’t necessarily a sure thing.

[A]lthough his cronies and their Cuban handlers are maneuvering to hold on to power, a Chavista succession is neither stable nor sustainable. With more audacious leadership among Venezuela’s democrats and intelligent solidarity from abroad, Chávez’s legacy might be buried with him.

The foundations of Chavismo are being shaken by an impending socioeconomic meltdown, a faltering oil sector, bitter in-fighting in his own movement, complicity with drug-trafficking and terrorism, rampant street crime, the inept performance by Chávez’s anointed successor, and growing popular rejection of Cuban interference, corrupt institutions, and rigged elections. Beset by these challenges and with Chávez no longer at the top of the ballot, the regime will use every advantage to engineer a victory in a special election to choose a new president.
Update (AP): Speaking of Maduro, he’s a low-rent anti-American populist crank from the same mold as his former boss. If you thought that Chavez shoving off might make way for detente between the U.S. and Venezuela, think again:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was infected with cancer by “imperialist” enemies, his No. 2 alleged on Tuesday, adding that the socialist leader was suffering his hardest moments since an operation three months ago…

“We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness,” Maduro said, repeating a charge first made by Chavez himself that the cancer was an attack by “imperialist” foes in the United States in league with domestic enemies.

“The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,” Maduro said, comparing it with allegations that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, may have been poisoned by Israeli agents.
Read this old Hitchens piece from 2010 about seeing Chavez’s crankery up close. Even his lackey Sean Penn couldn’t break through the wall of paranoia, which included skepticism about the moon landing.

Update (AP): The main plot right now is Chavez’s death and the subplot is creepily affectionate reminiscences from some of his fellow travelers on the left. (John Sexton notes on Twitter that Chavez ultimately proved too tyrannical even for Noam Chomsky.) Soon, though, as the shock of the news about his demise recedes, those two will reverse positions. Here’s your early leader for useful idiot of the day. He’s a congressman, of course:

Jose E. Serrano ✔ @RepJoseSerrano 
Hugo Chavez was a leader that understood the needs of the poor. He was committed to empowering the powerless. R.I.P. Mr. President.

Update (AP): No surprise here:

George Galloway @georgegalloway 
Farewell Comandante Hugo Chavez champion of the poor the oppressed everywhere. Modern day Spartacus. Rest in Peace.

Update (AP): David Frum points to this piece from a few years ago estimating that the Man of the People had amassed a private fortune of $2 billion.

Update (AP): Michael Moynihan’s acidic obit at Newsweek is the one you’ll want to read. As he reminds us, there was no monster Chavez wasn’t willing to hug in the name of anti-American camaraderie. He was a proud supporter of Saddam, Mugabe, Qaddafi, and of course Bashar Assad, not because they overlapped much philosophically beyond authoritarianism but because they were all antagonists of the United States. That was Chavez’s core shtick — anti-colonialist vaudeville at the expense of the west’s superpower.

Update (AP): You outdid yourself on this one, Jimbo. I want to say “unbelievable,” but no, it’s quite believable.

Statement From Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Death of Hugo Chavez

Rosalynn and I extend our condolences to the family of Hugo Chávez Frías. We met Hugo Chávez when he was campaigning for president in 1998 and The Carter Center was invited to observe elections for the first time in Venezuela. We returned often, for the 2000 elections, and then to facilitate dialogue during the political conflict of 2002-2004. We came to know a man who expressed a vision to bring profound changes to his country to benefit especially those people who had felt neglected and marginalized. Although we have not agreed with all of the methods followed by his government, we have never doubted Hugo Chávez’s commitment to improving the lives of millions of his fellow countrymen.

President Chávez will be remembered for his bold assertion of autonomy and independence for Latin American governments and for his formidable communication skills and personal connection with supporters in his country and abroad to whom he gave hope and empowerment. During his 14-year tenure, Chávez joined other leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to create new forms of integration. Venezuelan poverty rates were cut in half, and millions received identification documents for the first time allowing them to participate more effectively in their country’s economic and political life.

At the same time, we recognize the divisions created in the drive towards change in Venezuela and the need for national healing. We hope that as Venezuelans mourn the passing of President Chávez and recall his positive legacies — especially the gains made for the poor and vulnerable — the political leaders will move the country forward by building a new consensus that ensures equal opportunities for all Venezuelans to participate in every aspect of national life.
Title: The Race is On!
Post by: captainccs on March 10, 2013, 08:22:53 PM
Venezuela's Capriles joins race, tussles with Chavez heir
By Andrew Cawthorne and Marianna Parraga | Reuters – 43 mins ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition leader vowed on Sunday to fight late Hugo Chavez's preferred successor for the presidency next month and the pair quickly locked horns in an angry war of words.

Henrique Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, will face election favorite and acting President Nicolas Maduro. The pair must register their candidacies for the April 14 vote on Monday.

The election will decide whether Chavez's self-styled socialist and nationalist revolution will live on in the country with the world's largest proven oil reserves.

"I am going to fight," Capriles said at a news conference. "Nicolas, I am not going to give you a free pass. You will have to beat me with votes."

Former Vice President Maduro, 50, a husky one-time bus driver and union leader turned politician who echoes Chavez's anti-imperialist rhetoric, is expected to win comfortably, according to two recent polls.

Maduro pushed for a snap election to cash in on a wave of empathy triggered by Chavez's death Tuesday at age 58 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was sworn in as acting president on Friday to the fury of Capriles.

"You have used the body of the president for political campaigning," Capriles said of Maduro on Saturday, triggering an angry rebuke.

Maduro accused Capriles of sowing hate.

"You wretched loser!" Maduro said of Capriles in a televised speech. "You have shown your true face - that of a fascist."

Capriles, the centrist Miranda state governor who often wears a baseball cap and tennis shoes, lost to Chavez in October. But he won 44 percent of the vote - the strongest showing by the opposition against Chavez.

Capriles has accused the government and Supreme Court of fraud for letting Maduro campaign without stepping down.

Opposition supporters were trying to raise their spirits despite the odds.

"There's no reason to think that the opposition is condemned to defeat," Teodoro Petkoff, an anti-government newspaper editor, said on his Sunday talk show.


Maduro has vowed to carry on where Chavez left off and ratify his policy platform. He acknowledged he has big shoes to fill.

"I am not Chavez - speaking strictly in terms of the intelligence, charisma, historical force, leadership capacity and spiritual grandeur of our comandante," he told a crowd on Saturday.

Chavez was immensely popular among Venezuela's poor for funneling vast oil wealth into social programs and handouts.

The heavy government spending and currency devaluations have contributed to annual inflation of more than 20 percent, hurting consumers.

"Maduro's success will depend on if he can fix the economy and its distortions," said a former high-level official in the Chavez government who declined to be named. "If he does that, he could emerge as a strong leader instead of one who is an heir."

Maduro's first official meeting on Saturday was with officials from China, whom Chavez courted to provide an alternative to investment that traditionally came from the United States.

He has adopted his mentor's touch for the theatrical, accusing imperialists, often a Chavez euphemism for the United States, of killing the charismatic but divisive leader by infecting him with cancer.

Emotional tributes were paid at a religious service at the military academy housing Chavez's casket on Sunday. Several million people have visited his coffin so far and his remains will be moved on Friday to a museum where a tomb is being built to show his embalmed corpse.

He may be moved later to another site next to the remains of his hero: 19th century liberator Simon Bolivar.

Chavez scared investors with nationalizations and railed against the wealthy. In heavily polarized Venezuela some well-to-do citizens toasted his death with champagne.

If elected, Capriles says he would copy Brazil's "modern left" model of economic and social policies.

Given the state resources at Maduro's disposal and the limited time for campaigning, Capriles faces an uphill battle.

"If the opposition runs, they'll lose. If they don't run, they lose even more!" tweeted Andres Izarra, who served as information minister under Chavez.

The opposition rank-and-file is heavily demoralized after losing last year's presidential race and getting hammered in gubernatorial elections in December, stoking internal party divisions.

"There's no doubt that it's an uphill race for Capriles," local political analyst Luis Vicente Leon said. "The trouble is that given the race is so close to Chavez's death, emotions get inflamed and the candidate probably continues to be Chavez rather than Maduro."

(With reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Simon Gardner, Terry Wade, Pablo Garibian, Deisy Buitrago, Mario Naranjo and Enrique Andres Pretel; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Cynthia Osterman)
Title: The Devil comments on Capriles candidacy
Post by: captainccs on March 11, 2013, 06:50:51 AM
Capriles Accepts Challenge Against Nicolas In Venezuela’s Election
March 11, 2013

A forceful Henrique Capriles went on TV last night and accepted the challenge to run against Venezuela’s interim President Nicolas Maduro, in a speech that quickly proved what I suggested on Saturday: Politics is back in Venezuela now that Chavez is absent.

Capriles was extraordinary in a very strong speech, which was carefully thought out. At all times, Capriles was very respectful of Hugo Chavez and fairly dismissive of Nicolas Maduro, whom he referred to as Nicolas or “Nicolas, chico” all the time. In one of his best lines, Capriles said, “Nicolas is not Chavez and you all know it, even Chavez complained about those that surrounded him and those are the people that want to govern you”

He noted that the Government and Nicolas had been lying to the people and he was very inclusive, saying he was not running for himself or to get power, but because he wanted Venezuela to do better. He offered a Government for all.

On the lying, he suggested that Chavez had been dead a while, asking how come all of the t-shirt and flags were ready for the funeral and support for Nicolas.

He blasted the Minister of Defense, not only for his illegal support of Nicola’s candidacy, but also he told him he was a disgrace, finishing next to last in his military class.

He had very unkind words for the Head of the Electoral Board, who wore a revolutionary arm band at Chavez’ funeral an asked her for respect, not for him, but for the Venezuelans who are not Chavistas and for the law.

By being forceful and confrontational, Capriles was not only re-energizing the voters, was clearly choosing a different campaign strategy than the one against Chavez. He knew then he had to be respectful of Chavez and he is ever more respectful now, but now he is completely critical of Nicolas and his cohorts. Capriles also seems to recognize that politics changed in Venezuela when Hugo Chavez passed away on March 5th.

And that this is the case was proven immediately, when Nicolas could not wait and had to respond to Capriles within the hour, something Chavez would have never done. Nicolas came and tried to blast Capriles, but his speech was too forced. And in a clear sign that Chavismo is worried about participation in the upcoming election, Nicolas announced that on the same day there will be a referendum to change the Constitution so that Chavez can be buried in the Panteon Nacional immediately. This was clearly a ploy to have the Chavista rank and file more involved in the upcoming election, but Capriles and the opposition can simply bypass the issue by backing the referendum and saying that if the people want it, it should be done.

But more importantly, Nicolas’ speech demonstrated what a weak candidate and poor politician he is. The campaign is too short for Capriles to overcome the abuse of power of Chavismo and the sympathy vote, but it seems as if Capriles had given the whole thing a lot of thought. And in the opening moments of the campaign, score one for the challenger.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on March 11, 2013, 09:40:34 AM
Looks like Capriles is off to good start.  No pressure, but what Venezuela does in the next 30 days may determine their future for the rest of our lifetimes.
Title: Re: Venezuela, AP - Chavez was a religious figure?
Post by: DougMacG on April 02, 2013, 07:32:25 AM
Looking forward to our first-hand reports.  This story is sickening.

Chavez's legacy gains religious glow in Venezuela
 Email this Story

Mar 30, 4:58 PM (ET)


(AP)In this March 8, 2013 file photo released by Miraflores Press Office, Venezuela's acting President Nicolas Maduro stands in front of a portrait of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chavez...

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Holding a Bible in her arms at the start of Holy Week, seamstress Maria Munoz waited patiently to visit the tomb of the man she considers another savior of humanity.

The 64-year-old said she had already turned her humble one-bedroom house into a shrine devoted to the late President Hugo Chavez, complete with busts, photos and coffee mugs bearing his image. Now, she said, her brother-in-law was looking for a larger house to display six boxes' worth of Chavez relics that her family has collected throughout his political career.

"He saved us from so many politicians who came before him," Munoz said as tears welled in her eyes. "He saved us from everything."

Chavez's die-hard followers considered him a living legend on a par with independence-era hero Simon Bolivar well before his March 5 death from cancer. In the mere three weeks since, however, Chavez has ascended to divine status in this deeply Catholic country as the government and Chavistas build a religious mythology around him ahead of April 14 elections to pick a new leader.

(AP) In this July 4, 2011 file photo, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez kisses a crucifix as he...

Chavez's hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro, has led the way, repeatedly calling the late president "the redeemer Christ of the Americas" and describing Chavistas, including himself, as "apostles."

Maduro went even further after Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis earlier this month. Maduro said Chavez had advised Jesus Christ in heaven that it was time for a South American pope.

That comes as Maduro's government loops ads on state TV comparing Chavez to sainted heroes such as Bolivar and puts up countless banners around the capital emblazoned with Chavez's image and the message "From his hands sprouts the rain of life."

"President Chavez is in heaven," Maduro told a March 16 rally in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Catia. "I don't have any doubt that if any man who walked this earth did what was needed so that Christ the redeemer would give him a seat at his side, it was our redeemer liberator of the 21st century, the comandante Hugo Chavez."

Chavistas such as Munoz have filled Venezuela with murals, posters and other artwork showing Chavez in holy poses surrounded by crosses, rosary beads and other religious symbolism.

(AP) In this March 5, 2013 file photo, candles, placed by mourner demonstrators, burn in front of...

One poster on sale in downtown Caracas depicts Chavez holding a shining gold cross in his hands beside a quote from the Book of Joshua: "Comrade, be not afraid. Neither be dismayed, for I Will be with you each instant." The original scripture says "Lord thy God," and not "I," will accompany humanity each instant.

The late leader had encouraged such treatment as he built an elaborate cult of personality and mythologized his own rise to power, said Carolina Acosta-Alzuru, a University of Georgia media studies scholar who hails from Venezuela.

She said Chavez's successors are clearly hoping that pumping up that mythology can boost Maduro's presidential campaign, which has been based almost entirely on promises to continue Chavez's legacy. The opposition candidate, Gov. Henrique Capriles, counters that Maduro isn't Chavez, and highlights the problems that Chavez left behind such as soaring crime and inflation.

"They're fast-tracking the mythification," Acosta-Alzuru said of the government. "Sometimes I feel that Venezuelan politics has become a big church. Sometimes I feel it has become a big mausoleum."

Teacher Geraldine Escalona said she believed Chavez had served a divine purpose during his 58 years on earth, including launching free housing and education programs and pushing the cause of Latin American unity.

(AP) In this March 8, 2013 file photo, supporters of Nicolas Maduro watch on a giant screen...

"God used him for this, for unifying our country and Latin America," the 22-year-old said. "I saw him as a kind of God."

Such rhetoric has upset some religious leaders and drawn the reproach of Venezuela's top Roman Catholic official, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, on the eve of the Easter holidays.

"One can't equate any hero or human leader or authority with Jesus Christ," Urosa warned. "We can't equate the supernatural and religious sphere with the natural, earthly and sociopolitical."

Chavez, in his days, crossed paths frequently with Venezuela's church, which sometimes accused the socialist leader of becoming increasingly authoritarian. Chavez described Christ as a socialist, and he strongly criticized Cardinal Urosa, saying he misled the Vatican with warnings that Venezuela was drifting toward dictatorship.

Emerging this week from a church on the outskirts of Caracas, Lizbeth Colmenares slammed politicians from both sides for using derogatory language in the campaign, particularly during Holy Week.

(AP) In this March 5, 2012 file photo, a mural imitating the religious painting The Last Supper covers a wall of a popular housing complex, showing from left to right, Fidel Castro, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Jesus Christ, Simon Bolivar, Venezuelan rebel fighters Alexis Gonzalez and Fabricio Ojeda and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela...

"They are not following the words of Christ," said Colmenares, a 67-year old retiree who was holding palm fronds woven into the shape of the Holy Cross. "They should be more humble and they shouldn't be attacking each other that way."

Of course, politics and religion have long mixed in Latin America, starting with the Spanish conquest of the New World, which Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes famously said was carried out "between sword and cross."

In the 20th century, Argentine first lady Eva Peron helped start a leftist Latin American pantheon after her untimely death in 1952. She's since become a veritable saint for millions in her homeland, with pictures of her angelic face still commonly displayed in homes and government offices. Like Chavez, Peron was worshipped as a protector of the poor as well as a political fighter.

Chavez tied his own legacy to Bolivar, incessantly invoking his name and delivering hundreds of speeches with Bolivar's stern portrait looming over his shoulder. Chavez renamed the whole country "The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" and ordered a giant mausoleum built to house Bolivar's bones.

A short animated spot shown repeatedly on state TV this month makes clear that Chavez has already become a political saint for millions. It shows Chavez, after death, walking the western Venezuelan plains of his childhood before coming across Peron, Bolivar, the martyred Chilean President Salvador Allende and Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, among others.

(AP) In this March 19, 2013 file photo, kiss marks left by supporters of Venezuela's former...

"We know that in Argentina we have a Peronism that is very much alive," said Acosta-Alzuru. "And there are other examples in Latin America where a leader, a caudillo, tries to be everything for the country. What Maduro and Chavez's followers are doing is trying to keep Chavez alive."

Some Chavez supporters waiting to visit his tomb on a hill overlooking Caracas said their comandante is with them in spirit - and for that reason they planned to vote for Maduro, confident that Chavez was guiding his hand.

Reaching the marble tomb means first walking through an exhibit celebrating Chavez's life and military career, with photos and text exalting a seemingly inevitable rise to immortality.

"He's still alive," said 52-year-old nurse Gisela Averdano. "He hasn't died. For me, he will always continue."
Title: It's a Circus
Post by: captainccs on April 04, 2013, 08:18:21 AM
It's a Circus.

You have to wonder if humans are all that rational after all. If they were, religions would be all dead.

Tales From Maduro’s Mind: Chavez’ Little Bird Apparition
April 2, 2013


You can’t make this corny, stupid, silly stuff up. Interim President Maduro says that this morning he went to a small chapel made out of wood (Where? Made out of wood. Really Nicolas? He was also alone, praying, sure Nicolas, we believe you) and a little bird came in and chirped at him (Maduro repeats the sounds and everything) and he whistled back the same pretty chirp. And then comes the jump into the mystical, it was Chavez, he felt the spirit, blessing the campaign, yada yada yada…

Really, hard to make this stuff up. Hard to even think of saying such things.

Chigüire Bipolar gives up making jokes, says it is really hard to make things up after Maduro saying this.

Title: Venezuela Raids Local Brokerage of Oppenheimer
Post by: captainccs on April 06, 2013, 03:35:11 PM
No comment necessary but it does make life more difficult...

Wall Street Journal: 
Venezuela Raids Local Brokerage of Oppenheimer
By Kejal Vyas

CARACAS — Venezuelan authorities late Thursday raided the home and office of what they say is a local representative of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., the brokerage subsidiary of Oppenheimer Holdings Inc., OPY -1.19% for allegedly violating foreign-exchange regulations.

Venezuela's national intelligence agency, or Sebin, seized documents from Caracas brokerage Brisbane, Mendes de Leon, Pettus & Asociados that it says point to alleged buying and selling of dollars, according to a statement Friday from the Attorney General's office. Such activity would be prohibited in the South American country unless done through the government. The statement identified the company as a local representative of Oppenheimer & Co.

New York-based Oppenheimer did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The move comes as interim President Nicolas Maduro increases his calls for combating currency speculation in Venezuela, where a shortage of hard currency filtering through government channels has led to a spike in dollar demand on the black market. In recent speeches, Mr. Maduro has talked of cracking down on the illegal trade, which he says is run by "bourgeois" opponents engaged in economic sabotage against the ruling socialist party.

Authorities also "seized dollars, euros and firearms" from the house of brokerage owner John Gayle Pettus, the statement said. Calls to the office of Brisbane, Mendes de Leon, Pettus & Asociados and to employees went unanswered Friday, and they couldn't be reached for comment.

The Venezuelan government said it began a probe into the local brokerage on March 23 after it was notified of alleged "irregularities" at the company. The Attorney General's office said it found evidence allegedly linked to dollar exchanges at the site.

An Information Ministry statement earlier Friday indicated that Mr. Pettus, a Venezuelan citizen, had been detained, but it wasn't immediately clear if he was still being held or facing any charges.

Mr. Pettus couldn't be reached for comment. Spokesmen at the Information Ministry, as well as the Interior and Justice Ministry, said they had no further comment.

The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority lists Mr. Pettus as a broker registered with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.'s Venezuela office since 1993. A 2012 edition of Standard & Poor's directory shows Oppenheimer as the only U.S. broker listed with a Venezuelan affiliate.

Russ Dallen, a managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets, who was a partner at Mr. Pettus' brokerage until 2007, said he received calls from employees informing him of the raid Thursday afternoon.

Many economists blame the leftist regime's currency controls, implemented by the late president Hugo Chavez in 2003 to prevent capital flight, for the lack of dollars in the economy which has led to a sharp depreciation of the bolivar on the black market. The government has set a fixed exchange rate of 6.3 Venezuela bolivar per dollar, but dollars are traded at nearly 23 bolivar on the black market.

A scarcity of dollars has also led to widespread shortages of food and consumer goods, as companies in this import-heavy economy complain they lack access to the dollars they need to purchase products from abroad.

In 2010, Venezuela's government cracked down on a large parallel currency market and imprisoned several brokerage directors for allegedly violating currency controls. Four former directors of Econoinvest Casa de Bolsa CA, which was once Venezuela's biggest brokerage firm, were released in December after spending more than two years in prison. The directors have said they never violated exchange laws. Their trial is continuing.

Title: Circus & Corpses
Post by: captainccs on April 06, 2013, 03:43:16 PM
Today has been a god damn circus! The government must have pressed thousands of CDs with political music and they keep playing it over and over again. Getting the election over is going to be a big relief. The central theme is that Chavez lives and will never die, "Viva Chavez." They seem to have only corpses to adore: Bolivar, Che, Chavez. People voting for these corpses, do they think corpses can govern? Madness!

Denny Schlesinger
Title: And the winners are...
Post by: captainccs on April 07, 2013, 04:29:35 PM
The winners are the guys selling T-shirts, caps, flags and banners, they must have sold hundreds of thousands by the number of people I saw wearing them.

Last night the political music went on until quite late. Today it started at around 11 in the morning but they quit by 6 PM. What a relief. Hearing the same broken record over and over again is truly a PITA!

Around noon I left the house to walk to the produce market (open Tuesday to Sunday). I saw a fair number of Chavistas in "getting out the vote" mode but only a few were activists. I saw about six or eight Caprilistas (you recognize them by the T-shirts and caps) walking toward an opposition march. Instead of going home by the same route, I decided to take the Metro back. Where i got off I was met by a river if Caprilistas! It was the closest I have been to a political march in my 74 years of existence.

Seeing so many opposition people marching changed my mood for the better.  The Chavistas have been very good at  capturing their political base. Chavez was what we call a chameleon, changing his coloring to fit the mood. Over the past three or four years they dropped the public "like Cuba" stance which never did sit well with most Venezuelan. Instead they created an image of a loving Chavez - a  "Corazón de mi pueblo" image. I was quite surprised when a few week ago our concierge declared for Chavez (a change of heart?) saying that the Chavistas were protecting the working classes. The concierge has been with us for over 20 years and I don't ever recall having any serious labor related problem with her. Still, the Chavistas won her over.

There can be no doubt that the Chavistas have a solid following and politically they have outmaneuvered the opposition by a wide margin. Seeing so many opposition marching today tells me that we are truly divided, maybe close to a 50-50 split. What worries me more is the economic situation, specially the exchange controls.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: #LaAvenidaBolivarSeQuedóPequeña
Post by: captainccs on April 07, 2013, 06:49:14 PM
#LaAvenidaBolivarSeQuedóPequeña is the first in the WORLDWIDE trending topic list. WOW / es el primero en la lista de treding topics MUNDIAL

#LaAvenidaBolivarSeQuedóPequeña (

Title: Cats get special electoral treatment
Post by: captainccs on April 10, 2013, 02:25:50 PM
An email to our marina manager:

Good Afternoon Carlos,
Regarding the marina cats.  We use approx. 8 kilos a week of cat food.   Omar has been buying two 3 Kilo bags.  Dellisa (Black girl feeding the cats) has been supplementing the cat food out of her personal stock (she has 2 cats).
Would you please ask Omar to buy 8 kilos of cat food a week.  Omar will need to buy 4 kilos twice a week.
Regarding Monday (Day after election), we are concerned that there may be businesses closed or problems with traffic.  Would you please ask Omar to buy double the cat food on this Friday so that we don't have a problem on Monday.     So this Friday we will need 8 kilos (Friday's regular 4 kilos and Monday's -4 kilos).  So on Monday- he will not need to buy food.  He will buy cat food again- 4 Kilos on Friday.   
Thanks for your attention to this matter.
Title: Miami Herald: Venezuela's chance to move forward
Post by: DougMacG on April 12, 2013, 01:34:54 PM
Good luck Denny S. !

The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL
Venezuela’s chance to move forward

Sunday’s election in Venezuela promises to open a tumultuous new chapter in the history of that South American country. For the first time in 15 years, Hugo Chávez’s name is not on the ballot, but his presence is everywhere. This election is all about him and the legacy of a decade-and-a-half of misrule.

Under normal circumstances, in any democratic country, the electorate would be ripe for a change after 15 years of upheaval that have brought misery for many and created an exodus among those who could leave, many settling in South Florida.

Chronic power outages, food shortages, devaluations, rampant crime, corrupt government aided by communist Cuba — this is the legacy of Hugo Chávez.

For Venezuelans, the choice is clear: They can move forward, restoring the democracy that Venezuela once was, or they can watch their country continue to deteriorate under a Chávez apprentice like the official candidate, Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked political heir and current vice president.

Not surprisingly, the betting is that Mr. Maduro will win, and for that the candidate can thank his late mentor. Over the course of prolonged tenure, Mr. Chávez created a political machine that sharply curtailed the possibility that the official presidential candidate could lose.

The way Mr. Chávez won election three times and consolidated his grip on Venezuela is no secret. He controlled all the levers of political power, including the council that makes the electoral rules, counts the votes and settles disputes. He used the government’s money and power to promote his candidacy in a way that no opposition political figure could possibly match.

He stifled the independent news media and systematically dismantled the independent institutions that could restrain his power, including the judiciary.

A onetime paratrooper and frustrated coup-plotter, Mr. Chávez stacked the military leadership with loyalists and carefully watched over the ranks to ensure that no one would try to topple him from power by force of arms, as he once tried to overthrow a democratic government in 1992.

Finally, he made sure to woo the country’s large underclass by inducements such as free housing and by lavishing political attention on them, though he failed to create a path to prosperity for anyone except his political cronies, who got rich off government contracts.

All of this poses a virtually insurmountable challenge for Henrique Capriles Radonski, an opposition governor and leader of the political front arrayed against the forces of the government. Hundreds of thousands have shown up at his rallies, attesting to the underlying hunger for change.

Clearly, the playing field is slanted in favor of the Maduro ticket. In an implicit admission of potential ballot chicanery, the government has pointedly rejected any role for international election observers, such as the OAS.

But even if he wins, success promises to be short-lived.

The 50-year-old former bus driver and union leader does not possess Mr. Chávez’s rhetorical gifts, wit or political skills. His limited ability will be put to the test as the economy continues to deteriorate and Venezuelans of all stripes become more restless.

Under this scenario, the political situation could degenerate swiftly. The United States and other democratic countries in the region should stand ready to denounce government abuses and support the advocates of democracy as Venezuela enters a dangerous period.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 12, 2013, 04:07:03 PM

"Under this scenario, the political situation could degenerate swiftly. The United States and other democratic countries in the region should stand ready to denounce government abuses and support the advocates of democracy as Venezuela enters a dangerous period."

Good luck with that.  Remember what Baraq and Hillary did to Honduras.  (Use the search function here and you will find it)
Title: It's a beautiful day
Post by: captainccs on April 14, 2013, 08:35:47 AM
Sunny with just a hint of haze. It's 11:00 local time and I'm taking off for a walk to my voting station. I'll report any news on my return.

The feeling here is that abstention will decide the vote. If you don't vote the other guy wins. There is the belief among the opposition that Maduro cannot get out the vote. During the week I heard on the Metro a woman with a loud voice say: "lo que viene no sirve" (what is coming is no good). From other things she said it was clear that she was a Chavez devotee. If for her Maduro is as useless as Capriles, why bother voting? On the other side, in my building a lady is organizing transport for senior citizens to get them to vote.

If the vote is close the chavistas will steal it. Let's hope the difference is large enough that they cannot steal it.

There existed a very powerful economic group in Venezuela set up by an immigrant from the Canary Islands. Mendoza started out with a hardware store which he built into a construction supply empire including cement, ceramics, paint (Sherwin Williams),  construction materials and even a mortgage bank. In addition the group made paper and paper products, and his daughter set up a foundation to treat bones for young invalids (Ortopédico Infantil), and even an art gallery. Grupo Mendoza was one of the most successful Venezuelan conglomerates ever. The old man never groomed a successor. His managers lived in constant political infighting. I know a lot of this from personal experience. Several of their companies were my clients while I was with IBM and later when I was an independent management consultant. These positions gave me access at the highest levels (excluding Mendoza himself). I got a chance to meet Mendoza personally when a painting sold by my mother in one of their auctions had a bad ending. But that is a story for another day. Today's story is that on his death, the Grupo Mendoza disintegrated quickly because there was no capable successor to carry on.

Chavez picked Maduro to be his vice-president because Maduro was the least threatening person he could find, a veritable lap-dog. I though there would be more infighting among Chavistas for the presidency. Some said that the president of the National Assembly should have been legally the presidential candidate. Diosdado Cabello is not all that popular in Chavista circles and he lost the gubernatorial election for Miranda State to Capriles.

Time to go. Talk to you guys later.

Denny  Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 14, 2013, 01:50:40 PM
I got home at 3:30 after a 4 and a half hour walk from Los Caobos to Altamira and back. I talked to a lot of people, no queues anywhere. Voting was quick. Capta-huella (finger print analyzer) was used only once not twice as last time. There seemed to be no delaying tactics by the government. Opposition people were very optimistic. I ran into some youth that I would not have thought were anti-Chavez.

A Maduro truck is going by my house this minute, totally illegal.

Let’s see how they steal the vote this time.

Another report:

Tour of Caracas On Voting Day: No Lines, Some Abuses
April 14, 2013

Update 1:47PM: I am told by reliable people that at 1 PM the percentage of voters that had cast their vote was running 10% behind the same number in October.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on April 14, 2013, 03:22:38 PM
Good luck Denny.  The free world could really use a win right now.
Title: We lose again
Post by: captainccs on April 14, 2013, 09:22:33 PM
We lose again but by a smaller margin. Not the final count: Maduro 50.66% Capriles 49.07%, about 200,000 votes difference.

Miguel calls it a huge victory for the opposition. How is losing a victory if it means 6 more years of the same crap?

One electoral board member suggested a physical recount of the ballot. They would not be doing that if they had to fudge the results, I don't think.

The next step is hoping Maduro implodes.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on April 15, 2013, 07:10:39 AM
Very sad and disappointing.  

"One electoral board member suggested a physical recount of the ballot. They would not be doing that if they had to fudge the results, I don't think."

A recount would be nice anyway to establish trust in the vote count and put would-be cheaters on notice for the future.

"Miguel calls it a huge victory for the opposition. How is losing a victory if it means 6 more years of the same crap?"  ... " The next step is hoping Maduro implodes."

Doesn't seem important now, but margin of victory matters in governing, and so does the approval rating after the election.

Interesting that opposition to socialism/fascism wins 49% support in Venezuela but only 27% support of Latin Americans in the US:
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 08:26:41 AM
Don't let the term "hispanic" blind you. Obama is "un negrito," OIbama is "mi color." On the whole Venezuelans are a lot less racist than Americans but this also allows us to talk freely of color, nationality and other personal traits without being accused of racism. Chavez tried to bring race to the table but that essentially failed,  only the very young, who didn't know better, fell for it. It should not come as a surprise that color and nationality are attractors even for people who would not be considered racist.

Second, the vote here was not about socialism vs, capitalism at all. Capriles is best described as a "Lula da Silva" style socialist. Even if he were if he were a capitalism at heart (I have no way of knowing but he certainly has capitalists in his lineage), he would not be able to turn Venezuela on a dime. It is important to remember that CAP was impeached mainly because he tried to bring economic freedoms to Venezuela (eliminate price controls, privatize state enterprises) some of which were not kindly received in great measure because he never prepared people for the transitory pain these changes bring. Raising the price of gas at the pump broke the camel's back and he was fired.

One can live with socialism and populism provided one's basic economic freedoms remain intact, specially the right to own property. One doesn't particularly care if the government is misspending oil income but one sure cares if one's home or business is taken away. Milton Friedman put it very nicely.

A final personal note: it is a rare privilege for an author to be able to evaluate his own work forty years after it first appeared. I appreciate very much having the chance to do so. I am enormously gratified by how well the book has withstood time and how pertinent it remains to today's problems. If there is one major change I would make, it would be to replace the dichotomy of economic freedom and political freedom with the trichotomy of economic freedom, civil freedom and political freedom. After I finished the book, Hong Kong, before it was returned to China, persuaded me that while economic freedom is a necessary condition for civil and political freedom, political freedom, desirable though it may be, is not a necessary condition for economic and civil freedom. Along these lines, the one major defect in the book seems to me an inadequate treatment of the role of political freedom, which under some circumstances promotes economic and civil freedom, and under others, inhibits economic and civil freedom. [emphasis added]

I analyzed the above in light of the Venezuela experience at Software Times  Venezuela 2011 (

Title: WSJ: The Cuban vote in Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 15, 2013, 10:03:33 AM
Venezuela held a presidential election on Sunday to replace left-wing populist Hugo Chávez, whose death was announced on March 5.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) put up Nicólas Maduro, a Cuba-trained ideologue and the man the cancer-stricken Chávez anointed as his heir in December. Facing off against him was Justice First candidate Henrique Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda and the first politician since the 1998 advent of chavismo who has been able to unify the opposition.

As we went to press, returns were not yet in. But the opposition was calling on supporters to demand proof of the vote count at local polling stations. Tensions were rising.

If Mr. Capriles prevailed it would be a major upset. A Maduro victory was more likely not only because of the sympathy vote for the late Chávez. The chavistas have been using state power to cheat, intimidate and spend themselves first across the finish line for more than a decade. International observers were prohibited from sending missions to Venezuela and Mr. Capriles was denied access to almost all television and radio stations during the campaign.

Then there was the Cuba factor. The Castro regime has become a big player in Venezuelan politics and had a big stake in the outcome—namely the threat by Mr. Capriles that if he won he would curtail the shipment of some $4 billion in oil annually to the regime. As such Havana made sure it held considerable sway over the outcome.

Last month the Spanish newspaper ABC reported that the regime "is sending a detachment of agents for electoral control that could reach 2,500 officers, according to intelligence information that came out of the island." Havana admits that there are already some 46,000 Cubans serving the "revolution" in Venezuela. These are supposedly medical personnel, teachers and trainers, but a former high-ranking chavista who didn't want to be identified told ABC that "all of that is a cover to hide the control that Cuba has in Venezuela."

That comment was supported by the declaration by Cuba's chief of missions in Venezuela that the missions are there "to ensure our commitment; if until now we have been giving our all, [we] now are ready to give even our lives, our blood, if it were needed for this revolution."'

In 2005, while hosting a visit from Chávez in Havana, Fidel Castro proclaimed Venezuela and Cuba one country and its people "Venecubans." In 2010, the Economist magazine reported on an "apparently . . . long stay" in Caracas of Castro intelligence heavyweight Ramiro Valdés, "whose responsibilities at home include policing Cuban's access to the Internet."

The story also noted Cuban involvement in the operation of "Venezuela's ports, telecommunications, police training, the issuing of identity documents and the business registry" and that in 2005 it received "a contract to modernize [Venezuela's] identity card system."

In a fair fight, the 40-year-old Mr. Capriles might have won easily. Inflation for the first quarter of this year was well over 30% annualized. Currency weakness and price controls are causing shortages of many staple foods that now have to be imported because the agricultural sector has been destroyed by nationalizations and capital flight. The poor are also those who most suffer the effects of the soaring murder rate. Electricity blackouts have become routine.

The Maduro campaign relied heavily on emotion to counteract potential apathy for its candidate. The image of Chávez, whose death stirred thousands to weeping hysterically in the streets only five weeks ago, was never far from Mr. Maduro as he stumped on television or in person. He even claimed that Chávez returned to see him in the guise of a little bird.

Yet the chavistas and the Castro regime weren't willing to depend on the ghost of Chávez for victory. Last month, during the auditing of voting machines, the opposition uncovered evidence that the PSUV had in its possession pass codes that gave it the ability to sabotage the voting process on election day. The head of the opposition coalition said that this would not affect vote tallies, but it could be used to slow the process.

This might explain why in past elections at polling stations where the opposition vote was strong, waiting times often ran for many hours, leading many potential voters to skip the exercise altogether. The government-controlled electoral council denied the charges and the matter has not been rectified.

Electronic voting machines provide plenty of other opportunities for shenanigans. In past elections, Bolivarian enforcers executed a late-day roundup in poor neighborhoods of anyone who was a no-show at the polls. Many Venezuelans believe that because finger prints and identity numbers are taken at voting station, the vote is not secret. Fear of punishment either by getting fired from one's job or being denied state aid is real.

The upshot here is that Sunday's election told us very little about the real preferences of the Venezuelan electorate.

Write to O'
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 11:09:44 AM
Of course the vote is not secret if they don't want it to be. The process:

You hand in your ID card and they find your name on the printed lists
They input your ID number into an online computer
You verify your ID number with your fingerprint
Then you vote.

Who just voted? The guy who just sent in his fingerprint.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Capriles press conference
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 12:22:05 PM
Capriles just wound up a press conference with the international press corps present, asking for a recount of the vote.

It seems the government wants to rush through the proclamation of Maduro without doing the recount. Capriles has asked publicly that people go to the state level electoral offices asking for a recount saying it's a local responsibility to do so. Should the recount not happen then he is calling for people to go to the national offices of the electoral body (CNE) to ask for the recount. In addition, he has asked people to join a cacerolazo (pot banging) tonight at 8 PM should there e no response from the CNE by then.

This is the closest call I have heard not to civil disobedience but to a public demand for a recount. Will the CNE accept? Will they call out the riot police to stop the people from asking for their rights? This could turn ugly quickly.

Capriles made the point that at least a million votes changed from Chavez in October to Capriles yesterday, proof that even Chavistas have had enough.

Capriles is a pretty good speaker. This isn't over as I feared yesterday. The game of chicken is now in force. Who will blink first?

I believe this is earlier news:

Henrique Capriles Wants Vote Recount in Venezuela Elections


By MANUEL RUEDA (@ruedareport)
April 15, 2014
Henrique Capriles, has refused to accept the results of Sunday's presidential election in Venezuela until votes are fully audited.

According to Venezuela's National Electoral Council, Capriles, the opposition candidate, obtained 49 percent of the votes this weekend. That means he lost to government candidate Nicolas Maduro by just 1.5 percentage points.

Capriles claimed there had been hundreds of violations at voting stations across Venezuela on Sunday and asked for a full recount of the votes before he would accept defeat.
Title: Coverage of the press conference
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 12:24:50 PM
Capriles refuses to concede Venezuela presidential election, demands recount


By Juan Forero, Monday, April 15, 12:52 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro, the longtime loyal lieutenant of the late President Hugo Chavez, celebrated his apparent narrow victory in the presidential contest Monday, even as opponent Henrique Capriles refused to concede and demanded a recount, citing 3,200 irregularities on the day of the vote.

Instead of the resounding victory that many pollsters predicted for Maduro, who had the sympathy vote after Chavez died last month following a battle with cancer, his government begins on a shaky foundation with a questionable mandate. The margin of victory was just 235,000 votes.

“I want to say to the candidate of the government, the loser today is you,” Capriles said in an emotional press conference called moments after Maduro declared victory at the presidential palace where Chavez had given rousing speeches celebrating election wins.

He said that Maduro had benefitted from a vast state get-out-the vote machinery that included last minute tactics to bring voters to polls – including reopening closed polling stations.

“We are not going to recognize the results until each vote of the Venezuelan people is counted, one by one,” said Capriles, 40, an energetic lawyer and governor of economically important Miranda state. The Venezuelan electoral system is automated, but each vote also produces a paper receipt that can be counted by hand, according to electoral regulations.

One of the rectors of the National Electoral Council, Vicente Diaz, had called for a hand count after the results of the election were released. And in his victory speech, Maduro said, “We’re going to do it.”

“We’re not afraid – let the boxes talk,” said Maduro, 50, referring to the cardboard boxes that hold ballots. “That the truth be told.”

Still, on a tense Monday in which many businesses were shuttered, it remained unclear if a recount would take place.

The government continued with plans for a ceremony on Monday afternoon in which Maduro would be proclaimed the winner, to be followed days later by a swearing in ceremony. And the electoral council – which has five members, the majority of whom are allies of the government – had not said whether a recount would take place.

“These are the irreversible results that the Venezuelan people have decided with this electoral process,” Tibisay Lucena, the head of the council, said late Sunday as she read the results.

According to the council, voters gave Maduro 50.6 percent of the vote to 49.1 for Capriles, with 99 percent of the vote counted. It was unclear, though, if the Venezuelan vote from outside of the country – which analysts say is overwhelmingly opposed to Chavez – were included in that total.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called Capriles’s request for an audit of votes an “important, prudent, and necessary step” to ensure that Venezuelans have trust in the election results.

The narrow margin was a letdown for many in Chavismo, the radical movement that Chavez founded, with the goal of turning Venezuela into a socialist state.

Title: Venezuelan opposition calls for protests to demand recount
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 01:46:48 PM
Venezuelan opposition calls for protests to demand recount
By Marianna Parraga and Todd Benson | Reuters – 38 mins ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Opposition leader Henrique Capriles on Monday called on Venezuelans to take to the streets and peacefully demand a vote recount if election authorities formally proclaim Hugo Chavez's chosen successor as the next president.

The day after Venezuela's election board declared acting President Nicolas Maduro winner of Sunday's presidential vote by a tight margin, Capriles insisted the opposition's own count showed he was the victor.

"We think we won the election. The other side thinks they won and we're both within our rights," Capriles, a 40-year-old state governor, said in a televised news conference.

"All we're asking is that our rights be respected, that the will of the people be respected, and that every single vote be counted, every little piece of paper, that paper isn't for recycling, it's proof."

The request appeared to fall on deaf ears.

Shortly after Capriles spoke, senior ruling party official Dario Vivas told Reuters the proclamation ceremony would go ahead and accused Capriles of trying to "destabilize" the country.

Conscious of Venezuela's long history of turbulent protests, Capriles urged his supporters to resist temptations to resort to violence. He called for Venezuelans to bang pots and pans in protest on Monday night if Maduro is formally proclaimed winner.

If the stalemate continues, Capriles asked his followers to gather in protest on Tuesday in front of election board offices around the nation. If there is still no sign of a recount by Wednesday, Capriles pledged to lead a peaceful march through the streets of Caracas to the election board's headquarters.


The controversy around Venezuela's first presidential election without Chavez on the ballot in two decades ushered in new uncertainty in the oil-rich country.

It also raised doubts about the future of "Chavismo," Chavez's self-proclaimed socialist movement, without its charismatic founder, who died from cancer on March 5.

Before dying, Chavez named his longtime protégé Maduro as his preferred successor, giving the former bus driver a huge boost heading into Sunday's election.

But the endorsement was not enough to ensure an easy victory for Maduro, who edged out Capriles with 50.7 percent of the votes, according to election board returns.

Capriles took 49.1 percent, just 235,000 fewer votes, according to the official count. Opposition sources told Reuters their count showed Capriles won by more than 300,000 votes.

A sense of normalcy reigned in Caracas on Monday despite the election tensions, with businesses open and traffic flowing, although there were some isolated protests.

About 200 pro-opposition students protested in an upscale district, trying to enter a hotel where unofficial foreign election observers were meeting. Outside the opposition's campaign headquarters, some protesters shouted "No more fraud."

Maduro, 50, said he would accept a full recount, even as he insisted his victory was clean and dedicated it to Chavez. Senior government officials, on state television and Twitter, ridiculed the opposition as sore losers and praised Venezuela's election system as foolproof.

"It's impossible to manipulate the election result," Jorge Rodriguez, Maduro's campaign chief, said on state TV.

The U.S. government backed the call for a full audit of the results and the Organization of American States offered to send election auditors to help. Chavista allies such as Russia and Cuba, which receives generous aid and subsidized oil from Venezuela, immediately congratulated Maduro.

Venezuela's election board is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, the opposition has repeatedly accused it of turning a blind eye to the blatant use of state resources in favor of pro-Chavez candidates. Critics say four of its five members are openly pro-government.

"The next few hours are critical," Pedro Benitez, a senior member of the opposition coalition, told Reuters. "The opposition has to get access to the ballot boxes, which are under custody of the (military)."

A similar situation gripped Mexico in 2006, when a leftist opposition candidate alleged fraud after losing a tight presidential race to Felipe Calderon. A partial recount followed and Calderon's victory was upheld.

(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Mario Naranjo; Writing by Todd Benson; Editing by Kieran Murray, Jackie Frank and Bill Trott)
Title: Government nor backing down
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 01:57:10 PM
They are about to proclaim Maduro president.

Cacerolazo going full blast.
Title: One member missing
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 02:13:00 PM
One of the five members of the electoral board (CNE) is missing from the ceremony. I wonder if its the one who yesterday called for the recount. Didn't catch the names.

Title: Re: One member missing
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 06:50:43 PM
One of the five members of the electoral board (CNE) is missing from the ceremony. I wonder if its the one who yesterday called for the recount. Didn't catch the names.

Yes, Vicente Diaz.
Title: The Devil Reports
Post by: captainccs on April 15, 2013, 06:53:49 PM
One solid hour of cacerolazo.

Venezuela Tense, As Electoral Board Rushes Maduro Proclamation
by moctavio

So, the story is like this:

Yesterday, Maduro's team was telling diplomats and reporters that at 1:00 PM Maduro was ahead by 2% of the votes. At that time, it looked as if abstention was going to be more like 30% of the total number of voters. In the next couple of hours, participation increased dramatically, but the increase was higher in traditionally more pro-opo centers than in pro-Chávez centers. However, by 4 PM Chavismo was projecting a victory by 1-2% of the vote.

Meanwhile in Capriles' camp, all that was being counted at that point was participation. They had the same 30% abstention projection at 1 PM, but then it accelerated and they began projecting 22-23% abstention at the end of the day. But they could see the details and the participation by 4 PM in the more pro-opo centers was 75% (top 50% pro-opo centers) versus 69% in the pro-Chávez centers.

When the Actas began arriving, the opposition counting center began seeing a virtual tie from the time it had 20% of the tallies. Essentially, within the error of the tally, it was impossible to predict who was winning. If you added the international votes, then they would get a Capriles victory.

This continued and the Capriles team was hearing that Chavismo was saying that Maduro had an advantage of a quarter of a million votes. As the night went on, Capriles decided to call Maduro and told him that his numbers were saying the race was too tight and any announcement should be held off. Maduro told Capriles that he had to check (??) and never called back. Within twenty minutes CNE made the announcement.

Meanwhile, at the CNE, Vicente Diaz had argued that no announcement should be made and they should wait to reconcile the numbers. Vicente Diaz also suggested that the CNE itself shoudl call for an audit, something it can do. He was voted down and the announcement was made.

Today, Vicente Diaz went to CNE where there was supposed to be a meeting and instead found that Maduro would be proclaimed as the winner, while the meeting in which he was going to formally propose that a complete counting of the ballots and tallies be made, was not going to take place.

Thus, Vicente Diaz decided not to go to the proclamation.

At which point I ask: Why the rush? Why make the announcement if things were not clear or there were doubts? Why rush to proclaim Maduro if he was not planned to be sworn in until Thursday?

That is the big "if", Maduro who alraedy stars weak with a very small victory, makes himself more illegitimate by trying to be proclaimed early and while he claims he wants to count the boxes, the suggestion is this may not happen.

Meanwhile, Capriles was calling for people not to go out and protest, but instead participate in a pot banging tonight at 8 PM, as well as marches in all regional CNE's tomorrow and one on Wednesday to the CNE to formally request a complete recount of all the ballots and comparison with tallies and the voting notebooks.

But students had a mind of their own and began protesting in many parts of the country. In Caracas, near Plaza Altamira and the Autopista, students gathered to protest. Chavista motorcycles began showing up and there appeared that there would be confrontations. Then opposition motorcycles showed up and Chavistas fortunately left.

Meanwhile, the Government sent out the National Guard, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd away from the Autopista. I managed to get a little close at that time. Here are some protesters:

And here is the National Guard holding strong to stop students from going down to the Autopista:

And here is a picture of the fires the students built to stop the National Guard from going through:

And in the only gesture of peace and conciliation of the last 24 hours, Maduro ordered tonight that the National Guard withdraw from Alatamira and the Autopista.

Things are tense. Very Tense. Falcon said some Generals have been detained because they disagreed with decision to announce the results. Others tell me they are searching for Capriles' Minister of Defense "in pectore". The European Union, OAS, US and other UNASUR countries have sent the message they will not recognize Maduro until votes are counted again.

Stay tuned...

But I just don't believe any votes will be recounted and ballot boxes found in at elast eight places around the country, either being dispose of or being burned suggest I will be right. Fraud is the only word that comes to mind...

Title: WSJ: The mess in Caracas
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 16, 2013, 05:12:42 AM
The Mess in Caracas
The close election is a repudiation of chavismo. .
Hugo Chávez spent 14 years ruining Venezuela, and the mess seems likely to get worse after Sunday's contested presidential election. His anointed heir, union leader Nicolás Maduro, claimed victory with 50.7% of the vote, but the narrow margin amounts to a repudiation of chavismo considering all of the obstacles thrown at the opposition.

Challenger Henrique Capriles is demanding a full recount and has refused to concede, and rightly so. The U.S., European Union and the even the left-leaning Organization of American States all came down on Mr. Capriles's side. Mr. Maduro at first said he'd go along with a recount, but Monday before we went to press the National Electoral Council declared him the winner. There are also reports that ballot boxes that were supposed to be under the eye of the National Guard have begun to disappear.

It's remarkable that Mr. Capriles came within 235,000 votes in the official count given that Chávez had put out of business every independent radio and television broadcaster. Mr. Capriles was banned from all state media and most of the few private airwaves that still exist. That meant that he literally had to be seen in person to be heard. Mr. Maduro by contrast enjoyed hours of television appearances daily.

Mr. Capriles was also up against an army of Cuban functionaries on hand to defend their investment in their oil-rich political client. Havana, which gets at least $4 billion annually in subsidized oil from Venezuela, now runs all of the government's information systems and document control.

For years Chávez refused to allow a pre-election audit of the voter rolls, making it impossible to know how many non-citizens have voter ID cards. The government treasury doles out favors to political allies, and the state-owned oil company controls the fate of thousands of workers. Many Venezuelans have said that they don't believe the vote is secret.

Chávez built his political success on a cult of personality that Mr. Maduro isn't able to match. The protégé tried to play up the sympathy vote for Chávez, who died in March of cancer, even claiming that the dead dictator had appeared to him as a little bird.

But Mr. Maduro also had to defend Venezuela's sinking economy, which is plagued by corruption and an annual inflation rate of more than 30%. Oil prices have been falling, and the national currency, the bolivar, is trading at nearly four times less than its official rate. That's despite an official devaluation in March.

The close, contested vote means that even if he bullies his way into the presidential palace, Mr. Maduro is unlikely to have democratic legitimacy. Mr. Capriles is now a national symbol of resistance and on Monday he asked his supporters to go to the streets to protest the declaration of a Maduro victory.

The Cubans and chavistas are no doubt anticipating that their strongarm tactics will once again prevail, and that the protests will fizzle. And maybe they will. But sometimes countries have arisen in mass peaceful protests to reclaim their democracy when a dictator tries to steal it. That was the lesson of the Philippines in 1986 with Corazon Aquino, the Ukraine's Orange revolution in 2004, among others. The only way Venezuelans will end chavismo is with such a popular uprising.
Title: Venezuela: An Election That Reeks Of Fraud
Post by: captainccs on April 16, 2013, 08:06:03 AM
Venezuela: An Election That Reeks Of Fraud
Posted 04/15/2013 07:01 PM ET

Latin America: Venezuela's election on Sunday, which saw bus driver Nicolas Maduro declared the winner by a razor-thin margin, reeked of electoral fraud. Kudos to challenger Henrique Capriles for calling it out.

Fraud is a strong word but, yes, it's the clearest conclusion from Venezuela's election Sunday to pick a successor to the late socialist dictator Hugo Chavez.

Chavez's hand-picked successor "won" Venezuela's election Sunday, with what Chavez's anything-but impartial CNE electoral body declaring he'd gotten 50.6% of the vote, while his challenger, Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles Radonski garnered 49.07% — a gap of just 235,000 votes. That's suspicious right there, given the structural advantages and Chavez "sympathy votes" Maduro had yet couldn't turn into a victory.

Polls — every one of them — showed that Capriles had crossed over to a tie or lead in the last week of the campaign, while the size of his spirited million-strong rallies — the largest since 2002 — told the same story.

Capriles says he had enough evidence amid a stream of down-ballot irregularities — from Chavista motorcycle goons intimidating voters to ballot boxes strewn across the Barinas state — to believe he had won.

Yet Maduro, a wooden candidate almost totally lacking in charisma, somehow was the people's choice.

His angry victory speech threatening voters was an odd thing, given his razor-thin margin of victory and presumed need to unify the country to govern.

Obviously, he was trying to hold together his base, which in fact is crumbling as his Chavista political rivals now call for "self criticism." That's not a good sign.

What's more he wasn't able to buy votes this time. Banker Russ Dallen of BBO Financial Services in Caracas points out that amid the shambles of Venezuela's public finances, Maduro didn't even have cash to dole out goodies to buy votes.

Perhaps the biggest reality that can't be ignored is that Chavez's, and by extension Maduro's, socialist record is one of massive failure.

Venezuela, with the world's largest oil reserves, is deeply in debt, has 30% inflation, repeated currency devaluations, empty store shelves, capital controls, crumbling infrastructure, and the world's worst crime and corruption.

The only place we've seen comparable results has been in Mexico during the PRI "perfect dictatorship" era of Mario Vargas Llosa's description, where a losing candidate in a stacked election would win by a small margin instead of a big one to preserve credibility.

As we go to press, tanks have been dispatched to the streets of the middle-class district of Altimira in the capital, a sign of the instability that comes of an election with zero credibility that couldn't even be disguised by Chavez's corrupt Chicago-style political machine.

Capriles has called for a recount and the White House, to its credit, has asked for an audit. They're unlikely to happen, given that the game of the Chavista machine is to hold on to power at any price.

They'll hold onto power with military tanks as the facade of Venezuelan democracy crumbles.

Title: Venezuelan rivals rally supporters, four people reported dead
Post by: captainccs on April 16, 2013, 09:36:00 AM
Venezuelan rivals rally supporters, four people reported dead
Reuters/Reuters - Supporters of opposition leader Henrique Capriles demonstrate for a recount of the votes in Sunday's election, in Caracas, April 15, 2013. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

By Brian Ellsworth and Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS (Reuters) - Violent clashes over Venezuela's disputed presidential election have killed four people, the state news agency said on Tuesday, as both sides in the stand-off planned rival demonstrations.

The deaths occurred when hundreds of protesters took to the streets in various parts of the capital, Caracas, and in other cities on Monday, blocking streets, burning tires and clashing with security forces, in some cases.

The AVN news agency said two people were killed in Miranda state, which includes part of Caracas, one in Tachira state on the border with Colombia, and another in western Zulia state. It gave no further details.

In one of the confrontations, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a running battle with masked, rock-wielding opposition supporters in a wealthy district of Caracas.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles is demanding a recount of the votes from Sunday's election after official results showed a narrow victory for ruling party candidate Nicolas Maduro, the acting president.

Capriles said his team's figures show that he won the election and he has called his supporters into the streets for peaceful demonstrations.

The National Electoral Council refused to hold a full recount, saying a 54 percent audit of the widely respected electronic vote system had already been carried out.

The election was triggered by the death of socialist leader Hugo Chavez last month after a two-year battle with cancer. He named Maduro as his successor before he died and his protege won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote against Capriles' 49.0 percent.

Both sides have urged their supporters to hold peaceful demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday, raising fears of more unrest in the oil-exporting nation of 29 million people, which has seen plenty of political turbulence in the last few decades.

"Imagine if I went crazy and called the people and armed forces onto the street? What would happen in this country? How many millions would pour onto the street?" Maduro said late on Monday, blaming Capriles for the violence.

"We're not going to do it. This country needs peace. Where are the opposition politicians who believe in democracy?"

The unrest in Caracas included demonstrations outside the offices of state television channel VTV and the home of the head of the election authority.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, hopes to highlight the weakness of Maduro's mandate and stir up opposition anger over his charge that the electoral council is biased in favor of the ruling Socialist Party.

The strategy could backfire if demonstrations turn into prolonged disturbances, such as those the opposition led between 2002 and 2004, which sometimes blocked roads for days with trash and burning tires and annoyed many Venezuelans.

A return to prolonged trouble in the streets could renew questions about the opposition's democratic credentials on the heels of their best showing in a presidential election, and just as Capriles has consolidated himself as its leader.


Senior government figures have raised the possibility of legal action against Capriles.

"Fascist Capriles, I will personally ensure you pay for the damage you are doing to our fatherland and people," National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello said on Twitter, requesting that state prosecutors open a criminal investigation.

But the opposition leader says he will fight on.

"We are not going to ignore the will of the people. We believe we won ... we want this problem resolved peacefully," Capriles told a news conference.

"There is no majority here, there are two halves." Opposition sources say their count showed Capriles won by more than 300,000 votes.

His team says it has evidence of some 3,200 election day irregularities, from voters using fake IDs to intimidation of volunteers at polling centers. It wants an exhaustive check of the paper-ballots printed at the time of casting a vote.

The focus of Monday's protests in the capital was the Plaza Altamira, which was often site of opposition demonstrations during Chavez's polarizing 14-year rule. Burned-out debris and glass lay strews on the ground on Tuesday morning.

"We will protest for as long as it takes. We will not give up the streets," said Carlos Cusumano, a 20-year-old student who took part in the protest.

Wearing T-shirts wrapped around their faces, some demonstrators threw sticks and stones at the ranks of police, who wore body armor and carried shields.

Maduro, who had initially said he was open to a recount, called on his supporters to demonstrate all week. The official results showed him winning by 265,000 votes.

"Maduro won and the people have proclaimed him," said dental technician Alicia Rodriguez, 38. "Learn to lose!" she added in reference to the opposition's stance.

The head of the electoral authority, Tibisay Lucena, shot down the opposition leader's call for a recount, saying "threats and intimidation" were not the way to appeal its decisions.

She also accused the U.S. government and Organization of American States of trying to meddle in Venezuelan affairs after they backed the idea of a vote audit.

The controversy over Venezuela's first presidential election without Chavez on the ballot in two decades raised doubts about the future of "Chavismo" - the late president's self-proclaimed socialist movement - without its towering and mercurial founder.

Chavez named Maduro as his heir in an emotional last public speech to the nation before his death, giving the former foreign minister and vice president a huge boost ahead of the vote.

But Maduro's double-digit lead in opinion polls evaporated in the final days as Capriles led an energetic campaign that mocked Maduro as a non-entity and focused voters on daily problems ranging from crime to inflation and creaking utilities.

Maduro's margin of victory raises the possibility he could face future challenges from rivals in the leftist coalition that united around Chavez, who won four presidential elections.

At his last election in October, the former soldier beat Capriles by 11 percentage points even though his battle with cancer had severely restricted his ability to campaign.

(Additional reporting by Diego Ore and Girish Gupta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and David Storey)

Title: Capriles blinked, we lose again
Post by: captainccs on April 17, 2013, 08:10:38 AM
Capriles blinked, we lose again

Capriles blinked first, we lose again. There is this incredibly naive belief that dictators can be dethroned by voting, history to the contrary. In 2002 I did a survey of the life expectancy of a number of well known dictators, from our very own Juan Vicente Gomez and including such notables as Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Franco, Oliveira Salazar, Castro, Saddam Hussein, Chapita (Rafael Trujillo) and a few others.

These were ousted or killed outright


all but one (Chapita) was done in by a foreign power. These died of natural causes:

1908-193527Juan Vicente Gomez
1924-195329Joe Stalin
1932-1968 (1970)36Antonio Oliveira Salazar
1938-197537Francisco Franco
1949-197627Mao Tse Tung
1959-? ? ?54Fidel Castro
1998-201315Hugo Chavez Frias

Based on these observation I forecast that Chavez would die of natural causes while still in power. i was spot on even if I didn't figure he'd go early victim of cancer. It's hard to tell this early if Maduro will grow into the job but so far he is playing the dictator perfectly. To stay in power you have to be ruthless and the other side has to blink, which it did.

Canceling the march “was a responsible thing to do because
you cannot win the battle when Maduro has all the guns and
tanks,” Dallen said in a phone interview from Caracas. “But
this is not the end of it at all.”

Not the end but another six years of Chavista dictatorship.


Received by eamil:

Capriles Calls Off Protest After Venezuela Threatens Crackdown
2013-04-17 03:30:01.0 GMT
By Charlie Devereux and Corina Pons

April 17 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski took a step back from the brink of a mounting confrontation with the government by calling off a march planned for today to protest the results of the April 14 presidential election.

Capriles acted after Nicolas Maduro, proclaimed the winner by the national electoral council, vowed to come down with a “firm hand” on opposition supporters and seven people died in political violence, according to the public prosecutor. Capriles urged supporters to bang pots and pans at home to avoid violence. Maduro responded by telling his followers to drown out the protest with fireworks and music.

“We know that your agenda in the government is to try to get the country into a situation of confrontation and violence,” Capriles, 40, told reporters yesterday in Caracas. “Tomorrow we won’t mobilize.”

Tensions have escalated in Venezuela after a close result in an emergency election following the death of President Hugo Chavez March 5. While Capriles’ gesture averts the likelihood of bloodshed for now, Maduro’s response points to a protracted conflict, said Gregory Weeks, head of the department of political science at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

“This eases the tension, but I don’t know for how long,” Weeks, former director of Latin American studies at the university, said in a phone interview. Maduro’s response “is in many ways a provocation.”

Dollar Bonds

Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds fell the most in almost 15 years yesterday as traders anticipated political instability will undermine the economy. Inflation accelerated to 25 percent in March, the fastest official rate in the region. The central bank’s scarcity index, which measures the amount of goods that are out of stock in the market, rose to a record high of 20.4 percent in January.

Maduro will be sworn in on April 19 even as the opposition insists irregularities affected about 300,000 votes, enough to overturn the result. Capriles said he believed he had won the election and is ready to concede defeat if a recount confirms Maduro’s victory.

Maduro said he didn’t recognize Capriles as the governor of Miranda state. Capriles, who the electoral council said took 49 percent of the votes, temporarily stepped down as governor to run for president. Maduro won the race with 50.8 percent of the votes, the council said.

“I’m going to take legal measures, because you have violated the constitution and assassinated the people,” Maduro said, referring to the opposition leader, after the march was called off.

Nationwide Protests

The nationwide protests also left 61 injured and led to the arrest of 135 people, Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said. Opposition protesters have attacked health centers and local offices of the ruling socialist party, Maduro said.

“You won’t go to downtown Caracas to fill it with blood and death,” Maduro, 50, said yesterday in comments broadcast on state television. “This is a chronicle of a coup foretold.”

Capriles, in an interview with CNN’s Spanish-language channel yesterday, said “the government wants violence. We are calling for peace.”

In 2002, Chavez was overthrown for two days after opposition street protests in Caracas turned violent. A decade earlier, Chavez became a national figure by leading military rebels in a failed coup against President Carlos Andres Perez.

Protests should die down in the coming days or weeks after the march was canceled, said Francisco Rodriguez, senior Andean economist at Bank of America Corp. Rodriguez said he thinks Capriles doesn’t have enough evidence to overturn the result.

Busted Bonds

The country’s bonds due in 2027 dropped 6.89 cents to 91.22 cents on the dollar yesterday, the biggest decline since August 1998. The yield rose 95 basis points, or 0.95 percentage point, to 10.44 percent, the highest since November.

Bonds will continue to fall as the future of Venezuela remains unclear amid the political dispute and the potential of violence remains high, said Russell Dallen, the head trader at Caracas Capital Markets.

Caracas was flooded with music, fireworks and the sound of pots and pans being banged last night for more than an hour as supporters from both sides showed loyalty to their leaders.

Chavez, who tapped the world’s biggest oil reserves to reduce poverty, left the country polarized as he nationalized more than 1,000 companies or their assets and implemented currency and price controls that created food shortages and fueled inflation.

Canceling the march “was a responsible thing to do because you cannot win the battle when Maduro has all the guns and tanks,” Dallen said in a phone interview from Caracas. “But this is not the end of it at all.” 

Title: Now Maduro Blinked
Post by: captainccs on April 20, 2013, 06:35:05 PM
Venezuela is in total confusion. After the vote Capriles asked for a recount and Maduro accepted. Then Maduro did an about face. A couple of days later Maduro accepts an audit but the CNE, the election board does not go along and wants to send the mess to the supreme court, a bunch of hand picked Chavista judges.

The opposition is banging on pots and the Chavistas are firing unending barrages of fireworks. If there is an alien civilization near by, they will pick up planet Earth by our noise. I don't have a cue how this will end.

Historically tyrannical governments that don't let go of the iron grip are very hard to remove but at any sign of weakness they can quickly cave in. I mentioned the other day that was was coming was a game of chicken but tis is ridiculous. First Maduro blinks then about turns. Then Capriles takes a hard stand but blinks when threatened with violence. Now Maduro blinks again but the CNE takes a hard stand. How can anyone make heads or tails of it?

Yesterday Miguel had this to say:

Maduro Blinks, Recount Will Take Place » Madurosilla

Despite all the bravado, all the refusal to recount and even Luisa Estela’s opinion, the CNE spent a full nine hours yesterday discussing the possible recount and magically. an hour before UNASUR was to recognize Maduro but strongly request a recount, the CNE announced that the 46% of ballot boxes would be audited.

You have to realize that the other 54% was not 100% audited and that an audit is truly a recount, as votes, machines and voting notebooks have to match in detail.

So, what happened? Simply, Maduro was forced to blink. It was not only UNASUR, but also the Venezuelan military that exerted its pressure and force the acceptance of the recount that Maduro had backtracked on. And opposition radicals can claim what they want, but 46% is statistically VERY significant. Any discrepancy, any irregularity, any inconsistency will certainly come out in this audit.

Maduro may look really bad after this recount…

What Maduro and his cronies did not realize is how sensible a recount sounds no matter how partisan you may be. Thus, internationally, Maduro accepting the recount only to “recular” (go back) the next day, looked certainly suspicious to say the least.

For Capriles, this is a win-win situation. He knows the hundreds of irregularities in the voting and his team will focus on it. Any ballot box not present, any inconsistency and those votes will be subtracted from Maduro’s lead. Add Capriles 57,000 international votes and Maduro’s lead of 270,000 could easily melt into the 100,000 lead.

And make him look even weaker.

And what do you say at that point? If all irregularities add up to something significant, the road ahead could be quite difficult.What happens if Maduro’s lead is reduced to 100 thousand or even less? Do they audit the remainder votes?

Nobody knows…

But it could get tricky as soon as next week, when the audit begins and Capriles’ team asks for international observers and the CNE refuses them. Or Tibisay says in this audit no actual ballots will be counted. The road will not be easy or simple.

But I am told the military knows what happened in detail on April 14th.Thus, Maduro blinked, but not only because of UNASUR, but because the military knew what was happening on Sunday. The Government claimed all afternoon that Maduro was ahead by as much as 10%, only to announce a small (<2%) victory at the last minute and rushing the proclamation of Maduro, and event that has always taken two or three days to take place.

And the military is divided. Yes, they have opinions, but leadership, true leadership, is nowhere to be seen on either of the two sides. Or maybe they are afraid to show their true colors.

But in the meantime, Maduro blinks and backtracks, Tibisay goes back on her words and Luisa Estela is made to look like the obeying fool everyone knows she is.

The whole thing is more volatile than most people imagine. Maduro was weak, even if he won. But his performance since has weakened him even further, while many of his comrades wonder why Hugo picked Nicolas, if they are so much better than him.

Things could change so fast, that I can’t predict a month, let alone a year. And as I had suggested before the election, politics is a new game in Venezuela. Chavez dominated politics and the agenda for fourteen years, but Capriles has lead the first political fight of the post-Chavez ear and he seems to have won resoundly.

In fact, Maduro may want to sound tough, but in reality nobody fears him, after all, Capriles and others already made him blink…

Title: Opposition, election body differ on Venezuela vote audit
Post by: captainccs on April 20, 2013, 09:38:47 PM
Opposition, election body differ on Venezuela vote audit
By Daniel Wallis and Deisy Buitrago | Reuters – 2 hrs 10 mins ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition and electoral authority expressed on Saturday widely differing expectations for an audit of the contested April 14 presidential election, a day after Nicolas Maduro was sworn in to succeed the late Hugo Chavez.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who says there were thousands of irregularities, wants a manual recount of all ballots cast in the vote, but has accepted the electoral body's decision to carry out a more limited electronic audit.

That move by the National Electoral Council's (CNE), the night before Maduro's inauguration, helped calm tensions after the government said opposition-led protests killed eight people and both sides accused the other of potting more violence.

The opposition said on Saturday that the audit, which is expected to take a month, must examine all aspects of the vote.

Official results showed Maduro winning by less than 2 percentage points in a much closer race than had been expected for the presidency of the OPEC nation with the biggest oil reserves in the world.

"This is going to be a long process ... and our people have to stay alert," Carlos Ocariz, national director of Capriles' team, told a news conference. "We want to know the truth. Once we see what happened last Sunday, a new phase can begin."

Ocariz said an opinion poll showed a majority of Venezuelans supported the call for a manual vote-by-vote recount, a more comprehensive review than the authorities agreed to conduct.

He also denounced what he said were cases of state employees being persecuted over suspicions they voted for the opposition.

Meanwhile, the CNE sought to temper the hopes of Capriles supporters that the audit will produce a different outcome.

"We will not let something that aims to verify whether the system worked be turned into a sort of public impeachment that tries to question the results," CNE rector Sandra Oblitas told reporters at the council's headquarters.

"As always, when the CNE announces results to the country, it is because they are irreversible."

The body's president, Tibisay Lucena, has also cautioned against anyone raising "false expectations" from the audit.

On Thursday, the electoral authority said it would widen to 100 percent an audit of electronic votes from a previous audit on election day that reviewed 54 percent of the machines.

Venezuelans vote electronically, but the machines also print out paper receipts of each vote that are kept in boxes. The audit involves counting the paper ballots at some stations to ensure they are consistent with the machine-tallied results.


Maduro, a burly former bus driver whom Chavez named as his preferred successor before dying from cancer last month, was sworn in on Friday at a ceremony in Caracas attended by heads of state including the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Iran.

In his first speech as president, Maduro paid homage to his late boss, and at times seemed to reach out to the opposition. "I'm ready to talk even with the devil," he said.

At other times, the 50-year-old revived his combative language from the campaign trail, condemning his rivals as fascists who wanted chaos and had tried to unseat him in a coup.

As well as welcoming high profile guests such as Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff to his inauguration, Maduro has also received the backing of South America's Unasur bloc of nations, whose leaders met in Peru the night before the ceremony.

Among the presidents who flew on to Venezuela after debating the post-election dispute was Argentina's Cristina Fernandez, who on Saturday visited the hilltop military museum in Caracas where the marble sarcophagus of her close friend and ally Chavez is on display.

"I felt a knot in my stomach and my eyes filled with tears," she said on Twitter, describing how loudspeakers in the museum played a recording of Chavez singing the national anthem.

Fernandez's vocal support for Maduro brought a sharp response from Capriles, who says Chavez frittered away Venezuelans' birthright by "gifting" oil revenue to political allies through subsidized fuel supplies and other aid.

"Has Argentina's president brought a check for the millions of dollars she owes the Venezuelan people?" he asked on Twitter.

"It is the people who funded Senora Cristina's election campaign ... To those who are visiting Venezuela and owe us, we ask you to PAY! Those resources belong to the people."

(Additional reporting by Pablo Garibian; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Paul Simao)
Title: Analysis: Rough start to post-Chavez era augurs badly for Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 21, 2013, 04:51:09 AM
Analysis: Rough start to post-Chavez era augurs badly for Venezuela
By Andrew Cawthorne | Reuters – 6 hrs ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - About the only tranquil place in Caracas over the last few days is a hilltop military museum housing the remains of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

Visitors tip-toe around his marble sarcophagus, reprimanded by guards if their voices rise above whispers.

Outside, a shell-shocked nation is still reeling both from Chavez's death from cancer last month and a week of violence and recriminations over the disputed election to succeed him.

Nightly protests - government supporters launch fireworks, opponents bang pots and bans - have been shaking the capital Caracas and most other major cities in the South American nation of 29 million people.

The beginning of Venezuela's transition into the post-Chavez era could hardly have been more raucous or controversial.

The dispute over Chavez protégé Nicolas Maduro's narrow presidential vote win led to the deaths of at least eight people.

It has also deepened the near 50-50 split in a nation polarized by Chavez's socialist policies, shown the fragility of Maduro's grip on the "Chavismo" movement, and left a raft of fast-accruing economic and social problems on the back burner.

"If we're at war among ourselves, everyone suffers," said construction worker Elias Simancas, 61, sitting on a bench in a square where police clashed with masked and rock-throwing protesters during riots after last Sunday's vote.

"We just want a country in peace," he said, expressing an oft-repeated sentiment by the less vocal but majority voices on both sides of the country's political conflict.

As well as longing for some quiet and normality after 14 years in the global spotlight under Chavez, Venezuelans also want plenty more tangible things on their street corners.

First on their wish list is an end to murders, kidnappings and violent robberies that rival the world's worst crime spots and leave many Venezuelan towns and cities eerily quiet at night.

Beyond that, most Venezuelans of all political creeds want an end to runaway price rises, shortages of basic products, power cuts, potholes, cronyism in politics, and the insulting rhetoric between politically divided neighbors and families.

"I'm sick of it. I want out. How can I bring up kids in this country?" said Manuel Pereira, a 39-year-old businessman who has seen his electronics importing company collapse due to lack of access to foreign currency under government controls.

Debating Venezuela's future with middle-class friends on Saturday morning as their children held weekend soccer training - instead of a local league match, canceled due to the unrest - he said he was going to use his Spanish roots to try and emigrate this year.


Just as during Chavez's two-year battle with cancer, his re-election last year, and his death on March 5, ideological disputes rather than grassroots issues fill the headlines and dominate government and opposition agendas.

Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles' decision to contest Maduro's election victory - by less than 2 percent, or 265,000 of nearly 15 million votes - uncorked passions and resentments built up during Chavez's rule.

The day after the election, Venezuela teetered on the edge of all-out crisis as pro-opposition hard-liners took to the streets in protests that turned violent and, according to the government, killed eight and injured many more.

Capriles publicly distanced himself from the bloodshed - blaming government instigators for the violence and accusing officials of exaggerating and exploiting the trouble - and called off a march in Caracas that may have turned violent.

The election board then agreed to audit the result, helping to take more heat out of the immediate situation.

Longer-term, the political standoff remains unresolved.

Though safely sworn-in, endorsed by his peers in South America and very unlikely to see his win overturned by the audit, Maduro cannot hide from some obvious conclusions after the vote.

Clearly he failed to replicate Chavez's popularity despite presenting himself as his devoted "son" and deploying much of the state apparatus at his service for an emotion-charged election just five weeks after Chavez's death.

Lacking the charisma and iron grip of his mentor, and with a weaker mandate at the polls, Maduro may now struggle to keep the ruling Socialist Party together given its competing interests and factions ranging from socialist ideologues to military chiefs and businessmen.

There have already been a handful of calls from within the movement for a period of soul-searching and for improving social services to win back the more than half-a-million 'Chavistas' who defected to Capriles during the election campaign.

"Let what needs correcting be corrected and what needs rectifying be rectified," said Foreign Minister Elias Jaua.

Furthermore, though Maduro condemns his opponents as "fascists" and "ultra-right," almost half of Venezuelans voted against him and question his legitimacy given opposition leaders' claims of thousands of irregularities on polling day.

Many Venezuelans are deeply frustrated that their OPEC nation is not doing better economically despite being rich in natural resources from abundant rivers for hydropower to the world's largest oil reserves.


Opposition supporters are downhearted at having come so close to the prize but just missed out.

The Democratic Unity coalition is also a disparate and fragile mix of right- and left-wing parties and competing egos.

Capriles' surprisingly strong showing - most opinion polls before the vote had left him for dead - has cemented his standing as the undisputed opposition flag bearer and reduced the probability of what many had anticipated would be an opposition implosion after a comfortable Maduro win.

But Capriles faces public vilification by Maduro, possible legal charges against him over the violence, and a potential move to debar him from the governorship of Miranda state, where he is serving a second four-year term.

"They should get rid of him and find a proper democrat to run the opposition," said Andrea Lopez, a government supporter in Caracas' largest slum, Petare, saying Capriles should be put behind bars for the week's events.

"Some of my 'Chavista' neighbors even voted for him. They were deceived by his lies. Now they have seen the wolf in sheep's clothes. If he had won, we would have lost everything," she added, listing the health, education and other welfare projects that sprung up in her neighborhood under Chavez.

With Maduro in a tricky situation and the economy slowing, Capriles will likely look to consolidate an image as Venezuela's president-in-waiting.

"This is unfolding chapter by chapter," Capriles said. "The whole system is collapsing. It is a castle built on sand."

The awkward economic backdrop adds to Maduro's challenges, especially if the gloom-and-doom predictions of most Wall Street and private analysts are to be believed.

They see economic growth slowing from 5.6 percent in 2012 to perhaps half of that or even lower this year, inflation heading for 30 percent, bottlenecks in dollar supply for businesses, and shortages of basics from flour and sugar to medicine and tampons.

"Time is on the opposition's side as the economic and likely also political dynamics may contribute to weaken the government," said Goldman Sachs analyst Alberto Ramos.

He predicts just 2.2 percent growth in 2013 and a minimum 25-percent currency devaluation in 2014 or earlier.

Balancing that, economic naysayers have exaggerated Venezuela's economic woes in the past, and the billions keep pouring in from the nation's oil production.

All the signs so far are that Maduro will stay faithful to Chavez's economic policies, including costly fiscal strategies to maintain and expand the social welfare "missions" that were the cornerstone of his late boss's popularity.

In the immediate aftermath of Chavez's death, Maduro, a burly former bus driver who became foreign minister, was seen in many quarters as an affable and experienced diplomat who could be a potential reformer and bridge-builder.

There was talk of possible free-market economic tweaking, rapprochement with the United States, dialogue with the opposition and amnesty for political prisoners.

But his need to imitate Chavez's rhetoric during the campaign, then the post-election dispute, have seen him looking every bit the hard-liner in public.

That may be exacerbated by his dependence on the support of tough-talking National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello, the country's second most powerful official, who had been seen as a candidate for the top job before Chavez gave his blessing to Maduro.

Cabello showed his teeth last week, banning opposition legislators from speaking unless they recognized Maduro's win.

"Capriles wants chaos," said Cabello, a former military comrade of Chavez who keeps strong ties with the security forces and is seen as the muscle in government behind Maduro.

"But we're not idiots! There is no weakness. We swear to defend Chavez's legacy."

(Additional reporting by Girish Gupta, Deisy Buitrago, Mario Naranjo, Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Kieran Murray and Xavier Briand)
Title: Lindsey Lohan scenario
Post by: captainccs on May 06, 2013, 12:01:15 PM
Good morning, I have attached our Report on Venezuela to this email, in which we cover the eventful first three weeks of the administration of Nicolas Maduro.  I call it the Lindsey Lohan scenario -- it's not as hot as it was (9 people were killed in election-related violence the first week), but it is still WAY out-of-control!

This weekend marks one month that my former Oppenheimer investment bank partner Johnny Pettus has been detained without bail in jail at the SEBIN secret police headquarters Heliocoide, when the government raided and closed down the Oppenheimer office in Caracas, along with simultaneously raiding Johnny's home for "illicit foreign currency trading." ( ).  I owned half the Oppenheimer investment bank franchise in Venezuela until mid-2007, when I sold my half to my then-partner Johnny.  Sadly, this may make that sale the best trade of my life.  In May of 2010, the government also raided our BBO offices in Caracas along with those of our largest competitor Econoinvest.  Though the government arrested no one from our office, 4 people from Econoinvest were held for 2 years and 7 months without ever being convicted before they were released on bail on the last day of December last year.  Their trial is still ongoing....

With that said, things continued to be Lindsey Lohan crazy in Caracas. Maduro's government arrested another American (Johnny is a US citizen as well), Tim Tracy, an actor and film-maker, and charged him as a spy.  Obama denied that this weekend, but Venezuela doubled-down on the charge.  I do not believe Tracy is a spy -- the closest he ever comes to working for the government is in an episode of the Geena Davis/Donald Sutherland series Commander-in-Chief when he plays a low-level White House administrative aide (you can watch the video here , as well as the trailer for another movie called Senseless where he plays a gay boyfriend.  Given where he is, if the government or fellow prisoners believe either of these movies is reality, these two roles are probably not helpful).

Several clients have asked me for my thoughts on the Tracy incident.  Personally, I believe that the government arrested Tracy to get his videos.  He has been filming the conflicts and student movements against Chavez and now Maduro for most of last year. He has in depth interviews with the various student leaders as well as behind-the-scenes protest and fight footage.  If they got all his video, it was a treasure trove of information for the government.  As I have noted in this weekly email before, the students are the violent wild-card in this battle with the government.

Shortly after Tracy's arrest, the Government used some of Tracy's footage to arrest Antonio Rivero, a retired General who had gone into Opposition against the government and even showed an edited version of some of Tracy's tape at the announcement following the arrest.

Then, the day before the opposing Capriles and Maduro May Day marches, 7 opposition deputies -- including a woman, beautiful svelte Opposition leader Maria Corina Machado -- were brutally attacked and beaten in the National Assembly.  The clash was a wake-up call, and march routes of the opposing camps were changed to avoid any further violence on May 1.  The Government then blamed the National Assembly attack on the Opposition lawmakers (in which no one from the government was injured, but left Machado and Borges with fractures) and made a tape to try (and badly fail) to prove it, complete with an ominous soundtrack from Call of Duty 4 (kid you not, you can Shazam it as it plays). (Government video is here  and shots from cell phones that prove the Opposition delegates were attacked here ).

That would be enough for this missive for the week, but the week was still not over. The Opposition has dispatched members around Latin America to make their case for a recount (see my email from last week or request it again if you missed it) and expose the actions of the government.  Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez led a mission to Peru, where the Peru Foreign Minister is the UNASUR spokesman on the elections in Venezuela issue.  The Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo came out and said:

“Peru is promoting that Unasur pronounce itself in asking for dialogue and tolerance in Venezuela…the second element of the Unasur declaration consists in asking that there be in Venezuela a climate of dialogue and tolerance, request that we maintain, request that I reiterate," said Roncagliolo. "It seems fundamental to us for both Venezuelans and the region that such a climate of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect can be established.”

In a knee-jerk response to that tame diplomatic statement, Maduro recalled the Venezuelan Ambassador to Peru, saying

 “You may be Peru’s Foreign Minister, but you can not give opinions about Venezuela. I do not accept that lack of respect towards the political process that Venezuela is living. I don’t accept it…But to involve yourself with Venezuela’s problems to give us advice, please, don’t," said Maduro. "You made a mistake Peruvian Foreign Minister, you have made the mistake of your life”

Then, in response to the recall of the Ambassador, the Vice President of the Congressional Foreign Affairs committee Lourdes Alcorta said that it was clear in Venezuela that there is no President, but that there is a monkey holding office who has stolen the powers of the people.  (Video here: ).

Never a dull moment in this Telenovela!

Until next week's chapter, please don't hesitate to let me know if we can be of any assistance. (PDF attached).


Received by email
Title: Venezuelan Bank Official Charged in U.S. With Two in Bribe Plot
Post by: captainccs on May 08, 2013, 06:22:49 AM
Venezuelan Bank Official Charged in U.S. With Two in Bribe Plot
Bob Van Voris and Patricia HurtadoMay 08, 2013 12:01 am ET

May 8 (Bloomberg) -- An official with Venezuela’s state- owned economic development bank directed its bond-trading business to a New York brokerage in exchange for bribes from two of its employees, U.S. prosecutors said.

Maria Gonzalez, 54, vice president of finance at Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, Tomas Alberto Clarke Bethancourt, 43, and Jose Alejandro Hurtado, 38, were charged in a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday in federal court in New York.

Prosecutors said Clarke was a senior vice president and Hurtado an employee in the Miami office of the brokerage, which was identified in a lawsuit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission as Direct Access Partners LLC, or DAP.

“These latest charges certainly highlight the widespread corruption throughout the Venezuelan government and the immense sums of money available with no Venezuelan oversight,” Russ Dallen, head bond trader at Caracas Capital Markets, said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said that the three defendants engaged in a conspiracy to pay bribes to Gonzalez in exchange for her directing the bank’s financial trading business to DAP. All three were arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on May 3 and presented in federal court in Miami on May 6.


The SEC said Hurtado, who lives in Miami, was the intermediary between DAP and Gonzalez. The Venezuelan government has a majority ownership interest in the bank, known as BANDES, and provided it with substantial funding, according to the SEC.

Henry Bell, a lawyer for Clarke, had no comment on the charges. Frank Rubino, who represents Hurtado, and Jane Moscowitz, a lawyer for Gonzalez, didn’t immediately return phone messages yesterday seeking comment on the allegations.

Phone calls to DAP’s offices yesterday after regular business hours weren’t answered.

From April 2009 through June 2010, Clarke, Hurtado and Gonzalez participated in a conspiracy in which Gonzalez directed trading business which she controlled to DAP and in return, agents and employees of the broker-dealer split the more than $60 million in mark-ups and mark-downs from trading with BANDES, the U.S. alleged.

Split Commissions

Clarke and Hurtado allegedly devised a scheme with Gonzalez to split commissions which BANDES paid the broker-dealer, and the government said Gonzalez received monthly kickbacks from DAP and its employees which prosecutors said “were frequently in the six-figure amounts.”

Gonzalez, who was in charge of overseas trading for BANDES, made at least $3.6 million in kickbacks from the scheme according to prosecutors. In exchange, Gonzalez allegedly directed bank business to DAP. Hurtado and his wife made millions from DAP in salary, bonuses and finder’s fees in connection with the BANDES business, prosecutors said. Millions more went to a foreign entity controlled by Clarke, which then transferred some of the money to a Swiss account for Gonzalez’s benefit, according to the government.

In addition to generating money on mark-ups and mark-downs, Clarke caused DAP in January 2010 buy and sell the same bonds for BANDES on the same day.

“The result of such trades was that BANDES was left with the same bond holdings as before the trades, except that it had paid the broker-dealer approximately $10.5 million in mark-ups in the course of the two round-trip transactions,” the U.S. government said in its complaint.

Wife, Relative

The SEC’s lawsuit against Clarke and Hurtado includes as defendants Haydee Leticia Pabon, 33, who is Hurtado’s wife, and Iuri Rodolfo Bethancourt, 40, a resident of Panama. According to the SEC, Clarke and Bethancourt are “apparent relatives.”

Bharara’s office yesterday filed a civil forfeiture lawsuit seeking control of bank accounts used in the alleged scheme and Miami-area properties that Hurtado allegedly bought with his proceeds.

“The defendants’ arrests lay bare a web of bribery and corruption in which employees of a U.S. broker-dealer allegedly generated tens of millions of dollars through transactions in order to fund kickbacks to a Venezuelan government official in exchange for her directing the Venezuelan economic development bank’s financial trading business to their employer,” Bharara said yesterday in a statement. “The defendants also engaged in international money laundering to carry out their corrupt scheme.”


A BANDES press official, who declined to be identified because of bank policy, declined to comment on the charges. An official in Venezuela’s finance ministry, who declined to be identified because of ministry policy, also declined to comment. A representative of the Information Ministry, who couldn’t be identified because of ministry policy, declined to comment.

Gonzalez is charged with conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, violation of the Travel Act, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy. Clarke and Hurtado are each charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, violation of the FCPA, Conspiracy to violate the Travel Act, violation of the Travel Act, money laundering and money laundering conspiracy.

The money laundering and money laundering conspiracy charges carry maximum prison terms of 20 years.

The case is U.S. v. Clarke, 13-mag-00683, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Bethancourt, 13- cv-03074, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.

--With assistance from Nathan Crooks in Caracas and Joshua Gallu in Washington. Editors: Michael Hytha, Peter Blumberg

Title: Opposition Challenges Results In Over Five Thousand Ballot Boxes
Post by: captainccs on May 08, 2013, 09:47:14 AM
Opposition Challenges Results In Over Five Thousand Ballot Boxes
May 8, 2013

As you may have noticed, I have been traveling the last few days. But my friends keep me informed by sending all sorts of information which I read and file, but was not thinking of posting. Then yesterday I got the note on the second challenge to the April 14th. vote and thought I would mention it.
The opposition is challenging the results in 5,720 tables or boxes, which comprise 21,562 tallies. Each table challenged includes some form of irregularity which is documented in the challenge. The opposition is requesting that the vote be redone in all these, which comprises of 2.3 million votes.
Separately, the fingerprint analysis shows a large number of inconsistencies. But the most significant one is that 20% of he voters had no fingerprint on file, including over four hundred thousand new voters, all of which were supposed to have their prints on file.
This challenge to the election votes is separate from the first one, which was based on irregularities associated with violations of the electoral laws,such as assisted voting, propaganda and abuses, not with the details of the voting process and the results. Both include recusing those magistrates that have expressed an opinion on the case or are related to Government officials.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on May 08, 2013, 03:16:45 PM

Any chance of this getting some traction?
Title: ¿Traction?
Post by: captainccs on May 08, 2013, 03:41:07 PM
Crafty Dog:

I don't know. The fact that the opposition is still at it and has not run for Costa Rica or some other safe haven like the previous opposition leaders did is a good sign. They need the backing of international bodies.

Time will tell.
Title: WSJ: Why Venezuela offers Snowden asylyum
Post by: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2013, 07:58:56 AM
Why Venezuela Offers Asylum to Snowden
President Nicólas Maduro sends a message of his loyalty to Iran.


Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor wanted for leaking sensitive national intelligence, is a victim of "persecution" by "the world's most powerful empire," Venezuelan President Nicólas Maduro said on Friday.

Mr. Maduro offered asylum to the fugitive, who was running out of prospects. Nicaragua and Bolivia have chimed in with similar offers. What plans are afoot to spirit Mr. Snowden from his Moscow airport sanctuary—assuming he accepts refuge in Latin America—are of course secret.

(L to R) presidents of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro; from Argentina, Cristina Fernández; from Bolivia, Evo Morales, and from Ecuador, Rafael Correa.

Mr. Maduro would have us believe that his gesture is a demonstration of Venezuela's commitment to free speech and its fierce opposition to withholding information from the public. He also wants the world to know that he disapproves of secret government intelligence-gathering operations. Funny that.

Venezuela has expressed no such righteous indignation about information suppression by allies. Take Argentina, which has recently refused to allow its special prosecutor Alberto Nisman to travel to Washington and brief a U.S. congressional committee about intelligence collected on Iranian and Hezbollah terror cells in the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Nisman's 500-page report on the subject is public but in a July 1 letter to the U.S. Congress he said that by order of the Argentine attorney general he has been "denied the authorization to testify before the honorable parliament."

Mr. Maduro's lack of concern about Argentina's information suppression deserves attention.

His offer of refuge to Mr. Snowden is most easily explained as an attempt to distract Venezuelans from the increasingly difficult daily economic grind and get them to rally around the flag by putting a thumb in Uncle Sam's eye. Yet there is something else.

Venezuela has reason to fear increasing irrelevance as North America becomes more energy independent. This makes Iran crucial. Mr. Maduro may be trying to establish himself as a leader as committed to the anti-American cause as was his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, who had a strong personal bond with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He also needs to establish his own place in South American politics.

Reaching out to Mr. Snowden is a way to send a message to the world that notwithstanding Secretary of State John Kerry's feeble attempt at rapprochement with Caracas last month, post-Chávez Venezuela has no intention of changing the course of the Bolivarian revolution. Rather, as the economy of the once-wealthy oil nation deteriorates, Mr. Maduro is signaling that Venezuela wants to become an even more loyal geopolitical ally and strategic partner of Russia and Iran.

Mr. Maduro's presidency is still viewed as illegitimate by roughly half of the Venezuelan electorate, who voted for challenger Henrique Capriles in April. The official rate of the currency known as the "strong bolívar" is 6.3 to the dollar. But a shortage of greenbacks has forced importers into the black market where the currency trades at somewhere between 31 and 37. There are price controls on just about everything, producing shortages of food and medicine. Even so, inflation is now hovering at around 35%, which means that some vendors are skirting government mandates.

In a free society with competitive elections, economic chaos generally prompts a government response designed to mitigate hardship. Venezuela needs liberalization. But that would threaten the profits of the military, which is largely running the country. When the nation ran out of toilet paper in the spring, it was the perfect metaphor for the failed state. But Mr. Maduro's foreign minister, Elias Jaua, responded by scolding Venezuelans for materialism, asking, "Do you want a fatherland or toilet paper?"

If the government is saying that it doesn't give a damn about the economic death spiral, this is because it believes it has the nation in a head lock. State control of information—by a president who has now become the world's foremost defender of Mr. Snowden—is almost complete. The last large independent cable television station was finally sold in April and the independent print media market is shrinking.

Another tool of repression, which Mr. Snowden supposedly abhors, is the ability to spy on citizens. Chávez had no compunction about recording the conversations of adversaries, and the practice continues under Mr. Maduro. Competing factions inside the government may even be getting into the act. Two recent high-profile cases—one involving a well-known government insider alleging crimes by members of the government in a conversation with the Cuban military, and another targeting an opposition politician—have increased the feeling among citizens that there is no such thing as a private conversation.

Yet even a government that locks down the press and spies on its own citizens without answering for it needs allies. No nation can survive in full isolation, especially when its economic power collapses.

Latin despots get this. Argentina is depositing goodwill in its account with Iran by blocking Alberto Nisman's trip to Washington. Venezuela, by offering refuge to Edward Snowden, is undoubtedly making a similar offering to the enemies of its enemies.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on August 19, 2013, 10:09:51 AM
Just as the Soviet Union suffered something like 75 years of “bad weather” on its farms following the revolution, much the same is happening in tropical Venezuela:

    U.S. Rice Farmers Cash in on Venezuelan Socialism: U.S. Exporters Benefit as Production Falls in Latin American Country

    STUTTGART, Ark.—Steve Orlicek, a rice farmer here, is living the American dream. He owns a thriving business; he vacations in the Bahamas.

    His good fortune springs from many roots, including an unlikely one: He is a prime beneficiary of the socialist economic policies of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s late president and critic of what he called U.S. “imperialism.”

    It is a paradoxical legacy of Mr. Chávez’s self-styled socialist revolution that his policies became a moneymaker for the capitalist systems he deplored. During his 14 years in power, he nationalized large farms, redistributed land and controlled food prices as part of a strategy to help the poor. But these policies turned Venezuela from a net exporter to a net importer of rice—from farmers like Mr. Orlicek. “The rice industry has been very good to us,” Mr. Orlicek said, sitting in his newly renovated home, appointed with a baby grand piano played by his wife, Phyllis.

    It isn’t just rice. Production of steel, sugar and many other goods has fallen in Venezuela, leading to occasional shortages. Until recently, Venezuela was largely self-sufficient in beef and coffee. Now it imports both.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on August 19, 2013, 10:36:57 AM
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”-Robert A. Heinlein

Just as the Soviet Union suffered something like 75 years of “bad weather” on its farms following the revolution, much the same is happening in tropical Venezuela:

    U.S. Rice Farmers Cash in on Venezuelan Socialism: U.S. Exporters Benefit as Production Falls in Latin American Country

    STUTTGART, Ark.—Steve Orlicek, a rice farmer here, is living the American dream. He owns a thriving business; he vacations in the Bahamas.

    His good fortune springs from many roots, including an unlikely one: He is a prime beneficiary of the socialist economic policies of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s late president and critic of what he called U.S. “imperialism.”

    It is a paradoxical legacy of Mr. Chávez’s self-styled socialist revolution that his policies became a moneymaker for the capitalist systems he deplored. During his 14 years in power, he nationalized large farms, redistributed land and controlled food prices as part of a strategy to help the poor. But these policies turned Venezuela from a net exporter to a net importer of rice—from farmers like Mr. Orlicek. “The rice industry has been very good to us,” Mr. Orlicek said, sitting in his newly renovated home, appointed with a baby grand piano played by his wife, Phyllis.

    It isn’t just rice. Production of steel, sugar and many other goods has fallen in Venezuela, leading to occasional shortages. Until recently, Venezuela was largely self-sufficient in beef and coffee. Now it imports both.
Title: WSJ: Venezuela inflation
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 26, 2013, 05:54:14 AM
Hyperinflation and political witch hunts seem to go together. Just ask the Venezuelan opposition.

With the bolivarcollapsing and prices spiraling higher, the government alleged this month that its No. 1 adversary, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, is linked to a prostitution ring that was using minors in the state of Miranda, where he is governor.

Lest that not be enough to turn Venezuela's socially conservative working-classes against the popular Mr. Capriles, a leading congressman from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) used gutter talk on the floor of the national assembly to accuse the governor of homosexuality.
Related Video

Does the collapsing “bolivar fuerte” really make opposition politicians more sinful? Photo: Associated Press

Don't suppose for a minute that this mudslinging is merely about destroying Mr. Capriles. The ruling chavistas, led by President Nicolás Maduro, need a circus because there is no bread—and that's not a metaphor. At times in Venezuela, there really is no bread. Earlier this year there was, for a time, no toilet paper. Mr. Maduro knows he is in trouble.

The "proof" of the allegations against Mr. Capriles's chief of staff, who is accused of running the sex ring, cannot be shown to the public, according to Mr. Maduro. He says that the "videos and photos" that the government confiscated in a raid are of "un-publishable orgies." Venezuelans will have to use their imaginations while trusting the courts—now controlled by the military government—and the government itself to get to the bottom of it all. Developments will be reported on television, which is almost exclusively state-controlled and where most Venezuelans get their news.

Mr. Capriles has said that the allegations are an attempt to distract the population from the real problems in the country. The charges are certainly well timed. An official 46% devaluation in April took the bolivar-to-dollar exchange rate to 6.3 from 4.3. Those who actually need dollars are unlikely to get them at that rate. Instead they have to go to the black market, where one greenback costs as much as 38 bolivars, up from 22 in March.

The government forecasts that inflation will hit 40% this year. But Johns Hopkins University economist Steve Hanke, director of the Cato Institute's Troubled Currency Project, says that the soaring cost for the bolivarin the market translates into an implied annual inflation rate of more than 250%.

Earlier this month Caracas-based economist José Manuel Puente described the perfect storm to the Los Angeles Times this way: "The slowdown in economic growth, high and persistent inflation and high levels of scarcities [of basic foodstuffs] will combine to make Venezuela's the worst-performing economy on the continent, despite the extraordinary oil boom that the country is still benefiting from."

Enlarge Image
European Pressphoto Agency

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro

A mid-July survey by the Venezuelan polling company IVAD, posted on the website, suggests Mr. Maduro is having no luck dodging the blame like his predecessor Hugo Chávez did so deftly. Asked what are the principal problems facing the country, almost 82% of respondents named crime. More than 53% also pointed to shortages. The scarcity is caused by the price controls that the government is using to try to hold down inflation. Those controls could explain why only 31% named "the high cost of living."

But more than 65% said the economic situation was worse or much worse than one year ago, and more than half blamed either the national government or Mr. Maduro for the country's problems.

Because the allegations against Mr. Capriles by the PSUV included a pejorative term for a homosexual, gay-rights groups took offense. But Venezuela's homosexuals needn't feel special. Hate speech as a political tool has been common practice in Venezuela's military government for more than a decade. Catholics, Jews, entrepreneurs and the bourgeoisie have all been on the receiving end.

Mr. Maduro, coached as he is by Fidel Castro, immediately recognized that gay rights are a priority for many members of the international left. So in the aftermath of the impolitic comments by his colleague in Congress, he quickly seized a gay-pride flag to wave while he continued his verbal assaults against Mr. Capriles.

Political nonconformists regularly singled out by chavista politicians for ridicule and acrimony won't get off so easily. This week Mr. Maduro is expected to try again to force through congress an "enabling law" that will allow him to rule by decree.

Opposition Congressman Richard Mardo has already been stripped of his congressional immunity and is slated for trial on corruption charges. Other opponents are being investigated. The Venezuelan daily El Nacional reported this month that more than one third of congressional sessions in the first half of the year were spent "harassing the opposition," including with physical violence.

The goal is to drum up mass hysteria against opponents. Apparently Mr. Maduro has decided that if inflation cannot be contained, Mr. Capriles and his allies will be
Title: Venezuela Expels Top US Diplomat, 2 Others
Post by: captainccs on October 01, 2013, 03:42:43 AM
Maduro went to China hoping to get a $5 billion loan but returned empty handed. At home things continue to deteriorate, recently we have had various blackouts, the dollar is sky high, over the last few months we have had the highest inflation rate I remember. The outcome is the expected one, blame the empire! What an asshole!

(VIDEO) Venezuela Expels Top US Diplomat, 2 Others (VIDEO)
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro says they were meeting with the country's "right wing" saying “Out of Venezuela! Yankee, go home! Enough with the abuse!”

CARACAS - Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced the expulsion of 3 US diplomats during a live speech to Venezuela soldiers commemorating 200 years since the day when Atanasio Girardot died fighting for Venezuela's independence.


Maduro asked Foreign Minister Elias Jaua to expel the 3 US diplomats, giving them 48 hours to leave the country.

Maduro accused the 3 US diplomats of meeting with the country's "right wing" to plan economic and electricital system sabotage.

“We have sufficient evidence collected of the hostile, illegal and interventionist attitude of the officials,” Maduro said. “Out of Venezuela. Yankee, go home! Enough with the abuse.”

He did not provide any evidence but identified the diplomats as Kelly Keiderling, who is the charge d'affaires and the top US diplomat in the country, Elizabeth Hunderland and David Mutt. The U.S. Embassy says it has not yet been officially informed of the expulsions.

Keiderling has been the US Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires since July 2011. She joined the State Department in 1988 and has had a long and varied list of appointments, including in Ethiopia, Zambia, Botswana, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Back in Washington, she has served as Senior Panama Desk Officer in the Office of Central American Affairs, Public Diplomacy Desk Officer for the Caribbean, Acting Deputy Director of Central American Affairs, and Chief of Staff of the Iraq Office.

Venezuela has been plagued by electricity shortages as well as shortages of water and basic foodstuffs despite having the largest known oil reserves in the world.

Venezuela-watchers point out that Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez, who died in March, often blame the US "imperialist gringos" for the country's problems, despite being in power for over 15 years.

On that theme, the leader of the Opposition, Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, tweeted that "Nobody believes the alerts from Miraflores. Pure smoke to cover that he cannot run the country! Maduro has no plan for the country and does not know how to solve the problems facing our people!"

Capriles narrowly lost a controversial and disputed special election to Maduro in April in the wake of the death of Chavez.

The last time Venezuela expelled U.S. diplomats was on March 5, when it ejected two military attaches on similar allegations. That move came several hours before Maduro announced that longtime President Hugo Chavez had died of cancer.

Despite the fact that the US is the largest customer for Venezuela oil and Venezuela is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the US, the two countries have not had ambassadors in each others countries since former Venezuela President Hugo Chavez expelled US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in 2008 in "solidarity with Bolivia" and failed to approve his nominated successor in 2010.

The US reciprocated by expelling Venezuela Ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez after Chavez publicly said that Venezuela would reject the newly designated US Ambassador Larry Palmer in late December 2010.

“I don’t care what actions Barack Obama’s government may take," Maduro told the soldiers today. "We’re not going to allow an imperial government to bring money and see how they shut down the basic industries, how they turn off electricity to black out all Venezuela. What is that?”

Maduro called on national soldiers and all those who feel proud of belonging to the fatherland set free by Simon Bolivar to "continue hoisting the flag of independence, revolution and socialism."

"I'm so proud of having the homeland we have, we should be so proud of feeling and being Venezuelans and continue raising the flag of independence here," Maduro said.

"An independent Venezuela endured difficulties, betrayal, defeats, painful losses as that of Atanasio Girardot, setbacks, hesitation, but its flag was always raised, there was someone to raise it and feel proud of it," Maduro stressed. "Soldiers, we only have our life to give it to our Republic, if necessary, to keep it alive, for independence to be strengthened."

Atanasio Girardot (May 2, 1791 – September 30, 1813) was a Latin American revolutionary leader who fought beside Simón Bolívar in the Campaña Admirable and other battles. He died during the Battle of Bárbula, trying to plant the republican flag on Bárbula Hill.

Title: Venezuela: Expelling Bad and Playboy Too
Post by: captainccs on October 01, 2013, 06:15:52 AM
Received by email"

Date: October 1, 2013 8:27:12 AM GMT-04:30
Subject: Venezuela: Expelling Bad and Playboy Too
Reply-To: "RUSS DALLEN" <>

Good morning,

Well, it's October 1 and we now know how the Third Quarter of 2013 ends, how Breaking Bad ends, and how the Federal Government ends.  And after yesterday's expulsion of 3 US diplomats by Venezuela, including the top US diplomat in Caracas -- who was just a Deputy Chief of Mission, since the Ambassador had already been expelled, along with a host of others -- we now know how the Venezuela relationship with the US ends.  Last one out of the US Embassy in Caracas please turn out the lights.

The last time Venezuela expelled U.S. diplomats was on March 5, when it ejected two US military attaches. Despite the fact that the US is the largest customer for Venezuela oil and Venezuela is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the US, the two countries have not had ambassadors in each others countries since former Venezuela President Hugo Chavez expelled US Ambassador Patrick Duddy in 2008 in "solidarity with Bolivia" and then failed to approve his nominated successor in 2010.  The US reciprocated by expelling Venezuela Ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez the day after Chavez publicly said that Venezuela would reject the newly designated US Ambassador Larry Palmer in late December 2010.

We can expect that the Venezuelan charge d'affaires in Washington, Calixto Ortega, will be back in Caracas by the end of the week in the tit-for-tat strategy that the State Department has for dealing with the nettlesome Venezuelans.
And to say that the reason for the expulsions was wafer-thin is to insult wafer-makers all over the world:  Maduro said it was because they were meeting with the "right wing" and making "economic war" on Venezuela and "sabotaging the electrical grid."  He said he had evidence, but of course, did not provide any.  Straight out of the Cuban playbook, which seems to be more of a one-pager these days than an actual binder.   Sadly, this is all circus in this Bread and Circus satire, as there is not enough bread to go around as shortages and inflation continue ravaging the Venezuela economy.
Speaking of expulsions, you may remember Tim Tracy, the US film-maker/actor who got arrested, jailed and held as a US spy by Maduro back in April before being expelled in June.
I spent several hours with Tim last week, chatting about his ordeal (in Miami, not Caracas, for obvious reasons).   He is busy working on his documentary and showed me a bit of what he has so far, which was pretty interesting and which he hopes to enter into the Sundance Film Festival.  This month's Playboy has a piece on his adventure titled "Inside El Rodeo", which is one of Venezuela's most notorious prisons where he ended up. Now you have an excuse to really read it for the articles!
I have attached our latest Weekly Report on Venezuela (attached pdf), in which we cover the continuing travails of the economy, including going into further analysis of the Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro's China trip and more.
As always, please don't hesitate to let me know if we can be of any assistance. (PDF attached).


P.S. By the way, you can make sure that you get these and other Latin headlines (including the best Picture and Cartoon of the day) delivered to your email inbox FREE every morning by signing up for headlines from the Latin American Herald Tribune. Sign up here:
You can also join our 100,000 followers on Twitter to get real-time headlines: @lahtonline

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Russell M Dallen Jr
Managing Partner
Caracas Capital Markets
Title: About ExPatria
Post by: captainccs on October 01, 2013, 07:46:18 AM

Title: U.S. defends diplomats expelled from Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on October 01, 2013, 02:49:48 PM
U.S. defends diplomats expelled from Venezuela

By Brian Ellsworth and Deisy Buitrago | Reuters – 3 hrs ago

CARACAS (Reuters) - The U.S. Embassy in Venezuela on Tuesday defended three diplomats expelled by President Nicolas Maduro, rejecting charges they were involved in espionage and accusations Washington is trying to destabilize the OPEC nation.

In the latest spat between the ideological foes, Maduro on Monday ordered out three U.S. diplomats including Kelly Keiderling, temporarily in charge of the mission.

He alleged they had been meeting with "right wing" opposition leaders and encouraging acts of sabotage against the South American nation's electricity grid and economy.

The expulsions throw a wrench into cautious efforts this year to restore full diplomatic ties that were frayed for most of the 14-year rule of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

The U.S. government was evaluating its response and may take reciprocal action in accordance with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, a statement from the embassy said.

"We completely reject the Venezuelan government's allegations of U.S. government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government," it added.

"We likewise reject the specific claims against the three members of our embassy."

In an address to the nation, Maduro repeated his accusations on Tuesday, saying the three Americans had been handing over money and stirring up plots in southeastern Bolivar state.

"You can see the hand of the gringo conspiracy ... they talk of a Benghazi," Maduro said, referring to the cradle of revolt against late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Maduro showed a video of the three in a special TV broadcast all local channels were obliged to show live.

To a backdrop of dramatic music, the video showed images of diplomatic vehicles, a flight manifest and the three diplomats entering and departing what appeared to be offices of pro-opposition groups in Bolivar.

"Until the U.S. government understands it has to respect Venezuela as a sovereign nation, quite simply there will be no cordial relations, nor cordial communications," Maduro said.

The U.S. Embassy statement said the diplomats were in Bolivar state on entirely "normal" business.

"We maintain regular contacts across the Venezuelan political spectrum," it said.

"This is what diplomats do. Venezuelan diplomats in the United States similarly meet with a broad range of representatives of our society."

Maduro, who is Chavez's successor and part of a Latin American leftist alliance including Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, named a new acting head of Venezuela's U.S. diplomatic mission shortly after his April election.

Many took that as a sign of warming relations.

That official may now face expulsion in the tit-for-tat style retaliation that has characterized similar incidents in the past.

Chavez in 2008 expelled Ambassador Patrick Duddy over what he called Washington's involvement in violent protests in Bolivia. In 2010, he blocked the nomination of diplomat Larry Palmer over comments that there were "clear ties" between members of Chavez's government and leftist Colombian rebels.

Venezuela's opposition says Maduro is continuing a Chavez-era tactic of inflating and inventing diplomatic crises to distract attention from economic and social problems affecting the nation's 29 million people.

(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Cynthia Osterman)

Title: Maduro repeals law of gravity
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 15, 2013, 06:50:18 PM


At a time of furious rhetoric surrounding the "economic war" in Venezuela, the government has demonstrated its willingness to upset the public order. According to reports, Venezuelan officials arrested dozens of people accused of economic speculation in an economic crackdown targeting retail stores across the country. Security officials have inspected 1,400 stores over the past week, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Nov. 14 that 100 people have been arrested in the process. Reports are conflicting and suggest that some of those in custody may be accused of looting. At least 50 in custody are accused of speculation and usury, according to Miguel Rodriguez Torres, the minister of interior relations, justice and peace. Maduro recognizes the dangers of the current course but has decided to forge ahead to show that he is in control.

The Venezuelan government has tried before to rein in prices, but this is by far the most invasive effort, particularly if the reports of arrests are true. Former President Hugo Chavez implemented a system of indexation to control prices on a range of goods early in his administration. More recently, in 2011 Chavez established the Superintendency of Costs and Prices in an attempt to control prices all along the supply chain. Despite these efforts, prices have continued to rise and scarcities of basic goods are a constant reality for Venezuelans. On its current trajectory, inflation will reach 50-60 percent by the end of the year, up from an average annual rate of 30 percent in previous years.

Security forces have been used periodically to enforce price controls, but the ongoing crackdown is unprecedented. Some storeowners have refused to open their stores, according to local news reports, and others are lowering prices pre-emptively to avoid government sanctions. In at least one case, an entire electronics store was looted under the supervision of the National Guard. According to one local nongovernmental organization, there were 39 attempted lootings between Nov. 9 and Nov. 12, nine of which were successful.

Venezuelan Government Seizes Electronics Stores

Maduro's long-term goal in this process is to force retailers to adhere to a new policy of establishing profit margins of 15-30 percent. The government-proposed formula will take into account a range of factors, including whether retailers are importing goods based on the official exchange rate of 6.3 bolivars to the dollar or whether they are using the black market, which has reached more than 60 bolivars to the dollar. The new calculations would theoretically also take into account other costs, including taxes and overhead, to try to ensure a fair profit margin while reining in inflation.

However, it is very unlikely that the government will be able to implement an effective system of price controls in every retail sector in the country. If nothing else, the new system will create a range of opportunities for graft and speculation and will push goods onto the black market.

At the same time that the government is cracking down on retailers, the National Commission on Telecommunications has opened investigations into Internet service providers hosting websites providing information on the black market currency trading rate. The government is accusing the websites -- which include Dolar Today, TuCadivi and Lechuga Verde, among others -- of disrupting the peace and tranquility of the Venezuelan public.

Controlling information about the black market could help control the plummeting exchange, but it, too, is highly unlikely to succeed. Despite Venezuela's large volume of oil exports, the country is experiencing a serious cash crunch, and central bank reserves have fallen to $21 billion. Independent estimates put just over $1 billion of that in cash and the rest in gold.

There is no question that Venezuela has seen many instances of price speculation and corruption that have affected prices of goods or exploited the distorted currency markets for profit. However, the government's ability to determine which retailers are exploiting the system and which are scraping by is suspect, and there is a real danger that this crackdown will put many out of business, potentially worsening the country's scarcity problems. Even more concerning is the precedent of government-supported looting of stores that are thought to be gouging prices. The situation could spin out of control quickly.

Maduro realizes the risks of the current approach. The crackdown, as well as efforts to pass the enabling law, seems to be his attempt to prove that he is in control. Maduro faces a divided political base and is struggling to gain the respect and standing of his predecessor. He and his allies appear to have chosen to push forward with the economic policies of Chavez's Bolivarian Revolution.

Read more: Venezuela: Maduro's Gamble to Fight Inflation | Stratfor

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on November 18, 2013, 11:14:30 AM
Maduro hasn't a chance of curbing inflation just as all the presidents who predated him since the oil embargo didn't. If you get a huge amount of money from oil and you give it to people to spend but curb production in the name of ideology or other failed economic policy you get too much money chasing too few good, the perfect recipe for inflation.

Maduro's new policy of clamping down on retailers is nothing new. I was an Apple reseller when Black Friday hit in 1983 when all this mess started, or when the mess got out of hand. I was forced to sell my old inventory at old prices. I could charge
Bs. 10,000 for an Apple II but the new ones cost me Bs.14,000. Quite simply the government stole my working capital and my business went broke. What Maduro is doing in 2013 was already done in 1983 (30 years and they learned nothing).

Denny Schlesinger

Viernes Negro (Venezuela)
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on November 18, 2013, 11:43:22 AM
Hugo Obama has us not far behind you...
Title: Iran, Russia, Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on November 24, 2013, 08:47:58 PM
Check out the comments from about 02:00 until the end:
Title: WSJ: Things getting ugly in Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 17, 2014, 04:36:02 AM

Updated Feb. 16, 2014 9:18 p.m. ET

It's getting ugly in Venezuela. Three people were killed in anti-government protests on the streets of Caracas on Wednesday. The killers haven't been identified, but Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro is using the deaths to justify a government crackdown on growing civic unrest directed at his leadership and a deteriorating economy.

Mr. Maduro was Hugo Chávez's hand-picked successor, and one of Chávez's Cuban-influenced legacies was politicizing the armed forces and the police and developing an informal militia that still roams cities and towns on motorcycles to intimidate political opponents. Today, Caracas is one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

Chávez also strangled independent television and radio outlets. On Wednesday the government blocked the signal of NTN television based in Bogota, Colombia. The only independent media left are newspapers, but the central bank won't sell them the dollars they need to import newsprint and they too are trying to survive.

The Venezuelan economy is in a downward spiral. The central bank admits an annual inflation rate of 56%, though it's probably much higher, and there is a shortage of foreign exchange. The bank's "scarcity index" reports that 28% of basic food stuffs are unavailable. Hospitals are running out of medicines and supplies and can't get dollars to import more. Inventories of car batteries and spare parts are run down and cannot be replenished. Last week Toyota 7203.TO -0.34% and General Motors GM +2.13% announced they would shutter assembly plants indefinitely, because without dollars they can't import manufacturing components. An estimated 12,000 jobs are affected.

In November, using a simple majority in the national assembly, Mr. Maduro won the power to rule by decree for a year. Now his hand is getting heavier. On Wednesday he blasted the organizers of anti-government protests as "coup-plotters." He also announced a prohibition on street demonstrations, closing down the last public space for dissent. Arrest warrants went out for at least two Maduro adversaries.

The opposition has vowed it won't surrender its right to gather in public spaces. The big question now is whether all the armed forces would follow a Maduro order to move against a big anti-government protest. Some likely would. Venezuela is also thick with Cuban intelligence operatives who trained the armed and dangerous militia. They are now calling the shots in Caracas as much as Mr. Maduro is, and the latest unrest is becoming another excuse to increase repression.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on February 17, 2014, 05:01:48 AM
The killers haven't been identified,

Yes, they have. they were recorded on amateur video tape.



While Government Tries To Blame Lopez For Deaths, Paper Shows Otherwise
February 16, 2014

Ever since last Wednesday’s student March which left two dead, the Government has tried to say that former Presidential candidate Leopoldo Lopez and Congresswoman Maria Corina Machado, who led the protest, were responsible for the the deaths right after the demonstration ended. But, usually pro-Government paper Ultimas Noticias, has done an extraordinary investigation of videos and pictures and what it has found is a carefully orchestrated withdrawal of the police, which were replaced by Intelligence police officers and plainclothesmen, who were wearing and used guns against running students.Having guns near a demonstration is illegal, Government officers murdering people at a demonstration is a crime against humanity by them and their superiors.

What this investigation shows is the power of the smartphone, as the evidence came mostly from amateur tapings (note that one of them, the person making the video is hiding under a car)

Here is the text and the video

and here is a summary of the text for those that do not speak Spanish. I recommend watching the video (at the end) after reading the text:

“It was at 3:13 PM when Bassil Alejandro Dacosta fell. The line of fire was in the hands of individuals identified with unirforms, plates and vehicles of the Bolivarain Intelligence Service (Sebin) accompanied by others dressed as civilians. They had taken over between the Tracabordo and the Ferrenquin corners of La Candelaria, after the Bolivarain National Police withdrew its troops

Here is the reconstruction: A group of students tries to go up from Monroy to Tracabordo. The march was over. Those left were screaming at police. They advanced towards a Sebin motorcycle, knocking it to the ground. The Sebin and civilians move forward and start shooting pistols rifles. The students withdraw. Others, among which was Bassil Dacosta, cross to a lateral street. It is not clear why they decide to trun around 12 seconds later, they cross the line of fire. Dacosta falls. At no point does the shooting stop.

Dacosta is the next to last of  a line of students that crosses trying to escape the bullets. His buddies pick him up and carry him away”

Witneeses say the corner ahd been taken over by men and women in motorcycles, like “those you see in TV”. All dressed as civilains. Some with helmets and t-shirts. Some with their faces covered. They were shooting at the protesters in the Monroy corner. “They would shoot with their arms out and then hide”. In the wall of a City office there are at least 10 tarces of bullet impacts.

The civilians talked to the Sebin officers and withdrew. Sebin officers occupied their places.

At the head of the group came a  Kawasaki Versys 1000 motorcycle with another large guy with kaki shirt and jeans with a short wave radio in his hand. He seems to be the leader. After Dacosta falls, he gestures towards a man in gray camouflage clothes.

At the instant of Dacosta’s death a photographic sequence shows at least seven men wielding their weapons. Five are shooting standing up, one is shooting in the air and four are shooting at the protesters. Two wear uniforms.

One of them wears a white shirt, green military pants, helmet and blck lenses, He moves in a motorcycle with official palate 2-177. The other wears a long sleeved black shirt, jeans and black shows. No helmet or glasses. The civialisn were acting in coordination with those in uniform.

One of the shooters picks up the motorcycle overthrown by the students. Two pick up the shells from the bullets, they get on their motorcycles and leave.

Questions: Maduro said those responsible had been identified, a day later the scientific police was still studying the scene?

Why did the National withdraw from the scene?

Why were weapons used to repress the protest?

Why were there civilians with uniformed Sebin officers repressing the march?

From the video: Why did the motorcycles easily cross between the students and the police?

Why did the guy jump over the police only to be seen shooting later?”

Here is the video:

Here are a few pictures of the guy in white from three different angles, one of them while shooting:

Meanwhile the investigative police last night went to Leopoldo Lopez’ parents’ home and his home reportedly to arrest him, in part for being responsible for the death of Dacosta. . He was not there. Maduro called him a coward for not turning himself in.

Tonight Lopez distributes this video, upping the ante in these protests calling for a march to the Prosecutors office to demand a number of things and to turn himself in for crimes he has not committed. He is asking everyone to wear white, as a sign that this is a peaceful movement.

For the Government this represents a quandary. Jailing Lopez will only ignite things even more, but it was Maduro who accused him of crimes, nobody knows specifically which ones. Will the Prosecutor obey Maduro and jail Lopez? Will a Judge sign the order to capture him?

Can the Prosecutor accuse Lopez while Ultimas Noticias has shown clear evidence that it was police and civilians in official motorcyles who were shooting at that instant at the students. Will they go after those responsible for Dacostas’s death?

It is certainly an interesting week to be here.

Note added at 9:21 PM Sunday Feb. 16th. : This work is having an effect, President Maduro said tonight on nationwide TV that he had order all Sebin officers to stay at their barracks!!!
Title: Una voz por Venezuela ante Associated Press
Post by: captainccs on February 17, 2014, 06:35:26 AM
Una voz por Venezuela ante Associated Press

Title: Censorship vs. Social Media
Post by: captainccs on February 18, 2014, 07:35:24 AM
The press is heavily censored in Venezuela and the only way to get the real news is through social media like Twitter. Here is a sampler of the popular protest ongoing at this time that will not be reported by the press (pictures):

Protesta de estudiante en este momento frente en la defensoria del pueblo (

Intentan Impedirnos el paso señores (

Aaahh. Pa esto si hay funcionarios a patadas Pero para el Hampa NO. (

Fuerte despliegue de la GNB y PNB en Chacaíto (Fotos) (

9:41 am. Sigue llegando gente a la Plaza Brion de Chacaito a pesar del piquete de la PNB (

9:02 am La ballena y equipos Antimotin ya están en chacaito, dicen no permitirán la concentración (

Denny Schlesinger

Title: It's all about the Benjamins.
Post by: captainccs on February 18, 2014, 07:37:26 AM
Received via email:

Good morning,

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: 

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.

As always, please don't hesitate to let me know if you would like to speak further or if we can be of any assistance. The PDF of the weekly is attached, which touches on more of the these issues, or you can read it here online:

Thanks again for your continued readership and business.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on February 18, 2014, 03:06:22 PM
How do you live, invest or run a business in an annual inflation rate of 56%("probably much higher")?  At what point does it just spiral into nonsense...

Why aren't we more careful to manage our own economy when we know the consequences of mis-management are so real?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on February 18, 2014, 03:16:33 PM

"Why aren't we more careful to manage our own economy when we know the consequences of mis-management are so real?"

Who is this "we" you are speaking of?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on February 18, 2014, 03:27:58 PM
Doug wrote:
"Why aren't we more careful to manage our own economy when we know the consequences of mis-management are so real?"
GM asked:
Who is this "we" you are speaking of?
I respond:
Title: Beauty queen the latest victim in Venezuela unrest
Post by: captainccs on February 19, 2014, 04:55:30 PM
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. (

"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)

Title: In Venezuela Opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez Turns Himself In
Post by: captainccs on February 19, 2014, 05:18:38 PM
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:

[Lots of pictures in the original post:]

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.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on February 20, 2014, 08:11:04 AM
It is inspiring to see that many of the popular uprisings across the globe, Ukraine, Iran 2009-2010 and Venezuela in this case, are in a pro-freedom and anti-oppressive government direction.

Once again, wishing you the best and wishing there was something we could do to help.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on February 20, 2014, 08:35:26 AM

Send in the cavalry!    :-D
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 20, 2014, 08:41:06 AM
With our current CiC you could not be sure in who's favor they would be riding.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on February 20, 2014, 09:12:14 AM
With our current CiC you could not be sure in who's favor they would be riding.

Good point.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 21, 2014, 06:39:01 AM

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 22, 2014, 03:55:11 PM


Venezuelans gathered in the streets in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, Feb. 22, in the third major protest in 10 days. Demonstrations are ongoing in Caracas and throughout the country, including in San Cristobal, Valencia and Maracaibo. The list of grievances is long, but there is no single unifying theme behind the protests beyond a staunch rejection of the status quo in Venezuela. The country's leadership appears to be holding on, but it is showing signs of stress.


The high-velocity Venezuelan rumor mill is filled with reports that Cuban troops have arrived in the country to help manage the protests, but such rumors are sketchy at best. Several photos of Venezuelan-owned Shaanxi Y-8 aircraft with troops offloading have been published in social media. The first such image was posted Feb. 16, and the most recent may show troop movements as recently as Feb. 21. The photos show the troops carrying substantial baggage, as if prepared for a long stay. There is nothing in the photos that clearly indicates that the soldiers are Cuban as opposed to Venezuelan, but the arrival of Cubans to aid the Venezuelans would not be out of the realm of expectation. The two militaries cooperate closely, and Cuba maintains a strong interest in the stability of the Venezuelan regime.
Venezuela's Protests Could Mark a Turning Point

What is clear at this point is that though the unrest is generally loosely organized, anger is widespread and intense enough to mobilize a broad swath of Venezuelans. But in a country as polarized as Venezuela, even the continuous appearance of tens of thousands of protesters is not a clear indication of widespread loss of support. The base of voters who supported the election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in many cases have little in common with the opposition, and most have benefited in some way from the redistributive policies of the populist government. So these protests in no way prove that the government has lost control. Nonetheless, the persistence of the unrest could cause problems that cannot be dismissed.

Scarcity of basic goods is already a major challenge in Venezuela, and where protesters are disrupting traffic, delivery of essentials could be further threatened. Although acts of vandalism have been widespread, they have mostly targeted subcritical government-owned assets such as vehicles, stores and regional offices. Venezuelan protesters have not yet attempted to take over government buildings. Major infrastructure disruptions have been limited to road and highway blockages, including one on the Francisco Fajardo Highway in Caracas. Most of Venezuela's energy infrastructure is located far from the major urban centers and unlikely to be disrupted by regular protests.

Military deployments have so far been limited to San Cristobal, a city where the opposition managed to significantly disrupt commerce and transport. If the geographic spread or violence of the protests increases and the police and national guard become stretched thin, further military deployments could deemed necessary.

Still, the Venezuelan government is showing signs of stress. Maduro has blamed the U.S. government for sponsoring the protests, yet he has also called on U.S. President Barack Obama to send a high-level emissary to negotiate with the Venezuelans in order to end the crisis. Such a negotiation seems unlikely, since the United States has thus far attempted to refrain from public intervention in Venezuela's internal affairs. The Catholic Church has offered to negotiate, but there has not been a sign that it will be allowed to do so.

At this point, the crisis does not seem to have reached a critical peak, and the protests seem likely to intensify going forward. The government likely will not reach a breaking point until parts of Maduro's support base join the protests. However, the fact that essentially none of the issues that sparked the protests have been addressed indicates that Venezuela may be headed in that direction.

Read more: Venezuela: Mass Protests Continue to Intensify | Stratfor

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on February 25, 2014, 06:15:51 AM
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on February 25, 2014, 07:44:01 AM

Title: Venezuela on the brink of civil war
Post by: captainccs on March 06, 2014, 12:56:55 PM
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.

Follow @captainccs (
Title: 2 dead as Venezuelans clash at protest barricades
Post by: captainccs on March 06, 2014, 06:54:55 PM
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


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.

Title: Oliver Stone caricature by Rayma
Post by: captainccs on March 08, 2014, 09:14:24 AM
Oliver Stone caricature by Rayma


Title: Biden says Venezuela 'concocting' bogus stories
Post by: captainccs on March 09, 2014, 07:31:38 PM
Biden says Venezuela 'concocting' bogus stories
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.

Title: Protests and talks widen rifts in Venezuela opposition
Post by: captainccs on March 10, 2014, 05:30:42 AM
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)
Title: World Bank's ICSID Rejects Venezuela "Appeal" over ConocoPhillips
Post by: captainccs on March 13, 2014, 04:27:23 AM
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.
Title: To Those That Think Maduro Is Not A Dictator:
Post by: captainccs on March 15, 2014, 06:00:19 AM
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.

Denny Schlesinger

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.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on March 15, 2014, 09:33:45 AM

Didn't you used to post on the infamous Gilder Tech Board yrs ago?

Do you ever feel in danger in Venezuela?

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 15, 2014, 11:40:50 AM

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.

Life goes on.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on March 15, 2014, 02:51:07 PM
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. 
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on March 15, 2014, 04:55:00 PM
"your posts are greatly appreciated"


Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 16, 2014, 07:08:07 AM
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.

Marc, I appreciate your continued friendship.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Resolution condemning Human Rights violations in Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 16, 2014, 07:19:04 AM
I just got this email:

I just signed this petition -- will you join me?

United Nations: Issue a resolution condemning Human Rights violations in Venezuela
To: To The Office of The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms. Navanethem Pillay

The petition is really important and could use our help. Click here to find out more and sign:

Thanks so much,

The link

United Nations: Issue a resolution condemning Human Rights violations in Venezuela (

Post it to your favorite social network!

Title: The death of ‘Chavismo’ in Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on March 25, 2014, 08:36:58 PM
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.”

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on April 01, 2014, 09:50:50 PM
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on April 01, 2014, 10:00:22 PM

Andrez needs to explain to the Venezuelian people that marxism is scientific!
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 02, 2014, 11:15:24 AM
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.

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on April 02, 2014, 06:11:59 PM
Denny says,

"the tyranny in Venezuela has global roots, global backers"

Besides Sean Penn who are these global roots and backs?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: G M on April 02, 2014, 06:50:54 PM,0,1717554.story

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 03, 2014, 03:22:31 PM
Sorry for the delay in replying but I'm breaking in my new Mac and it's taking up a lot of my time. I have to buy new version of just about all my software and get used to all the changes.

Denny says,

"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?

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on April 05, 2014, 05:47:36 AM
Thanks Denny.

With regards to the New Age World Government it does seem Obama is a true believer.

Wikipedia's One World Government history:

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 05, 2014, 05:14:34 PM
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.

If you haven't already, you might want to read

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy ( by Thomas Sowell 

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 most capitalist group is not immune. The Fed is an unelected Elite of Rich Bankers. Read The Creature from Jekyll Island : A Second Look at the Federal Reserve ( by G. Edward Griffin

Or watch the video. If you want to skip the Fed part and see the New World Order part, skip to 1:30


Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on April 06, 2014, 01:09:48 AM
Health Care "policy" is all about the elites as well.
Title: Anglo American Files Suit Against Venezuela at ICSID
Post by: captainccs on April 12, 2014, 05:37:04 AM
Not the best way to attract foreign investors...

Nor the best way to improve the country...

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.

Title: We Protest In Style!
Post by: captainccs on April 19, 2014, 06:59:44 AM
We Protest In Style!

Title: Chavez's Farming Utopia Withers as Pet Projects Abandoned
Post by: captainccs on April 29, 2014, 05:35:58 AM
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.

No Water

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.

Broken Promises

"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.

Belorussian Communes

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."

Food Security

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."

To contact the reporter on this story: Anatoly Kurmanaev in Caracas at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at; Philip Sanders at Philip Sanders

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on April 29, 2014, 06:00:25 AM
"Perez said construction began without checking water availability and now a dam would have to be dug to make the project viable."

We here of government project over runs here too.  I don't know the statistics but we here all the time of defense cost "overruns" on basically every single project.

Stadiums always cost more to build then "projected".  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.  Or they borrow money privately and then pay the overdrawn balance back.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 29, 2014, 06:25:28 AM
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.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on April 29, 2014, 07:10:03 AM
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.

Title: Shortages
Post by: captainccs on April 30, 2014, 04:50:31 PM

The shortage problem is not universal as the following picture shows:


That truck is full of locally grown produce, generally of good quality, that farmers are free to sell with no price regulation. Prices swing wildly, last December a kilo of white onions was selling at close to BsF. 100 and earlier this year it had dropped to BsF. 35. The shortages exist in regulated wares such as coffee. But the coffee shortage was easily solved by rebranding the coffee "Gourmet" (it's the exact same coffee) which sells for BsF. 87 for a half kilo vs. the non existent regulated coffee at BsF. 26 for half a kilo. Regulated plain white rice is nowhere to be found but you can get plenty of parboiled and flavored varieties at prices well above the regulated stuff. Most of what is scarce are industrialized products like milk, flour, vegetable oil, and toilette paper because often the regulated price is below cost or because it is made or imported by the government. There are also shortages of imported goods for which the government is not willing to sell regulated dollars.

I've lost track, I think we have three oficial exchange rates plus the black market. To figure out the black market price you look at a Colombian website which shows their rates for dollars, euros and bolivars. There is a new exchange but it is so complicated and the government wants so much information that many people are quite willing to pay 20% more in the black market.

Some examples: There used to be a good local brand of canned tuna which was taken over by Chavistas. I bought a can of it made under the new management and it was a kind of paste, not "chunky" which is what you expect. For a while there was a Cuban brand of rice but it cooked into such an ugly mush that not even the poorest people were willing to buy it. There is no wheat flour but there is plenty of bread and pasta -- figure that one out! After 15 years of Chavismo I have finally run out of powdered milk and now I make home made soybean milk. Oh well.

Some good news, razor blades are back!

I just got this email today. Water shortages in the East where my marina is:

Interesante a ver que el problema del agua esta afectando a todos

Se convoca a los propietarios y residentes del Parque Residencial Villamar Lecheria Barcelona a Reunión Extraordinaria que tendrá lugar el Sábado 3 de Mayo de 2014.
LUGAR: Oficina de Administración
1. Problemas con el suministro de agua por parte de Hidrocaribe
2. Vigilancia

Hora:   10:30 A.M:
Junta de Condominio

Queues, shortages hit Venezuela's homeless and hungry
Reuters By Carlos Rawlins
April 29, 2014 7:32 AM

A voluntary worker gives a bowl of soup to a man at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta eating center in Caracas .

CARACAS (Reuters) - Huge queues at supermarkets and shortages of basic products have become the norm in Venezuela over the last year - and the most needy are increasingly at the sharp edge.

Workers at soup kitchens for the homeless and hungry face an ever-more difficult task to find rice, lentils, flour and other staples to provide a free daily hot meal.

"I queue for hours every day because you can only get one thing one day, another the next," said Fernanda Bolivar, 54, who has worked for 11 years at the church-supported "Mother Teresa" soup kitchen in a back-street of downtown Caracas.

"The situation's got terrible in the last year," she said, in a dingy kitchen at the center named for the Roman Catholic nun who helped the poor and dying in India.

Inspired to help because of her own experience of going hungry a decade ago, Bolivar cooks lunch every day for the 50 or so people who sit on long concrete tables inside the dimly-lit refuge that often gets flooded during the rainy season.

To get the ingredients, like many other Venezuelan shoppers, she rises at 4 a.m. to start queuing - normally for several hours - at a supermarket nearby with hundreds of others. A number marking her place in the queues is scrawled on her hand.

Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro's government say the queues are a national embarrassment and symbol of failed socialist economics similar to the old Soviet Union.

But officials say businessmen are deliberately hoarding products as part of an "economic war" against him. They point to popular social welfare programs, and a halving of poverty levels since Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, as evidence that Venezuela's poor are better cared for than ever.

The government this month began an ID system that tracks shoppers' purchases at subsidized prices in state-run supermarkets. Officials say that will thwart hoarders and guarantee an equitable distribution of cheap food to those who need it, but critics are decrying it as a Cuban-style ration card that illustrates the shocking state of the economy.

Venezuela's government runs a network of shelters and feeding centers known as the Negra Hipolita mission, which operate alongside church institutions like the Mother Teresa center under a bridge in the San Martin district of Caracas.

There on a recent day, some of those eating a free lentil soup grumbled that there was no meat - but still gratefully wolfed down several bowls of food each.

"I've been coming every day for years, I'm one of the family here," said jobless Vladimir Garcia, 56, taking his time over a large bowl of soup.

Garcia has been helping organizer Bolivar to queue for the center's food. "Maybe socialism has done a lot for Venezuela, but we never had these huge long lines for everything before. Nor this scarcity of food products," he said.

"It's madness for such a rich nation."

(Writing and additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Brian Ellsworth and Kieran Murray)

Title: Venezuela currency woes hit Herbalife and other US consumer brands
Post by: captainccs on April 30, 2014, 05:30:19 PM
Venezuela currency woes hit Herbalife and other US consumer brands

Venezuela's convoluted currency exchange system – which has one 'official' rate for the government and another for importers of non-essential goods – has hurt foreign companies.
Christian Science Monitor By Stephen Kurczy
8 hours ago
The actions of the Venezuelan government are undermining earnings for foreign companies and the positions of US investors.

The latest example came Monday evening when the nutritional-supplements maker Herbalife reported that first-quarter profit fell 37 percent due to a foreign-exchange loss tied to the devaluation of Venezuela’s bolívar. The loss was a hit to Herbalife’s 17 percent owner Carl Icahn, the activist investor who has in recent months taken to defending Herbalife from accusations that it’s a pyramid scheme.

Herbalife’s first quarter earnings, however, suggest that Mr. Icahn might have been wise to watch Venezuela more closely.

“I don’t think US Investors are exactly itching to get involved,” says our correspondent in Caracas. “What I’m taking away from all this is that US companies that are still here are in it for the long run. They’re willing to incur these losses as they weather out the storm that is ‘21st Century Socialism’ as they likely posses a huge market share.”

Herbalife, which competes with Weight Watchers International, Nutrisystem, and Medifast, has benefited from a focus on emerging markets such as Venezuela and its well-known “Miss” culture, says our correspondent in Caracas, referring to beauty pageants, such as Miss Venezuela and Miss Universe.

“Herbalife is very popular down here,” our correspondent says.

But Venezuela’s convoluted currency exchange system has hurt foreign companies, which was forewarned last year by US hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management LP’s William Ackman.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.

Title: Hilarious Slide Perfectly Demonstrates Corporate America's Venezuela Strategy
Post by: captainccs on May 01, 2014, 07:08:02 PM
This Hilarious Slide Perfectly Demonstrates Corporate America's Venezuela Strategy
 SAM RO   
MAY 1, 2014, 10:36 AM    1,815 2

Emerging market economies offer fantastic growth opportunities for multinational corporation.

But conducting business in these markets comes with all sorts of risk. They tend to experience high inflation rates and volatile currency swings.

In February, Venezuela undertook a massive currency devaluation that instantly wreaked havoc for companies doing business in the country. In Q1, Coca-Cola took a $247 million charge because of Venezuela's bolivar.

Most of the companies that dodged this were probably quietly celebrating.

The executives at Church & Dwight — the owner Arm & Hammer, OxiClean and Trojan — celebrated quite vocally during the CAGNY Conference earlier this year.

"I wanna talk about our entry strategy into Venezuela," teased Matt Farrell, Church & Dwight's CFO. "Come on! We're not doing it! What're you stupid?!"

"I'm writing a letter to the president of Venezuela to thank him for all of the pain and suffering and distraction he's causing all of my major competitors," he said.

Farrell said that Church & Dwight would not be going into Venezuela in his lifetime.

Here's the blunt slide Farrell used to communicate his sentiment.


Church & Dwight

Read more:
Title: Venezuelan official arrested on a U.S. warrant
Post by: captainccs on July 26, 2014, 06:08:23 AM
Sometimes one needs a break but I'm still here

Venezuela official seeks immunity in Aruba ruling
14 hours ago
ORANJESTAD, Aruba (AP) — A judge in Aruba was expected to rule Friday on whether the highest-ranking Venezuelan official ever arrested on a U.S. warrant will remain behind bars pending an extradition request on drug charges.

Hugo Carvajal, a former head of Venezuelan military intelligence and close confidant of the late president Hugo Chavez, was arrested Wednesday upon arriving at Aruba's airport. U.S. authorities allege he's one of several high-ranking Venezuelan military and law enforcement officials who provided a haven to major drug traffickers from neighboring Colombia and helped them export large quantities of U.S.-bound cocaine through Venezuela.

Carvajal's surprise arrest is casting a spotlight on what's known in Venezuela as the "Cartel of the Suns," a reference to rogue, high-ranking military officers believed to have grown rich from drug-running. Top Venezuelan officers wear sun insignia on their uniforms.

Together with the unsealing Thursday of a drug indictment against two other Venezuelan officials, Carvajal's arrest is likely to ratchet up tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela's socialist government, which frequently accuses Washington of conspiring against it and using the drug war to exert pressure on Latin America.

"Carvajal's only option to avoid going to jail for a long, long time is going to be to cooperate, and that is going to be devastating for a lot of senior Venezuelan officials," said Frank Holder, a Miami-based expert on narcotics trafficking who is chairman for Latin America of FTI Consulting, a business advisory firm.

President Nicolas Maduro has already threatened to retaliate against Aruba, just 15 miles off Venezuela's coast, unless Carvajal is freed. The president likened Carvajal's arrest to an "ambush" and "kidnapping" that violates international law because he had been appointed the country's consul to the Caribbean island. Prosecutors in Aruba say that while Carvajal was carrying a diplomatic passport he isn't entitled to immunity because he was not yet accredited by the Netherlands, which runs foreign affairs for its former colony.

"We won't let our honor or that of any Venezuelan be sullied by campaigns orchestrated from the empire," Maduro said in a speech Thursday night.

On Friday afternoon, judge Yvonne van Wersch emerged from the hearing to announce that she would take several hours to decide whether Carvajal had immunity.

"I want to make my own decision," she said.

Carvajal, who earned Chavez's trust as a military cadet in the early 1980s, has long been a target of U.S. law enforcement.

In 2008, he was blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury along with two other senior military officials for allegedly providing weapons and fake Venezuelan identity papers to Marxist rebels in Colombia so they could travel easily across the border. The U.S. has classified the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as a terrorist organization and has indicted its top leadership on narcotics charges.

While Chavez always denied that officials in his government were aiding the FARC, material retrieved from a computer belonging to a senior rebel commander and seized by Colombian forces in a 2008 air raid seemed to place Carvajal front and center in what appears to have been a fluid relationship between the rebels and Venezuela's military.

In one communication from January 2007, the rebel leader known by his alias Ivan Marquez recounts for fellow commanders how he met with Carvajal and another army general and was promised delivery of 20 "very powerful bazookas."

The indictment against Carvajal doesn't discuss ties to the FARC. Instead, it focuses on payments he and other senior military officials allegedly received from Wilber Varela, one of Colombia's biggest kingpins before his 2008 murder in Venezuela.

Carvajal's attorney Chris Lejuez told The Associated Press on Friday that his client denies all charges against him and will seek diplomatic immunity from extradition. Even if freed, a final ruling on the U.S. extradition request could take several days.

Carvajal was being held in the central town of Santa Cruz in Aruba. Heavily armed officers were posted outside the police station where Friday's hearing will take place, due to security concerns. A reporter noted what appeared to be a sniper on the roof.

Carvajal's arrest follows the unsealing in southern Florida this week of an indictment against two other Venezuelan officials for allegedly working to protect another Colombian drug trafficker.

According to a criminal complaint, police officer Rodolfo McTurk was serving as the director of Interpol in Venezuela when he confronted an unnamed trafficker arrested in February 2009. After negotiations, the trafficker allegedly agreed to pay McTurk $400,000 in cash immediately and $75,000 a month to be released and allowed to continue his activities.

Three traffickers told a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that the operations could not have continued without McTurk's help.

Each month, McTurk allegedly went to the home of the trafficker and received $75,000 in cash, once demanding payment in the form of armor-plated SUVs.

The Colombian trafficker was later arrested again and extradited to the U.S.

McTurk is believed to be residing in Venezuela. But his co-defendant, Benny Palmeri-Bacchi, was arrested last week trying to enter the U.S. with his wife and 5-year-old son for a two-week vacation at Disney World, his attorney, Edward Abramson, told The Associated Press. A former judge and attorney, Palmeri-Bacchi pleaded not guilty at a Thursday hearing. His attorney declined further comment on the allegations against his client.

A spokeswoman for the Miami U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.


Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman reported this story from Bogota, Colombia, and Dilma Arends Geerman from Oranjestad, Aruba. AP writers Christine Armario in Miami, Hannah Dreier in Caracas and Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico contributed to this report.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DDF on July 26, 2014, 06:46:56 AM
"Carvajal's only option to avoid going to jail for a long, long time is going to be to cooperate, and that is going to be devastating for a lot of senior Venezuelan officials,"

Or... the Venezuelan government could grow a pair, invade Aruba on grounds of hostility toward Venezuelan citizens, and tell the US to pound sand.

The US does use the drug war to push their agendas and influence in other countries, and as an employee to one of the parties, I can say, many view US intrusion as unwlecome, and not always due to corruption either... sometimes it's just called minding your own business and taking care of problems that actually have to do with one's own citizens.

My two cents.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on July 26, 2014, 07:48:26 AM

American "intrusion" is both welcome and not welcome, depending on what it is and depending on who minds and who does not mind.  In any case, The US is losing LatAm with Obama's extreme "flexibility."

One day's Yahoo Latin-America headlines:

Japanese PM opens LatAm tour with Mexico energy deals

Chinese president ends regional tour in cradle of Cuban Revolution

Chinese leader signs accords, wraps up Cuba visit

Chinese president backs Cuba's economic reforms

China, Venezuela deepen economic ties during visit

Cuba hopes for more investment as Chinese president arrives

China, Russia leaders seek South American inroads

Chinese leader woos Latin America with deals

Brazil, China sign several trade, business deals

Russia set to reopen Soviet-era spy post on Cuba: source

China seeks to build railways in Brazil to ship out commodities

BRICS meet South American leaders after bank deal

Putin, Kirchner seek 'multipolarity' in Argentina visit

China's leader Xi departs for South America tour

Putin signs nuclear energy deal with Argentina

Putin in Argentina, building Russian ties

Putin in Cuba, Nicaragua to rekindle Latin America ties

BRICS to launch bank, tighten Latin America ties

Putin kicks off Latin America tour with Cuba stop

Putin pledges to help Cuba explore for offshore oil

Putin in Cuba to rekindle Latin America ties

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DDF on July 26, 2014, 09:32:17 AM

American "intrusion" is both welcome and not welcome, depending on what it is and depending on who minds and who does not mind.  In any case, The US is losing LatAm with Obama's extreme "flexibility."

Obama is a chump. I can't state the disdain I have for him.
Title: Aruba releases Venezuelan diplomat sought by US
Post by: captainccs on July 27, 2014, 06:22:55 PM
Too bad Aruba ket the guy go.  :(

Aruba releases Venezuelan diplomat sought by US
22 minutes ago
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A former Venezuelan general detained in Aruba on U.S. drug charges was released by the Dutch Caribbean island and sent home Sunday night, authorities said.

Venezuela's government said Hugo Carvajal was flying to Caracas with Deputy Foreign Minister Calixto Ortega.

Earlier in the day, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua read parts of what he said was a letter from the Netherlands' ambassador in Caracas agreeing with Venezuela's position that Carvajal's detention violated international law because he had been sent to Aruba as Venezuela's consul and was carrying a diplomatic passport.

Authorities in Aruba had argued previously that Carvajal didn't have immunity from arrest because he had yet to be accredited by the Netherlands, which manages the foreign affairs of its former colony that sits off the coast of Venezuela.

But at a hastily called news conference in Aruba's capital, the island's justice minister said Carvajal was being let go under a decision Sunday by the Dutch government. Dowers said Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans had decided Carvajal did have immunity but also declared him "persona non grata" — a term used by governments to remove foreign diplomats.

"The fact is that Mr. Carvajal was granted diplomatic immunity, but he is also considered persona non grata. He has to abandon our territory as soon as possible," Dowers told reporters at a news conference in Oranjestad that was streamed live on the Internet.

Aruba's justice minister and Chief Prosecutor Peter Blanken stressed that Carvajal had no accreditation to serve as a diplomat locally on the island so officials had decided to comply with the detention request from Washington based on an international treaty between the U.S. and the Dutch Kingdom.

"But that information changed today based on what Minister Timmermans of the Netherlands said. And Aruba has to follow instructions," Dowers said.

He said U.S. officials were "very disappointed" with the decision to free Carvajal.

Carvajal served for five years until 2009 as the late President Hugo Chavez's head of military intelligence. The two met in the early 1980s at the military academy in Caracas and later took up arms together in a failed 1992 coup that catapulted Chavez to fame and set the stage for his eventual rise to power.

His arrest Wednesday and possible extradition to the United States had threatened to further damage already fractious relations with Washington.

Carvajal was the highest-ranking Venezuelan official ever arrested on a U.S. warrant. In 2008, he was one of three senior Venezuelan military officers blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury for allegedly providing weapons and safe haven to Marxist rebels in neighboring Colombia.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are classified a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. U.S. prosecutors have indicted all of the movement's top leadership, including senior commanders with whom Carvajal purportedly conspired, on charges of smuggling large amounts of cocaine.

Carvajal has denied any wrongdoing on those counts as well as charges unsealed this week in southern Florida that he was an associate of Wilber Varela, a major Colombian drug trafficker who was murdered in Venezuela in 2008.

The U.S. warrant has rallied supporters of Maduro's socialist government, who regularly accuse the United States of conspiring against it.

Maduro this week condemned Carvajal's arrest as a "kidnapping" orchestrated by the U.S., while Jaua on Sunday said the former general's only crime "is having defended the life of ex-president Chavez during 15 years."


Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman reported this story in Bogota, Colombia, and David McFadden reported from Kingston, Jamaica.

Title: Venezuela's Faltering Oil Sector
Post by: Crafty_Dog on August 27, 2014, 07:50:18 AM
 Venezuela's Faltering Oil Sector Could Drag Down Petrocaribe
August 27, 2014 | 0414 Print Text Size
Venezuela's Faltering Oil Sector Could Drag Down Petrocaribe
The Petrocaribe summit in Managua in June 2013. (INTI OCON/AFP/Getty Images)

The decline of the Venezuelan oil sector could have wider effects in Central America and the Caribbean. Venezuela supplies crude oil and refined fuel shipments at reduced cost to 15 countries in the region under the Petrocaribe pricing mechanism. Some of these countries depend on Venezuelan supplies for most of their energy use. Caracas has so far been able to maintain fuel supplies to these states because their low energy demands do not strain Venezuela's refining capacity. However, as Venezuela's energy sector declines -- and public finances deteriorate -- Venezuela eventually could change its terms for financing such shipments or reduce them altogether.

The Petrocaribe oil financing scheme began in 2005 under former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Petrocaribe was conceived as a means of securing political allies among Caribbean and Central American states that depend heavily on fossil fuel imports. From the start of Petrocaribe, Venezuela offered financing that varied according to the international price of Venezuelan crude oil. The amount financed by Venezuela drops as the price of oil falls and rises as the price increases. For example, when Venezuelan oil prices equal or exceed $80, the buying nation pays 50 percent of the total cost of each oil shipment agreed upon, and the remainder is payable over 25 years at a 2 percent yearly interest rate. Under the current terms of Petrocaribe financing, member states must pay 40 percent of each shipment's cost up front, and 60 percent can be paid off over 25 years. Venezuela has accepted food, services and goods as payment for the oil, leading to undisclosed accumulated debts from pending payments.
Venezuela's Export Priorities

Overall, Petrocaribe is a small part of Venezuelan oil exports. In 2013, the outflow of oil products to Cuba, Petrocaribe and an additional preferential deal with Argentina totaled only about 240,600 barrels per day of the country's 2.1 million bpd of overall exports. Petrocaribe that year accounted for nearly 112,000 bpd. Because many Petrocaribe client nations lack the refinery capacity to effectively process Venezuela's heavy crude oil, more than half of products shipped to Petrocaribe countries are more expensive refined products such as fuel oil, diesel or gasoline. Since 2002, Venezuela has maintained an agreement with Cuba that currently provides the island with 99,000 barrels of oil and refined products per day -- more than half the country's oil consumption. The energy relationship with Cuba is crucial to the security of the Venezuelan government and is a higher priority than the Petrocaribe shipments. Unlike Petrocaribe, most of what Cuba receives is crude oil. In 2012, 85,000 of the 91,000 bpd that Cuba received were crude oil.
Venezuela Oil Production
Click to Enlarge

Venezuela continues to supply oil and refined fuels under the Petrocaribe scheme because those shipments do not significantly burden state-owned energy firm Petroleos de Venezuela, which is known by its Spanish acronym, PDVSA. However, Venezuela's depleted public finances and declining energy production have cast some doubt over the company's future willingness and ability to continue providing these shipments. Because of the fear of public backlash, Venezuela is unlikely to take decisive economic measures to alleviate the financial pressure on the energy sector anytime soon. Venezuela likely will continue Petrocaribe for as long as it can but will not hesitate to raise prices or reduce shipments if they threaten supplies to Cuba or its domestic market.
Domestic Financial Difficulties and Petrocaribe

The Venezuelan government's growing need for cash could eventually force Caracas to decide on the future of Petrocaribe shipments. Venezuela's reduced public finances mostly resulted from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela's using Petroleos de Venezuela to fund high levels of social spending. This has placed significant pressure on the company, which has increasingly required transfers from the central bank to plug gaps in its finances. Despite reducing direct social spending from $30 billion in 2011 to $13 billion in 2013 and having Venezuelan oil prices steady at around $100 per barrel for most of 2013, the company still required assistance from the Venezuelan central bank. For 2013, the company posted a $15.8 billion net profit, of which about $12 billion appeared to be a direct transfer from the central bank.

Petroleos de Venezuela President Rafael Ramirez has promoted a series of economic reforms to turn around the company's deteriorating finances, one of which is cutting down on cash transfers to off-budget funds. However, the government has shied away from implementing more decisive measures, largely because of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's reduced popularity, caused by rampant inflation and growing food shortages. For several months, Ramirez has promoted economic adjustments, such as raising the price of subsidized gasoline, which costs Petroleos de Venezuela about $12.5 billion yearly. However, key members of the country's economic Cabinet -- such as Vice President Jorge Arreaza, Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and Central Bank President Nelson Merentes -- oppose major decisions because of their potential to cost the party public support ahead of the December 2015 legislative elections. With no decisive economic measures on the horizon, reductions in Petrocaribe shipments could free up cash to benefit the public sector.

The most immediate impact of a reduction in Petrocaribe shipments would be energy supplies rapidly becoming more expensive for small states. Because of their extreme dependence on Petrocaribe for energy, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti likely would be the most affected by such a measure. Of the four countries, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica appear to be the best positioned to withstand a reduction or cutoff of Petrocaribe shipments. The Dominican Republic relies on Petrocaribe supplies for about 23 percent of its imports, and Jamaica relies on the discounted energy from Venezuela for about 32 percent of its imports. The other two receive more than 90 percent of supplies from Venezuela. In case of changes to Petrocaribe financing or volumes, these countries would be able to procure oil from the United States, although it would be at full price.

In the case of Nicaragua, the removal of Petrocaribe pricing or supplies would likely result in the loss of a significant source of off-budget funds. The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front relies on Petrocaribe to fund Albanisa, a joint venture held by Petroleos de Venezuela and the government of Nicaragua. In 2013, Nicaragua paid Venezuela $1 billion for imports of crude oil and refined products and received half that payment back in the form of a direct transfer to Albanisa. Under the terms of Albanisa, 40 percent of this total can be employed directly by Nicaragua, and the remainder is used for projects approved by Petroleos de Venezuela. This arrangement likely left Nicaragua with at least an additional $200 million in 2013, and with Nicaraguan budget expenditures for 2013 at $2 billion, the infusion of cash from Petrocaribe likely provided the ruling party with an additional financial cushion. The loss of this financing would force Nicaragua to finance public spending using government revenue and the undisclosed amounts saved in Albanisa accounts.

Petroleos de Venezuela likely will continue supplying Petrocaribe energy supplies under the current terms for as long as it can. A reduction in Petrocaribe shipments probably is not imminent but will become more plausible if the Venezuelan government does not relieve the financial burden on Petroleos de Venezuela. Some of the financial measures under consideration, such as moving dollars from off-budget funds to the country's foreign reserves, could give Petroleos de Venezuela room to continue Petrocaribe, but such moves will not have a decisive effect on Venezuela's overall decline. If Venezuela experiences problems in maintaining oil exports under its political agreements, it is likely to reduce supplies to Petrocaribe members before it chooses to reduce similar shipments to Cuba.

Read more: Venezuela's Faltering Oil Sector Could Drag Down Petrocaribe | Stratfor
Title: Venezuela Will Be The First Domino To Fall With The Price of Oil (?)
Post by: DougMacG on December 10, 2014, 08:42:45 PM
It looks like Stratfor has already covered this.  I wonder what Denny S. sees happening there.  Does this weaken the regime or just make things worse?
Venezuela, Not Russia, Will Be The First Domino To Fall With The Price of Oil
Venezuela: U.S. flooding market with fracking-produced oil
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 11, 2014, 07:43:29 AM
Thanks for asking. Let's start with the basics:

African saying: When elephants fight the grass gets trampled. At the OPEC meeting Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies carried the day.

Nicholas Maduro is a bus driver and you can expect bus driver wisdom from him.

Oil prices are set at the margin but that is not the price at which the bulk of oil is sold. Spot is the speculators' price. Most real buyers and sellers have hedged their trades. Notice that the Fox article correctly talks about average selling price.

The Daily Caller article is a political commentator doing his job, speculating on worst case scenarios.

The power play: The purpose of cartels is to exert control, in the case of OPEC to control oil prices. The power to do so comes from the capacity to flood the market. For decades the Saudi's had that power specially with full OPEC backing. Iran is an OPEC member but Russia is not. For all practical purposes, while an important player, Russia is not and has not been a key player. That role belonged to OPEC and within OPEC to Saudi Arabia. I use the past tense because fracking upset the equilibrium.

On a side note: I have been advocating American energy independence for years and when fracking came online I predicted both the recovery of the American economy and a lessening of the power of the oil exporters (without predicting any details). When everyone was predicting the demise of the US dollar, my position was that if the dollar failed the whole world would plunge into chaos (for a while). I also commented that trying to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency would have dire consequences. Saddam Hussein wanted to sell oil in euros, he ended, soon after, hung. Coincidence? Maybe.

The current situation, as I see it, is that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni OPEC allies are trying to give US frackers a "good sweating" to use a Rockefeller phrase. It is important to note that while the Arab oil producers are monarchies the US producers operate in a free market where collusion is illegal. It's not equal combat, the Arabs stand as a block, the Americans as a swarm. the outcome will be interesting! In any case, Russia and Venezuela are bit players of little consequence despite their large output. Should the Arabs win, the situation goes back to the previous state. Should the Arab "good sweating" fail, it will be the US frackers, turn to give the Arabs a "good sweating." That could break OPEC's power. I'm not making any predictions except to say that in price wars the "arms suppliers" and the consumers are the beneficiaries. Economists will worry about deflation but it is good deflation.


The question was about Venezuela.

First, during Chavismo Venezuela has not received the full price for its oil. The discounts and special deals with Cuba and PetroCaribe to buy international votes is well known. What special concessions the Chinese got is less well known. Chavismo has a slogan:  "Venezuela es de todos" referring to the oligarchy. In truth now  "Venezuela es de los nica, de los cubanos y de todos los amigos del chavismo."

Second, at the current black market exchange rate it costs 3 US cents to fill the tank of my Toyota Corolla, tip included. Some Chavista factions wanted to raise the price of gas as part of the crisis management. Maduro nixed it. He is a bus driver, not an economist.

Third, from Black Friday, February 18, 1983, to Maduro, the bolivar/dollar exchange rate increase by 30 to 35% annually. Over the past 5 or 6 months it doubled! Inflation is presumably running at 70%.

A Short Note On My Hyperinflated Arepa Index


Two weeks ago, as I left Caracas on Nov. 22nd. to be precise, I wrote about the cost of a breakfast which I found expensive for Venezuelans, which included cheese arepas. As I returned to Caracas two short weeks later, I went to have a single cheese arepa at the same place. Imagine my surprise when I found that the Bs. 120 cheese arepa of fifteen days ago, now costs Bs. 156.

That is a 30% increase in two weeks. A year ago I would eat two for Bs. 120.

Thus, I will keep reporting on the hyperinflated arepa in the future.

BTW, they are still delicious…

Fourth, in Chavista ideology, small farmers are good while industrialists (capitalists) are bad. This has consequences. Fresh fruit and farm produce including fresh eggs are abundantly available but packaged good are not, specially price controlled ones. While rice is price controlled and nowhere to be seen but you can buy parboiled or flavored varieties at several times the controlled price. Pasta you can generally find both price controlled and market priced varieties. Price controlled cleaning products are scarce and there are no "fancy" ones. But you can buy them from scalpers (black market) at four times the controlled price.

All sorts of things appear and disappear: toilette paper, car batteries, roasted coffee, medicines, spare parts as price controls and dollar availability cause scarcity and crisis management by Maduro temporarily solves the problems.

Fifth, The above is what you can see on the street. What happens inside Chavismo and the balance of powers in government I'm not privy to. But you get some glances: A drug dealer is named ambassador or something to Aruba, the US tries to get him but the Dutch let him go home.

Netherlands Says Venezuelan Detained in Aruba Has Immunity

Then Hugo Carvajal is rumored dead, the government denies it:

Since then Carvajal has dropped out of the news. On to the next crisis.

Cuba and North Korea are just two example that show that economic collapse does not mean the government must fall, that depends on the ruthlessness of the government. I have often said that Venezuela is a democracy by the consent of the military. The military is entrenched in Venezuela and they are given free rain to run drugs or any other money making scheme or scam. That was partly the basis of Hugo's hold on power.

Venezuela has a serious cash flow problem which will be made worse by the falling oil prices. Maduro's envoy to China begging for more loans was sent packing. In fact, the Chinese are pissed off that Venezuela is giving other loans preference over the Chinese debt. Venezuela started selling PetroCaribe bonds to Goldman Sachs at half par value. But with a bus driver in charge, who can tell what foolishness will follow?

Beer is back! Hurrah!

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on January 08, 2015, 10:06:33 AM
Rough translation (through google) of Denny's Spanish language post today:

Maduro was humiliated in Russia

DolarToday / Jan 6 , 2015 @ 7:00 a.m.

Nicolas Maduro was humiliated in Russia when received by an official of third rank of the Putin administration , Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation , Sergey Ryabkov Alexeevich.

Despite the humiliation received, Maduro expressed " solidarity with the government of President Putin to claim destabilizing USA ", he said the minister.

The Minister for Communication and Information, Jacqueline Faria, reported that this visit of Venezuelan president to Russia is a pre-destined for an international tour that will take work to China and nations of OPEC (OPEC).

" Technical stop in Moscow at the top of this presidential tour of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Algeria ," he wrote in his JacquelinePSUV account , which also published photos of the game , which can be seen participating in the meeting Minister for Economy , Finance and Public Banking, Rodolfo Marco Torres, and Chancellor Delcy Rodríguez .

Maduro began Sunday trip to the People's Republic of China to strengthen bilateral cooperation relations diplomatic, economic and commercial character with this nation.

During his visit to China , Maduro will meet with President Xi Jinping and also participate in the first China - ministerial forum Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ( CELAC) which will be held on 8 and 9 January in Beijing.

Later, he will tour countries of the OPEC in order to address the issue of falling oil prices.

Title: Defying U.S., Cuba stands by Venezuela on eve of regional summit
Post by: captainccs on April 08, 2015, 08:25:18 PM
Defying U.S., Cuba stands by Venezuela on eve of regional summit
Reuters By Nelson Acosta
38 minutes ago

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba said on Wednesday it would remain steadfast by Venezuela even as it seeks to improve ties with the United States, criticizing Washington's Venezuela policy before a summit meeting where the U.S. and Cuban leaders will meet face-to-face.

Cuban Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel chastised Washington over its decision last month to declare Venezuela a national security threat and order sanctions against seven Venezuelan officials.

"Nobody could think that in a process of re-establishing relations, which we're trying to move forward on with the United States, Cuban support for Venezuela could be made conditional," Diaz-Canel, the heir apparent to Cuban President Raul Castro, told reporters in Havana.

"If they attack Venezuela, they're attacking Cuba. And Cuba will always be on Venezuela's side above all things," he said.

Under late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Venezuela became Cuba's closest ally and its most important benefactor.

When Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced in December that the longtime enemies would restore full diplomatic relations and seek to improve trade, the move was widely applauded by Latin American governments.

But the praise of Obama's policy shift was tempered when the United States imposed the Venezuela sanctions on May 9, and the controversy now hangs over the Summit of the Americas in Panama this week.

Ahead of the meeting, the U.S. government has tried to persuade Latin American leaders that declaring Venezuela a security threat was a prerequisite for the sanctions, not a signal of U.S. aggression.

"The wording ... is completely pro forma," Ben Rhodes, a national security advisor to Obama, told reporters on Tuesday. "This is a language that we use in executive orders around the world. So the United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security."

Thomas Shannon, a top aide to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, was in Caracas on Wednesday to meet with senior Venezuelan leaders in an effort to ease tensions.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Kieran Murray)


Under late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, Venezuela became Cuba's closest ally and its most important benefactor.
Not ally, exploited colony! While Venezuela is broke we still give away our oil to our Imperal Masters, the Cubans.

Title: Bolivar crumbles
Post by: captainccs on May 22, 2015, 03:35:49 PM
The rate at which the bolivar is falling is unprecedented. Today the parallel market is quoted at Bs 423.39 to the dollar is down in just a week from 285 or so. That's a 33% drop in a week or ten days. This is getting really scary!

Currency tumbles as Venezuelans look to offload bolivars
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
3 hours ago

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A staggering plunge in the free market value of Venezuelan currency sent people scrambling to sell off their depreciating bolivars Friday.

The widely followed website DolarToday, which tracks exchanges along the Colombian border, reported that the South American country's currency lost a quarter of its value over the last eight days.

The site's app has become so ubiquitous that everyone in smartphone-obsessed Caracas seemed to find out about the crash through 400 to the dollar at the same instant, as DolarToday sent out a series of alerts announcing the new numbers under the headline "hyperinflation!"

Venezuelan currency was trading at 415 bolivars per dollar Friday, according to the site. That's down from 300 bolivars per dollar on May 14. It stood at 173 when the year started.

While many black market dealers paused transactions until the rate stabilizes, some Venezuelans said they had changed money at the 400 bolivar rate Friday.

It was not immediately clear what prompted the sudden drop, though a Barclay Capital Inc. report issued Friday described the underlying cause as government expansion of the money supply.

"We do not see any signal of change from the authorities but these risks should make them reconsider their policies," it said.

Barclays projected the Bolivar could dip as low as 600 to the dollar this year.

The administration of President Nicolas Maduro keeps tight control over the legal exchange of bolivars, using a byzantine three-tier system. It is meant to subsidize crucial imports, but has led to widespread corruption and speculation.

The strongest rate is 6.3 bolivars per dollar. The weakest official rate, which was billed as an alternative to the black market when it was rolled out earlier their year, has inched up to 200 bolivars per dollar. The fact many are willing to pay double that price for black-market dollars indicates the supply is limited.

The Maduro administration has been hoarding dollars as it grapples with falling oil prices. That has contributed to shortages and other economic distortions.

DolarToday is openly hostile to the socialist government and carries news stories attacking it. But the site insists its exchange rate reports are based on actual trades at exchange houses on the Colombian side of the border and are not manipulated to undercut the government.

In April, Maduro repeated his assertion that the site's shadowy managers, whose identities are not public, are collaborating with the speculators and opposition leaders he blames for the country's problems. He accused them of purposely sowing chaos and promised to have them arrested.

"We're going to put those people at DolarToday who are waging an economic war against Venezuela behind bars, sooner rather than later" he said.

The site, which is sometimes blocked within Venezuela, responded with a cheeky video documenting its popularity set to the club hit "Turn Down for What."

Title: The switch to dollars in socialist Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 26, 2015, 06:53:51 AM
When exchange controls were introduced holding dollars or trading in dollars were made illegal, a move as stupid as banning drugs or alcohol in the USA. It does not work! Not even the Bank of England could protect the pound sterling against market forces, instead it made George Soros rich. Prohibition made the Mafia and Canadian distillers rich. The War on Drugs is making drug cartels, including Venezuelan officials, rich.

Because it did not work, the government set up bond trading schemes that effectively bypassed the bans. Until recently inflation/devaluation was held to around 30 to 35% annually but with the falling oil prices, rising dollar and Maduro's falling popularity (not that he ever was popular even with Chavistas), the bolivar has crumbled and there is nothing that the government can do about it.

I have long held that Venezuela's salvation was bankruptcy, the inability of government to buy votes. That is now coming to pass. The danger is that the uprising can be cruelly violent as was the case of the French Revolution.

Businesses quietly switch to dollar in socialist Venezuela
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
18 hours ago

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — It's still possible to buy a gleaming Ford truck in Venezuela, rent a chic apartment in Caracas, and snag an American Airlines flight to Miami. Just not in the country's official currency.

As the South American nation spirals into economic chaos, an increasing number of products are not only figuratively out of the reach of average consumers, but literally cannot be purchased in Venezuelan bolivars, which fell into a tailspin on the black market last week.

Businesses and individuals are turning to dollars even as the anti-American rhetoric of the socialist administration grows more strident. It's a shift that's allowing parts of the economy to limp along despite a cash crunch and the world's highest inflation. But it could put some goods further out of reach of the working class, whose well-being has been the focal point of the country's 16-year-old socialist revolution.

The latest sign of an emerging dual-currency system came earlier this month when Ford Motor Co. union officials announced the company had reached a deal with officials to sell trucks and sports utility vehicles in dollars only.

A few weeks earlier, American Airlines said it had stopped accepting bolivars for any of its 19 weekly flights out of Venezuela. Customers must now use a foreign credit card to buy the tickets online. Virtually all other foreign carriers have made the same switch with the government's consent, according to the Venezuela Airlines Association.

Driving the shift is the crumbling value of the bolivar, which has lost more than half its value this year, plunging to 400 per dollar on the free market as Venezuelans scramble to convert their savings into a more stable currency. Desperate, people are selling bolivars for a rate 60 times weaker than the strongest of country's three official exchange rates.

It's a politically uncomfortable situation for President Nicolas Maduro, who regularly leads chants of "gringo go home" and says currency speculation is one of the main tools used by enemies to try to sow chaos and force him from power.

It's not just businesses chasing greenbacks. Real estate contracts are still drafted in bolivars to satisfy a requirement imposed by late President Hugo Chavez, but in upscale neighborhoods most owners operate outside the law and sell and rent in dollars only. A group of realtors in tony eastern Caracas has established a password-protected website for listings in dollar prices.

Analysts say the administration likely sees a limited dollarization as the only way to prevent multinationals from leaving the county altogether, as Clorox did last year, citing problems brought about by decade-old currency controls, supply shortages and inflation that hit 68 percent last year, and economists believe is now well into the triple digits.

Production at Ford has fallen by 90 percent as the company struggles to gain access to dollars needed to import parts. Customers will now transfer Ford dollars in advance to pay for the import of the parts needed to assemble the cars in Venezuela, according to union officials.

Foreign airlines made their switch to dollars after the government refused to let them convert and repatriate $4 billion in ticket sales held in the country.

Meanwhile, inflation is racing so fast that ATMs have failed to keep pace. Many deliver a maximum of just $1.50 worth of bolivars per transaction. Some shoppers stay away from cash altogether, according to reports in local media, leaning more heavily on credit cards so they can pay for purchases later, when they'll cost less in dollar terms thanks to inflation.

Decade-old price controls make staple items ridiculously cheap for all Venezuelans. A bottle of vegetable oil costs 20 cents at the black market rate, a package of rice costs half that, and a sack of sugar costs even less.

Still, many working-class Venezuelans are looking for ways to accumulate their own stockpile of the U.S. currency by offering services to wealthy or foreign clients.

"It's the only way we can try to stay ahead," said one gym teacher who supplements his $25 a month salary by offering personal training to clients who can pay in dollars. The teacher, who asked that his name not be used to protect his safety, keeps his bills hidden around his home until a friend or obliging client can deposit them in his Miami bank account.

The move toward currency substitution doesn't sit well with hardcore government supporters, many of whom cut their political teeth listening to Chavez's tirades against the "dictatorship of the dollar."

"How is it possible that in the face of the U.S. effort to sabotage the revolution, we are allowing transnational companies to conduct business with the imperialist dollar in our country?" wrote Omar Hernandez, an engineer who works for Chavista community programs, on the influential pro-government website Aporrea.

But outside economists say Maduro would be wise to embrace the dollar outright.

Steve Hanke, a Johns Hopkins University economist who has long advised governments facing currency crises, says replacing the bolivar with the dollar would nip Venezuela's inflation problem almost overnight and become an anchor of economic stability, though it could also force austerity measures. He points to the example of Maduro ally Rafael Correa in Ecuador, who has railed against the U.S. during his eight years in office but has so far shown no desire to bring back the old national currency, which the country did away with in favor of the dollar.

At the Ford factory, workers are optimistic that the new deal will save their jobs, according to union leader Gerardo Troya. In fact, they have an idea for more dollarization: They'd like to be paid in U.S. currency now too, starting at $8 a day.
Title: Re: The switch to dollars in socialist Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on May 26, 2015, 09:38:01 AM
"I have long held that Venezuela's salvation was bankruptcy, the inability of government to buy votes. That is now coming to pass. The danger is that the uprising can be cruelly violent "

For even a town to be too dependent on one industry often leads to demise.  And I would argue that having the government sell off the natural resources does not fully count as production or industry.

With a 6 year term, it is 2019 before voters can knock Maduro out?

It is much like our problems here only so much worse.  Very frustrating that people can't just vote in the policies that would address and correct the known ills even when they finally do have the chance.  Maduro, I assume, governed essentially the way people knew he would.  He and his supporters were just badly mistaken about the results of those policies.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on May 26, 2015, 10:18:20 AM
The first thing to know is how and why Maduro came to power. My background as a management consultant helped me figure out local power structures. Often owners trust certain people more than they trust checks and balances which results in trusted but not necessarily competent people in key posts. I saw it often in business.

Maduro was the most harmless lackey Chavez could find to fill the post of vice president. When Chavez died Maduro took his place. For the next election there was a lot of strange maneuvering, probably some of it illegal, to make Maduro the official candidate. During the campaign I heard loyal Chavistas declare that Maduro would be a total failure. Maduro is imitating Chavez but he does not have his organizing skills. In any case, it is hard to know where power really sits, most likely in Havana. But while Cuba is opening up the the US, Maduro is sticking with anti-imperialism as his political motif.

The other thing to consider is that drug running is big business which does not benefit the country but it sure enriches the drug barons. These are the people running the country. The US would be a big help in defusing the world's problems if they abandoned the totally useless, worse, counterproductive, war on drugs.

The next election coming up is for the National Assembly and it's supposed to be this year but the dates have not been announced. The consensus is for the opposition to win a majority but my prediction is the opposite, not based on the vote count but on fraud. In any case, amazing as it may seem, Chavismo still has a lot of popular support because the official propaganda has been able to pin the failure on capitalist greed. If economists don't understand economics, what can you expect of ordinary people?

Title: Venezuela Running ‘On Fumes’ As Bolivar Weakens
Post by: captainccs on May 26, 2015, 01:35:52 PM
May 26, 2015, 10:50 A.M. ET
Venezuela Running ‘On Fumes’ As Bolivar Weakens
By Dimitra DeFotis

Even though Venezuela tapped the International Monetary Fund in recent weeks to keep itself afloat, shoring up its currency is another matter.

The low price of oil has crushed the energy exporter’s budget. Russ Dallen, who contributes to a newsletter for investors, and writes about Latin America, writes today that “Venezuela’s situation continues to unravel at increasing speed as the bolivar tumbled 30% over just the last week, while the country’s international reserves simultaneously hit a new 12-year low, closing at $17.5 billion.” He says the weak currency and decline in reserves means the country is “essentially running on fumes.” He writes:

“Venezuela’s reserves have now fallen 21% since the beginning of the year, but more importantly $6.7 billion from their high just 2 months ago – a high that not only included $2.8 billion from mortgaging Citgo, $1.9 billion from the selling of $4 billion of oil receivables from the Dominican Republic, and the transfer of previously unreported China Fonden funds into the reserves.”

By tapping roughly $385 million in “Special Drawing Rights” (SDR) from the International Monetary Fund in recent weeks, for the first time in years, Venezuela has more financial liquidity and may have reduced its 2015 debt default risk. See our recent post on the subject: ”Venezuela Default Still Possible Despite IMF Money, Moody’s Says.”

Dallen et al explain SDRs in their weekly newsletter.

“The IMF created SDRs as an international reserve asset in 1969 to supplement all members’ reserves. Members are allowed to count the SDRs as part of their reserves and Venezuela is able to borrow those assets at an extremely favorable rate of interest (currently 0.05%, which frankly is much better than the over 30% that Venezuela is paying on some of its bonds). In 2009 as countries around the world were reeling from the worldwide economic crisis, the IMF decided to provide member nations a total of $250 billion in SDRs to shore up international liquidity. At that time, the IMF gave Venezuela 2.543 billion SDRs, which works out to about $3.578 billion in U.S. dollars (The SDR value floats against a basket of the U.S. dollar, the yen, the euro, and the pound, with one U.S. dollar currently worth 0.710769 SDR). Thus, the 276.6 million in SDR chips that Venezuela borrowed last month is worth approximately $385 million.”

Also see our September 2014 post, “Will Venezuela Default? Ask Hedge Funds” and this recent post: “Cheap Oil & Emerging Markets: India, Turkey Win; Venezuela Most At Risk.“

The iShares Latin America 40 ETF (ILF) is down 1.6% today. The leveraged Direxion Daily Latin America Bull 3X Shares ETF (LBJ) is down 4.3%. The iShares JPMorgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (EMB) is down nearly 0.3%, while the Western Asset Emerging Markets Debt Fund (ESD), a closed-end fund, was down 0.1% in recent trading.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Diosdado Cabello, president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is among those being investigated by the United States on drug trafficking allegations. See the WSJ story, “Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub.”

Title: Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub
Post by: captainccs on May 26, 2015, 01:52:52 PM
Is the US finally turning the screws on Chavismo?

Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub
U.S. probe targets No. 2 official Diosdado Cabello, several others, on suspicion of drug trafficking and money laundering
May 18, 2015 3:36 p.m. ET

U.S. prosecutors are investigating several high-ranking Venezuelan officials, including the president of the country’s congress, on suspicion that they have turned the country into a global hub for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, according to more than a dozen people familiar with the probes.

An elite unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington and federal prosecutors in New York and Miami are building cases using evidence provided by former cocaine traffickers, informants who were once close to top Venezuelan officials and defectors from the Venezuelan military, these people say.

A leading target, according to a Justice Department official and other American authorities, is National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, considered the country’s second most-powerful man.

“There is extensive evidence to justify that he is one of the heads, if not the head, of the cartel,” said the Justice Department official, speaking of a group of military officers and top officials suspected of being involved in the drug trade. “He certainly is a main target.”

Representatives of Mr. Cabello and other officials didn’t return phone calls and emails requesting comment. In the past, Venezuelan authorities have rejected allegations of high-ranking involvement in the drug trade as an attempt by the U.S. to destabilize the leftist government in Caracas.

In an appearance on state television Wednesday, Mr. Cabello said he solicited a court-ordered travel ban on 22 executives and journalists from three Venezuelan news outlets that he has sued for publishing stories about the drug allegations earlier this year. “They accuse me of being a drug trafficker without a single piece of evidence and now I’m the bad guy,” Mr. Cabello said. “I feel offended, and none of them even said they’re sorry.”

The Obama administration isn’t directing or coordinating the investigations, which are being run by federal prosecutors who have wide leeway to target criminal suspects. But if the probes result in publicly disclosed indictments of Mr. Cabello and others, the resulting furor in Venezuela would likely plunge relations between the two countries into their most serious crisis since the late populist Hugo Chávez took office 16 years ago.

“It would be seismic,” said a U.S. official, of the expected Venezuelan reaction. “They will blame a vast right-wing conspiracy.”

U.S. authorities say they are far along in their investigations. But they say any indictments that may result might be sealed, making them secret until authorities can make arrests—something that would be difficult if not impossible unless the suspects travel abroad.

The investigations are a response to an explosion in drug trafficking in the oil-rich country, U.S. officials say. Under pressure in Colombia, where authorities aggressively battled the drug trade with $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2000, many Colombian traffickers moved operations to neighboring Venezuela, where U.S. law-enforcement officials say they found a government and military eager to permit and ultimately control cocaine smuggling through the country.

“Most of the high-end traffickers moved to Venezuela in that time,” said Joaquín Pérez, a Miami attorney who represents key Colombian traffickers who have acknowledged operating out of Venezuela.

Venezuela doesn’t produce coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, nor does it manufacture the drug. But the U.S. estimates that about 131 tons of cocaine, about half of the total cocaine produced in Colombia, moved through Venezuela in 2013, the last year for which data were available.

Prosecutors aren’t targeting President Nicolás Maduro, who has been in power since Mr. Chávez’s death two years ago. U.S. law-enforcement officials say they view several other Venezuelan officials and military officers as the de facto leaders of drug-trafficking organizations that use Venezuela as a launchpad for cocaine shipments to the U.S. as well as Europe.

‘A Criminal Organization’
“It is a criminal organization,” said the Justice Department official, referring to certain members of the upper echelons of the Venezuelan government and military.

Mildred Camero, who had been Mr. Chávez’s drug czar until being forced out abruptly in 2005, said Venezuela has “a government of narcotraffickers and money launderers.” She recently collaborated on a book, “Chavismo, Narcotrafficking and Militarism,” in which she alleged that drug-related corruption had penetrated the state, naming more than a dozen officials, including nine generals, who allegedly worked with smugglers.

Law-enforcement officials in the U.S. said that they have accelerated their investigations in the past two years, a period that has seen Venezuela’s economy worsen dramatically. Rampant crime has spiked, making Venezuela the continent’s most violent country and spurring people to emigrate.

The deepening crisis has made it easier for U.S. authorities to recruit informants, say those working to enlist people close to top Venezuelan officials. Colombian and Venezuelan drug traffickers have also arrived in the U.S., eager to provide information on Venezuelan officials in exchange for sentencing leniency and residency, U.S. officials say.

“Since the turmoil in Venezuela, we’ve had greater success in building these cases,” said a federal prosecutor from New York’s Eastern District who works on Venezuelan cases.

In January, U.S. investigators made a major catch when naval captain Leamsy Salazar defected and was brought to Washington. Mr. Salazar, who has said he headed Mr. Cabello’s security detail, told U.S. authorities that he witnessed Mr. Cabello supervise the launch of a large shipment of cocaine from Venezuela’s Paraguaná peninsula, people familiar with the case say.

Mr. Cabello has publicly railed against his former bodyguard, saying he didn’t head his security detail and calling him “an infiltrator” who has no proof of his involvement in drug trafficking. “Our conscience is totally clear,” he said in a radio interview.

Rafael Isea is another defector who has been talking to investigators, people familiar with the matter say. A former Venezuelan finance minister and governor of Aragua state, Mr. Isea fled Venezuela in 2013. People familiar with the case say Mr. Isea has told investigators that Walid Makled, a drug kingpin now in prison, paid off former Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami to get drug shipments through Venezuela.

Almost a year after leaving the country, Mr. Isea was accused of committing “financial irregularities” during his days as governor by Venezuela’s attorney general, and by Mr. El Aissami, who succeeded him as governor of Aragua.

“Today, Rafael Isea, that bandit and traitor, is a refugee in Washington where he has entered a program for protected witnesses in exchange for worthless information against Venezuela,” Mr. El Aissami said recently on Venezuelan television.

Mr. Isea has rejected the accusations as false, politically motivated and meant to discredit him.

In addition to Mr. El Aissami, other powerful officials under investigation include Hugo Carvajal, a former director of military intelligence; Nestor Reverol, the head of the National Guard; Jose David Cabello, Mr. Cabello’s brother, who is the industry minister and heads the country’s tax collection agency; and Gen. Luis Motta Dominguez, a National Guard general in charge of central Venezuela, say a half-dozen officials and people familiar with the investigations.

Calls and emails seeking comment from several government ministries as well as the president’s office went unanswered. Some officials have taken to social media to ridicule the U.S. investigations. A Twitter account in the name of Gen. Motta Dominguez earlier this year said: “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”

Recruiting Defectors
To build cases, U.S. law-enforcement officials work with Venezuelan exiles and others to locate and recruit disaffected Venezuelans.

“We get people out of Venezuela, and we meet with them in Panama, Curaçao, Bogotá,” said a former intelligence operative who works with U.S. officials to recruit and debrief Venezuelans who have evidence of links between Venezuelan officials and the drug trade.

Former Venezuelan military officers and others living outside the country provide help by contacting their former comrades and urging them to defect, the recruiter said. If the defector can provide useful information, the recruiter said, he is flown to the U.S. and a new life.

“What does the U.S. want?” said the recruiter, who has been working Venezuelan cases since 2008. “The U.S. wants proof, evidence of relations between politicians, military officers and functionaries with drug traffickers and terrorist groups.”

Recently, at Washington’s posh Capital Grille restaurant, a few blocks from Congress, a Venezuelan operative working with a U.S. law enforcement agency took a call from a middleman for a high-level official in Caracas seeking to trade information for favorable treatment from the U.S.

“Tell him I’ll meet him in Panama next week,” said the operative, interrupting a lunch of oysters and steak.

The biggest target is 52-year-old Mr. Cabello, a former army lieutenant who forged a close link in the military academy with Mr. Chávez when the two played on the same baseball team. When Mr. Chávez launched an unsuccessful 1992 coup, Mr. Cabello led a four-tank column that attacked the presidential palace in downtown Caracas.

Mr. Cabello has been minister of public works and housing, which also gave him control of the airports and ports, as well as minister of the interior and vice president. He was also president for a few hours in April 2002 when Mr. Chávez was briefly ousted in a failed coup.

Many analysts and politicians in Venezuela say they believe Mr. Cabello’s power rivals that of Mr. Maduro and is rooted in his influence among Venezuela’s generals.

Julio Rodriguez, a retired colonel who knows Mr. Cabello from their days at Venezuela’s military academy, says that of 96 lieutenant colonels commanding battalions in Venezuela today, Mr. Cabello has close ties to 46.

The stocky and bull-necked Mr. Cabello, who often sports the standard Chavista uniform of red shirt and tri-color windbreaker in the red, yellow and blue of the Venezuelan flag, is host of a television program, “Hitting With the Sledge Hammer,” on state television, in which he uses telephone intercepts of opponents to attack and embarrass them. Mr. Rodriguez said he believes Mr. Cabello will never make any kind of a deal with the U.S. “Diosdado is a kamikaze,” he said. “He will never surrender.”

U.S. investigators have painstakingly built cases against Venezuelan officials by using information gathered from criminal cases brought in the U.S. In Miami, people familiar with the matter say a key building block in the investigations involved a drug-smuggling ring run by Roberto Mendez Hurtado. A Colombian, Mr. Mendez Hurtado moved cocaine into Apure state in western Venezuela and, according to those familiar with his case, had met with high-ranking Venezuelan officials. The cocaine was then taken by boat or flown directly to islands in the Caribbean before reaching American shores.

Mr. Mendez Hurtado pleaded guilty in Miami federal court and received a 19-year prison term in 2014. People close to that investigation say that Mr. Mendez Hurtado and his fellow traffickers wouldn’t have been able to operate without paying off a string of top military officers and government officials.

“The involvement of top officials in the National Guard and in the government of Venezuela in drug trafficking is very clear,” said a former Venezuelan National Guard officer who served in intelligence and in anti-narcotics and left the country last year frightened by the overwhelming corruption he saw daily.

“Everyone feels pressured,” he said. “Sooner or later everyone surrenders to drug trafficking.”

In another case, in Brooklyn, prosecutors have learned about the intricacies of the drug trade in Venezuela after breaking up a cocaine-smuggling ring led by Luis Frank Tello, who pleaded guilty, court documents show. The cocaine was brought in across the border from Colombia and, with the help of National Guard officers, shipped north, sometimes from the airport in Venezuela’s second-largest city, Maracaibo.

The U.S. investigations of Venezuelan officials have been going on for years, though investigators have sometimes been thwarted by politics.

In 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department put three top aides to then-President Chávez on a blacklist and froze any assets they might have in the U.S. Among the three was Mr. Carvajal, known as “El Pollo,” or the Chicken, then the head of military intelligence. The U.S. acted after extensive evidence surfaced earlier that year in the computers of a dead Colombian guerrilla commander of burgeoning cocaine-for-arms exchanges between the rebels and top Venezuelan generals and officials, according to the U.S. and Colombian governments.

In 2010, Manhattan prosecutors unsealed the indictment of Mr. Makled, the Venezuelan drug dealer accused of shipping tons of cocaine to the U.S. through the country’s main seaport of Puerto Cabello, which he allegedly controlled. Mr. Makled, who had been captured in Colombia, boasted of having 40 Venezuelan generals on his payroll.

“All my business associates are generals,” Mr. Makled said then to an associate in correspondence seen by The Wall Street Journal. “I’m telling you we dispatched 300,000 kilos of coke. I couldn’t have done it without the top of the government.”

DEA agents interviewed Mr. Makled in a Colombian prison as they prepared to extradite him to New York. But instead, Colombia extradited him in 2011 to Venezuela, where he was convicted of drug trafficking. This February, he was sentenced to 14 years and six months in jail.

Last July, American counter-drug officials nearly nabbed Mr. Carvajal, who had been indicted in Miami and New York on drug charges and detained in Aruba at the American government’s behest. But Dutch authorities released him to Venezuela, arguing that he had diplomatic immunity.

Upon Mr. Carvajal’s release, President Maduro praised the former intelligence chief as a dedicated anti-drug fighter who had set a worlds’ record capturing drug capos.

The U.S. is also gathering information from bankers and financiers who handle the money for top Venezuelan officials. Since last year, people familiar with the matter say the U.S. government has revoked the visas of at least 56 Venezuelans, including bankers and financiers whose identities haven’t been made public. Some have sought to cooperate with investigators in order to regain access to the U.S.

“They are flipping all these money brokers,” said a lawyer who is representing two Venezuelan financiers who have had their visas revoked. “The information is coming in very rapidly.”

—Christopher M. Matthews in New York contributed to this article.

Write to José de Córdoba at and Juan Forero at

 Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub (,d.cWc)

Title: Shopping Revolution Style
Post by: captainccs on June 28, 2015, 07:03:15 PM (

The news in Spanish:
Title: Stratfor: V's problems run deep
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 04, 2015, 06:25:04 AM

Old strategies are no longer yielding results for Venezuela. Nevertheless, in 2016, the Venezuelan government will continue prioritizing foreign debt payments and reinvestment into the energy sector at the expense of imports. So far, this strategy has allowed it to maintain oil production and avoid a disorderly default on its foreign debt. But challenges will arise as inflation frustrates voters and public funds become depleted.

To make matters worse, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela's (PSUV's) potential loss of its legislative majority in Dec. 6 elections could diminish the government's firm control over the legislative branch. Moreover, renewed protests by the opposition in 2016 are likely to be more threatening than the wave of unrest that occurred in 2014, simply because the economy is in much worse condition. As the economy deteriorates and unrest mounts, the government's unity will be tested, and deeper splits could develop between the major political factions running the country.

In the coming year, the Venezuelan government will continue relying on a strategy it has long used to avoid deeper economic turmoil. Since 2013, Venezuela's central government, which has a near monopoly on the legal disbursement of foreign currency in the country, has cut imports in an attempt to safeguard its dwindling stock of dollars. (In 2015, Venezuela slashed imports by about 25 percent from the year before.) Its goal is to maintain access to its limited foreign lenders at all costs, even though its strategy will spur inflation and exacerbate shortages of food and consumer goods.

This approach is unsustainable in the long run. Venezuela's high levels of public spending, combined with declining investments into the energy sector, the loss of foreign lending and severe economic distortions that encourage the arbitrage of currency and Venezuelan-produced fuel, have all sapped the country's public finances. These problems have only worsened since global oil prices began declining in 2014. Consequently, economic reform is politically unpalatable in Venezuela at the moment. Instead, the government has chosen to hope for the best and wait for oil prices to creep back up while it settles on a method of dealing with impending unrest and potential financial default.

Two events could challenge the government's wait-and-see approach to managing Venezuela's considerable economic difficulties. The first is the Dec. 6 legislative elections. If the opposition wins by a significant margin, it could gain enough political power to weaken the PSUV's unchallenged 15-year hold over the three branches of government. The second is the possibility of renewed political unrest from sections of the political opposition or even from disgruntled former supporters of the ruling party. With inflation in 2015 likely to exceed 200 percent compared with the previous year, a significant portion of the population is feeling the effects of rapid price increases and food scarcity. Although protests related to inflation have been limited in size and impact, inflation is set to increase in 2016 and could eventually lead to more frequent and sizable demonstrations largely from the urban and rural poor, the ruling party's largest support base.

The election poses the most immediate threat to the ruling party. If the opposition wins the election by a wide margin, it could wield considerable influence. A three-fifths majority (101 of the 167 legislative seats) would give the opposition the power to remove the vice president and Cabinet ministers. A supermajority of 112 legislators would allow the opposition to designate members of the crucial National Electoral Council, Venezuela's highest electoral body. It would also potentially empower the opposition to call for a Constitutional Assembly, which can be used to heavily modify the constitution. In the worst-case scenario, the legislative vote poses an existential threat to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, albeit one that it cannot simply cancel for fear of giving opposition forces a rallying point for protests.

But barring a supermajority for the opposition, the Venezuelan government has some measures it can rely on to keep the opposition in the legislature in check. It can still use the presidential veto or the Supreme Court's constitutional chamber to overturn legislative decisions. Using these bodies, in combination with selective concessions to the multiple factions within the opposition coalition, Maduro could create enough disruptions to limit the influence of an opposition-led National Assembly. Such an outcome would lead to greater political conflict between segments of the opposition and the government amid a deepening economic crisis that the government can do little to address.

Renewed opposition-led protests in 2016 will also threaten the government. In 2015, the promise that a legislative victory was within the opposition's grasp likely kept coordinated protests against the state in check. But next year, there will be no such limitations, and sections of the opposition such as the Voluntad Popular party and student organizations could ramp up their demonstrations against the government. With inflation and shortages far worse than those seen during the wave of protests that swept the country in 2014, renewed demonstrations pose a real risk to the government. The demands of any demonstrations could include Maduro's resignation; starting next year, Maduro can be legally recalled via referendum. If the unrest becomes severe enough, it could also force splits among the factions of the PSUV as members of the party's elite seek to safeguard their stakes in the national political system.

Meanwhile, the lack of an economic cushion for public finances will keep the risk of financial default alive next year. Meeting foreign debt payments has been an essential part of the ruling party's strategy to maintain access to Venezuela's limited foreign lending. During Maduro's tenure, the government began reducing imports to keep meeting those payments and lower the government's overall spending. But the PSUV and the government are in a difficult spot. About $16 billion in foreign debt payments is due in 2016, including interest payments. The government has already eaten through $7.2 billion in foreign reserves (32 percent of its total reserves) this year, and off-budget funds that previously bolstered additional spending, such as the National Development Fund, are likely heavily drawn down because of the reduced availability of dollars from oil exports. With few additional sources of revenue outside of state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela's income, default in the coming year is plausible. At this point, Caracas' likely options are to delay default by conducting a voluntary Petroleos de Venezuela bond swap or to sell its increasingly limited assets, although the success of such measures is highly dependent on investors' and bondholders' perceptions of the country.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 04, 2015, 09:11:03 AM
The discontent is palpable on the street, the queues when something arrives are endless, yet things aren't bad enough for people to take to the streets to protest. People still believe the election will produce some favorable change in the legislature. I'm not that sanguine, I believe the government will find ways to win by fraud. The OAS is not being allowed to monitor the election. What do they have to hide? Fraud, what else?

Those of us with dollars can buy stuff via Amazon. There is an old rule still in place that exempts packages under $100 from duties and VAT tax which can increase the cost by one third. Unbelievable as it may seem I've brought in deodorant, bath soap, face towels, socks, and briefs, everyday items you guy don't even have to think about. Fresh vegetables and fruit are plentiful and very inexpensive by US standards. It's the manufactured goods that are scarce. Two weeks ago eggs disappeared when they were regulated at half the going rate. Then, as if by magic, they reappeared yesterday and huge queues ensued for people to get them. With the election set for Sunday, one has to wonder...

Yesterday I had an acrylic filling replaced. Total cost $20.00 at free market rates. 10 to 15% of US rates. A decent haircut was 75 cents! It's the poor who are getting screwed.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on December 04, 2015, 09:37:04 AM
"Two weeks ago eggs disappeared when they were regulated at half the going rate. Then, as if by magic, they reappeared yesterday and huge queues ensued for people to get them. "

   - And we in the US want to copy the centrally planned and controlled economies.

Good luck in the election Denny.  I love getting the first-hand reports without the travel.   )
Title: OPEC Maintains Crude Production as Group Defers Output Target
Post by: captainccs on December 04, 2015, 10:03:34 AM
Despite pleading, begging, and groveling by the Maduro government, OPEC keeps pumping up the volume. Take that Maduro!

OPEC Maintains Crude Production as Group Defers Output Target
December 4, 2015 — 12:09 PM EST

- Group to wait until June meeting to confirm output ceiling
- Nigeria minister says OPEC to keep output at 31.5 million b/d

OPEC will maintain production at current levels and refrained from setting an official output target, a continuation of the Saudi Arabian-led policy that’s driven prices to a six-year low.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to retain production at 31.5 million barrels a day, group President Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told reporters on Friday, after a meeting of OPEC ministers in Vienna. OPEC will wait until its next meeting in June to confirm its output target, said Secretary General Abdalla El-Badri.

“Effectively it’s ceilingless,” Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said on Friday, after returning from the meeting with his OPEC counterparts. “Everyone does whatever they want. I think there will be a decision about how to act on the market in the second quarter of 2016.”

Guided by its biggest producer Saudi Arabia, OPEC has maintained output to force higher-cost producers to scale back their operations. The group also needs to prepare for increased shipments from Iran when international sanctions are lifted. OPEC has pumped more than its previous collective target of 30 million barrels a day the past 18 months, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

“The volume maximizing strategy goes on for OPEC,” said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS Group AG Zurich. “It’s at least better to give up a useless ceiling. The burden to adjust supply remains on non-OPEC producers.”

OPEC pumped 31.5 million barrels a day in November, Zanganeh said.
Title: Venezuela On Edge On The Eve Of The December 6th.
Post by: captainccs on December 06, 2015, 01:20:11 AM
Venezuela On Edge On The Eve Of The December 6th.

Arrived only a few hours ago on Saturday and all I can say is that people are on the edge tonight wondering what will happen tomorrow. The cockiness of three weeks ago is not as blatant. Yes, the opposition will get a majority, but after 16 years of Chavismo people (and rumors) are rampant about possible tricks and maneuvers by the government.

This was not helped by the fact that there were Internet blackouts in many parts of the country today. The Head of Conatel, the telecom regulator denied this, but friends tell me that if you tried to call CANTV to report the problems, they were not even answering the phone.

The result is an atmosphere of mistrust and skepticism about what may or may not happen tomorrow. Or the day after, for that matter…

On the positive news front, the Electoral Board announced that witnesses for the opposition outnumbered those of Chavismo’s PSUV by 2,000, a clear indication of the inability of Chavismo to mobilize people like it used to. Many friends also reporting that numerous polling stations have seen no presence of pro-Government members, leading to the installation of the process without them.

Meanwhile, as the international media is harassed as they arrive in Venezuela and also as they try to cover the elections, Chavismo is selling it as a campaign against the country, even citing the number of positive (380), neutral (75) and positive (24) news items about the country. Which according to Chavismo, reflects this campaign and not reality.

Never mind that many reporters have had heir equipment confiscated at the airport and many have been told they can not take pictures of mundane events and their media has been erased.

Meanwhile visiting former Presidents managed to obtain a promise from the Government that political prisoners would be allowed to vote (They were not going to), while the opposition has created a parallel system of observation of the electoral process by foreign dignitaries, as well as social media tools to denounce problems tomorrow with the voting process.

Meanwhile, some pollsters claim to have seen a Maduro resurgence (!!!!), while others say that the result will depend on what Chavismo and now lukewarm Chavistas do. If the latter decide to stay home, the opposition will squeak by, but if they decide to go and express their unhappiness the opposition could enjoy a huge victory, even if short of the super majority.

I am sticking to my guns of a simple majority, roughly 55-58% of Deputies, hoping that former Chavistas are so disenchanted that they prove me wrong. I like the fact that Chavistas are outnumbered by the opposition witnesses and that they have been absent from the installations of the polling stations. But I just wonder if they will they be absent from voting too…

Abstention will be key and pollsters have little confidence that they have a handle on their number. Add proportionality, gerrymandering, fraud and tricks and numerical predictions are really hard to make.

I will do my usual scan throughout Caracas and report solid news, if such an animal exists before midnight tomorrow.

Best of luck to Venezuela from the Devil!


3 Responses to “Venezuela On Edge On The Eve Of The December 6th. Parliamentary Vote”

Morpheous Says:

December 6, 2015 at 12:07 am
Here I quote some content from the link at the bottom:

But analysts said Venezuela’s vote on Sunday will be less decisive, and potentially volatile, since opposition parties have little in common beyond their disdain for Maduro.

His term as president runs until 2019, unless the opposition wins a big enough majority to force him out by constitutional means.

If the opposition wins a smaller majority, Maduro could manipulate the result in his favor or just rule by presidential decree, said analyst Luis Vicente Leon, head of Datanalisis.

“The assembly could seek to impeach the president, but he could try to dissolve the congress,” said Leon.

Another senior opposition figure, Henrique Capriles, warned opposition radicals against taking to the streets after Sunday’s vote.

“Venezuela is a bomb ready to explode,” he told AFP.


IslandCanuck Says:

December 6, 2015 at 12:45 am
We lost CANTV ABA around 3.30 pm here in Isla Margarita but I just woke up and checked it and it’s working again (1 am).

It’s going to be a very interesting day and evening.
Everyone vote early and often.


Dean A Nash Says:

December 6, 2015 at 3:21 am
Stay safe and good luck. My two cents (worth much less) is that the cheating will be massive enough to be obvious, but not odorous enough to cause an outright breakdown of order. Backup prediction: Massive cheating so obvious it changes the winner and causes the breakdown of order (this would all be part of the plan) in order for the government to step in and restore order (i.e. take away more freedom.)

Six one way, half a dozen the other. The end result remains the same: a clueless dictatorship dragging the country further down the rabbit hole. Hope I’m wrong.

Title: The Weather on Election Day
Post by: captainccs on December 06, 2015, 02:27:27 AM
The Sun is coming out as usual but the clouds promise rain later in the day. Will report when I get from voting.

Left the house to go vote. The morning is cool and overcast, perfect for walking without breaking into a sweat. My polling station is about 5 Kms the way the crow flies. The first polling station I come to has a long queue but it has yet to open. I buy fresh turmeric (cúrcuma) on the way.

I arrive at my polling station. There are hardly any queues, a bad sign. It takes about 15 minutes to vote.

I arrive back home. That takes care of half my weekly walking. I took a different route to go past other polling stations. There is nothing unusual to report, just people going about their business. The siege mentality of previos elections is gone but there are plenty rumors going around. The first two polling stations I went past on the way home didn't have any visible queues. As I continued west to slightly lower middle class I found two very long queues.

Here is a report from "The Devil." Nothing much to report either.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 06, 2015, 08:39:35 AM

Good to have your reports and you with us once again.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 06, 2015, 08:42:50 AM

I'm updating my previous post to keep it all together. Nothing much to report, really.
Title: The Slow Death of Chavismo
Post by: captainccs on December 06, 2015, 12:33:09 PM
As the hand-picked successor of Hugo Chávez, the country’s longstanding former leader, Maduro inherited one of the most innovative and successful propaganda models in the world, developed by Chávez between 1998 and 2002. Why hasn’t Maduro been able to use it?

If one has to grant Chavez an ability it was charisma. Two people who were not Chavistas but who had the opportunity to meet the man in person told me personally about his magnetic personality. One told me about the back stage happenings at an Aló Presidente where Chavez would greet workers by name and ask about their problems. Maduro, by contrast, was the most inept person he could find for the job of vice president. As a management consultant I discovered that the qualifications for high management position in Venezuela is trustworthiness. Owner want someone who they can trust not to defraud them. In politics they want someone who won't take their power away from them. Maduro was such a choice, bus driver and body guard! I recall riding the subway before the election that made Maduro president. A Chavista woman was saying out loud, for all to hear, that Maduro would be a disaster. Her words were prophetic.

The Slow Death of Chavismo

Foreign Policy Magazine   
Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez
December 6, 2015

Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, seems to be stumbling towards electoral defeat in the country’s legislative elections today, potentially triggering a long goodbye for the country’s seventeen-year-old socialist revolution. Polls show that, while Venezuelans may differ somewhat when assigning blame for their country’s ongoing economic collapse, discontent is nearly universal and only about 20 to 25 percent approve of the president himself. As the hand-picked successor of Hugo Chávez, the country’s longstanding former leader, Maduro inherited one of the most innovative and successful propaganda models in the world, developed by Chávez between 1998 and 2002. Why hasn’t Maduro been able to use it?

Hugo Chávez’s 14-year stint at the helm of Venezuela’s revolutionary government produced many uncertainties for its population: a new constitution, radical reforms, soaring inflation, and a veritable boom in street crime and urban violence, to name but a few. But for most of that time, one thing was certain. Every Sunday, viewers could watch Chávez’s television talk-show Aló Presidente, an eclectic mix of variety show, televangelical preaching, real-time government, and musical extravaganza. Chávez used his show, which was broadcast on the state television channel, to share his views on matters ranging from baseball to geopolitics, answer phone calls from the populace, share personal anecdotes, or spout his trademark ideological pedagogy, liberally peppered with outbursts of song.

On the show, Chávez would expropriate businesses, renounce Venezuela’s membership in international associations, and expel ambassadors; he might even indulge in mobilizing troops to the Colombian border or announce modifications to the flag, currency, and other national symbols. For many Venezuelans, Aló Presidente represented a window into national events and decisions, taking place in real time — a reality show which affected the lives of its viewers. Chávez also used the show to reward his supporters with gifts and patronage with the dramatic beneficence of a Caesar in a coliseum — deciding, if not matters of life and death, then at least the destinies of individual citizens, by doling out everything from scholarships and jobs to cooking supplies, all to thunderous applause.

For Venezuelans, Aló Presidente became a ready reminder of the benefits of working with the regime — and Chávez’s largesse contrasted with threats, invectives, and even arrest orders against those who broke rank. When ministers were regularly chastised, fired, and replaced on air, viewers received a clear message: the government’s many failures were due to poor execution of Chávez’s otherwise infallible plans by incompetent minions. He claimed, for example, that an important bridge had been felled by El Niño (not lack of maintenance); that periods of scarcity were the fault of hoarders or speculators (not economic mismanagement); and that the lights went out in several cities because an iguana had somehow got loose in the electrical mainframe. Conspiratorial scare tactics likewise abounded: shadowy opposition intrigues were alleged; CIA cabals brandished “cancer injections” and “earthquake rays”; Coke Zero (but not other Coca-Cola products) was accused of being poisonous. There were even cautionary tales such as the story of a once-thriving civilization on Mars brought low by the adoption of capitalism.

Ironically, while excoriating capitalism, Chávez’s state media empire learned to wield its best-known commercial and marketing tricks in pushing its main product: Chávez himself. Foreign heads of state and left-leaning international celebrities, such as Naomi Campbell, Danny Glover, and Sean Penn, would appear on the show, lending their star power to the Chávez brand of permanent revolution.

Aló Presidente represented the perfect populist vehicle: it kept Chávez in the public eye, helped define his political agenda, and drove the media conversation during any given week. When the Sunday afternoon format proved too limiting, Chávez became heavily reliant on cadenas, a type of broadcast permitted under Venezuelan law that gives presidents a constitutional prerogative to seize airtime on every radio and TV station for use in emergencies, or to broadcast major events such as the Venezuelan equivalent of the United States’ yearly State of the Union speech. Undeterred by convention, Chávez began serially invoking the law to deliver multi-hour speeches, meticulously timed to moments when opposition leaders were speaking elsewhere.
Title: Landslide Victory! 68% ~ 32%
Post by: captainccs on December 06, 2015, 09:51:30 PM
The National Assembly has 165 deputies and three levels of majority for approving different types of legislation. The opposition has gained absolute control. Maduro has conceded.

Total                   165 diputados
1/2 mayoría simple       83 diputados
3/5                      99 diputados
2/3 mayoría calificada  110 diputados

When the announcement was made the opposition had won 99 deputies, the Chavistas 46 and 20 were still undecided. The opposition estimates to have won a total of 113 which would give them absolute control of the legislature.

To tell the truth, I was not a believer in such a landslide victory.
Title: Now comes the hard part
Post by: captainccs on December 07, 2015, 04:01:24 AM
Taking over the legislature by winning an election was the easy part. For a dictatorship to stay in power it has to be ruthless. Chavismo was not ruthless enough for its own good. Initially it relied on Chavez's charisma something that Maduro tried to imitate but failed to deliver. Defection from Chavismo at the top has been ongoing. A large number of Chavistas were socialist ideologues who left the party as they became disillusioned with how the country was being run. This has been ongoing for well over a decade. Just yesterday I met one such defector, a historian who had helped write the 1999 constitution and who was in the seat of power. He quit the party on ideological grounds. At the other end of the scale, there is the economic defector and their number is large enough to swing elections by landslides:

"I used to be a proud Chavista," said Rodrigo Duran, a 28-year-old security guard who switched allegiance in his vote on Sunday. "But how can I carry on when my salary doesn't allow me to feed my children? They deceived us."

The great difficulty is to bring the country back to economic health. Setting price controls is comparatively painless but it introduces terrific economic distortions. Just last week I paid $0.75 for a haircut. For the country to get back to economic sanity prices have to fit into the globalized economy. Our haircuts don't have to be priced at the same rate as in Los Angeles or Miami but they have to be high enough to allow the barber to buy products whose prices are globally set or at least influenced by global commerce. This adjustment, eliminating price controls, can be very painful, certainly much more painful than setting price controls in the first place. This pain was the reason a previous president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, was indicted (on trumped up charges) and removed from office.

Some countries, like Red China, managed the transition quite well. Others, like Russia, did not. How well will Venezuela cope?

Denny Schlesinger
Title: Re: Now comes the hard part
Post by: G M on December 07, 2015, 05:39:35 AM
Taking over the legislature by winning an election was the easy part. For a dictatorship to stay in power it has to be ruthless. Chavismo was not ruthless enough for its own good. Initially it relied on Chavez's charisma something that Maduro tried to imitate but failed to deliver. Defection from Chavismo at the top has been ongoing. A large number of Chavistas were socialist ideologues who left the party as they became disillusioned with how the country was being run. This has been ongoing for well over a decade. Just yesterday I met one such defector, a historian who had helped write the 1999 constitution and who was in the seat of power. He quit the party on ideological grounds. At the other end of the scale, there is the economic defector and their number is large enough to swing elections by landslides:

"I used to be a proud Chavista," said Rodrigo Duran, a 28-year-old security guard who switched allegiance in his vote on Sunday. "But how can I carry on when my salary doesn't allow me to feed my children? They deceived us."

The great difficulty is to bring the country back to economic health. Setting price controls is comparatively painless but it introduces terrific economic distortions. Just last week I paid $0.75 for a haircut. For the country to get back to economic sanity prices have to fit into the globalized economy. Our haircuts don't have to be priced at the same rate as in Los Angeles or Miami but they have to be high enough to allow the barber to buy products whose prices are globally set or at least influenced by global commerce. This adjustment, eliminating price controls, can be very painful, certainly much more painful than setting price controls in the first place. This pain was the reason a previous president, Carlos Andrés Pérez, was indicted (on trumped up charges) and removed from office.

Some countries, like Red China, managed the transition quite well. Others, like Russia, did not. How well will Venezuela cope?

Denny Schlesinger

Hopefully it will look to lessons learned from Chile and other countries.
Title: Venezuela opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly
Post by: captainccs on December 09, 2015, 03:28:06 AM
Opposition Wins 2/3rds Supermajority

The number of seats is 167, not 165 as I reported earlier and 2/3rds of 167 is exactly 112. There are three levels of majority to approve different kinds of laws and appointments. Earlier the discussion was about wether maduro could stifle a simple majority by the opposition but the supermajority sweeps away those fears. Having the supermajority means that the opposition can start dismantling the rubber stamp supreme court which has been one of the enforcers of the Chavista dictatorship. The Chavista dictatorship tried hard to wear sheep's clothing and in many ways it succeeded. That is now over.

I worry when any party has absolute majority in all three powers, executive, legislative and judiciary. It's a recipe for extremism and abuse. Our democracy started to go wrong when AD controlled both the presidency and the legislature. Not only was it a rubber stamp congress but it went so far as to give the president powers to rule by decree thereby taking congress (themselves) out of the game. The result was a poor presidency that ended with Carlos Andres Perez (CAP) being removed on trumped up charges. From there to Chávez was just continual decline as people got fed up with the so called democrats who, by the way, were also socialists.

When Chávez got the National Assembly to give him the same powers congress had given CAP, the opposition cried foul. But the example had been set by the so called democratic powers decades earlier. In fact, many of the things Chávez did which the opposition criticized, had already been done during the democracy. My friends hated me for pointing this out.

I'm not defending Chávez in any way, I'm condemning democracy without working separation of powers. I love split governments, gridlock, it's safer that way.

The election and the aftermath has been very quiet. The Chavista thugs (Círculos Bolivarianos) didn't take to the street. Maduro recanted on his previous threat to take power by force if they lost the election. Evidently electoral fraud was minimal or non-existent. Yesterday I was talking to an ex-sergeant of the national guard who had been dismissed early in the Chávez years when Chávez was padding the military in his favor. He commented that someone must have put the fear of god into top government people for this to happen. I really don't know how things happen at those levels and rumors are as abundant as flies.

My hope is that many of the Chavista mismanagements, to give them a kinder name, will be reversed, like selling under-priced oil to other socialist governments, we can't afford it and we don't need to buy their votes at the UN or at the OAS. That was Chávez's motivation. But I also hope that it does not turn into a witch hunt. We all must live in the same house.

Julio Borges, the fellow pictured below, is a good candidate for president of the National Assembly. He ran for the presidency of the republic but he just does not have the public personality to create enough of a following.

Venezuela opposition wins supermajority in National Assembly

Associated Press   
December 8, 2015

Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges, who was reelected to Congress, gives thumbs up as he arrives for a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, one day after congressional elections. Venezuela's opposition won control of the National Assembly by a landslide in Sunday's election, stunning the ruling party and altering the balance of power 17 years after the late Hugo Chávez was elected president. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition won a key two-thirds majority in the National Assembly in legislative voting, according to final results released Tuesday, dramatically strengthening its hand in any bid to wrest power from President Nicolas Maduro after 17 years of socialist rule.

More than 48 hours after polls closed, the National Electoral Council published the final tally on its website, confirming that the last two undecided races broke the opposition coalition's way, giving them 112 out of 167 seats in the National Assembly that's sworn in next month. The ruling socialist party and its allies got 55 seats.

The publication ends two days of suspense in which Maduro's opponents claimed a much-larger margin of victory than initially announced by electoral authorities, who were slow to tabulate and release results that gave a full picture of the magnitude of the Democratic Unity opposition alliance's landslide.

The outcome, better than any of the opposition's most-optimistic forecasts, gives the coalition an unprecedented strength in trying to rein in Maduro as well as the votes needed to sack Supreme Court justices and even remove Maduro from office by convoking an assembly to rewrite Hugo Chávez's 1999 constitution.

Although divided government should foster negotiations, Maduro in his first remarks following the results showed little sign of moderating the radical course that voters rejected.

Even while recognizing defeat, the former bus driver and union organizer blamed the "circumstantial" loss on a right-wing "counterrevolution" trying to sabotage Venezuela's oil-dependent economy and destabilize the government.

On Tuesday, Maduro visited Chávez's mausoleum in the 23 of January hillside slum where the government suffered a shock loss in Sunday's vote. Accompanied by members of his top military command, he accused his opponents of sowing discrimination and class hatred, cautioning workers who voted for the opposition that they would regret their decision to abandon support for the government.

"The bad guys won, like the bad guys always do, through lies and fraud," said Maduro. "Workers of the fatherland know that you have a president, a son of Chávez, who will protect you."

Hardliners in the notoriously fractious opposition seem similarly inflexible, preferring to talk about ending Maduro's rule before his term ends in 2019 rather than resolving Venezuela's triple-digit inflation, plunging currency and the widespread shortages expected to worsen in January as businesses close for the summer vacation.

Moderates however are calling for dialogue to give Maduro a chance to roll back policies they blame for the unprecedented economic crisis. But with most Venezuelans bracing for more hardship as oil prices, the lifeblood of the economy, hover near a seven-year low, even they recognize the window for change is small and closing fast.

"If Maduro doesn't change we'll have to change the government," Gov. Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in 2013 presidential elections, told The Associated Press. "But the opposition's response to the economic crisis right now can't be more politics."


Joshua Goodman in on Twitter: His work can be found at
Title: Venezuelan officials accused of taking drug pay-offs in U.S. indictment
Post by: captainccs on December 16, 2015, 06:31:05 PM
The Venezuelan National Guard is corrupt to the core.

Venezuelan officials accused of taking drug pay-offs in U.S. indictment
Reuters By Nate Raymond
1 hour ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two senior Venezuelan officials facing U.S. drug trafficking charges are accused in an indictment of taking payments from narcotics traffickers and alerting them to drug raids, according to a person with knowledge of the case.

Nestor Reverol, the head of Venezuela's National Guard, and Edylberto Molina, a former deputy head of the anti-narcotics agency and currently a military attache posted in Germany, are named in the indictment that prosecutors are preparing to unseal, people familiar with the case told Reuters.

In addition to tipping traffickers off about raids, the two are charged with taking other steps to hinder anti-narcotics investigations, the person told Reuters on Wednesday.

Reverol, the former head of Venezuela's anti-narcotics agency, would be one of the highest-ranking Venezuelan officials to face U.S. drug charges. He could not be reached for comment.

He has previously rejected U.S. accusations that Venezuela has failed to curb illicit drug shipments and has touted the National Guard's success in cracking down on the flow of cocaine from neighboring Colombia.

Venezuela’s embassy in Berlin did not respond to an email requesting contact information for Molina. The diplomat has been a general in the National Guard, which is the branch of the armed forces that controls Venezuela's borders.

A National Guard official did not immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment. An Information Ministry official said the ministry had no comment on Reverol.

The indictment pending in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, which the people said was expected to be unveiled in January, comes as the United States investigates the suspected involvement of senior Venezuelan officials in the cocaine trade.

The National Guard issued a series of Tweets in Reverol's defense on Tuesday night using the hashtag #NestorReverolSoldierOfTheFatherland and saying he should be praised for capturing more than 100 drugs bosses.

In televised comments on Wednesday, Socialist Party leader Jorge Rodriguez accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of drug trafficking in Venezuela and said the accusations were an "aggression" against the country's armed forces.

“There are two countries, one that produces drugs and another that shoves it up its nose. One produces and the other consumes, and neither of those two countries is Venezuela," he said, referring to Colombia and the United States respectively.

The U.S. Justice Department and the DEA have declined to comment on the case.

U.S. prosecutors have unsealed indictments charging at least five former Venezuelan officials with drug trafficking crimes over the past four years, according to records from Florida and New York district courts.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro dismisses charges of official involvement in drug trafficking as an international right-wing campaign to discredit socialism in Venezuela.

Two other former officials with the National Guard have been indicted on U.S. drugs charges in recent years.

One of them, former captain Vassyly Villarroel Ramirez, was indicted in 2011 on cocaine-trafficking charges. The U.S. Treasury put Villarroel on its drug "kingpin" list in 2013, and Venezuela arrested him in July on drug trafficking charges.

Lawyers for Villarroel could not be reached for comment.

Two nephews of Venezuelan first lady Cilia Flores were arrested in Haiti last month and indicted in federal court in Manhattan on cocaine trafficking charges. They are scheduled to next appear in court on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington and Brian Ellsworth in Caracas; Editing by Stuart Grudgings)
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 16, 2015, 06:47:20 PM
Corruption, corruption everywhere.

Venezuela's soccer chief fighting extradition to US
Associated Press
2 hours ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's longtime soccer chief is fighting his extradition to the U.S. from Switzerland and asking to be judged in his home country on charges of corruption at soccer's governing body.

Lawyers for Rafael Esquivel told Venezuelan newspaper El Universal Wednesday that they've asked prosecutors to request his extradition.

Esquivel was arrested in May in Zurich as part of the U.S. and Swiss investigations into corruption at FIFA. In seeking his extradition to Venezuela his lawyers may be betting that the 69-year-old could benefit from his political connections in the socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro or receive a more lenient punishment such as home arrest if he pleads guilty.

Venezuela's soccer federation, which Esquivel led since 1988 until the time of his arrest, declined to comment.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on December 16, 2015, 08:45:43 PM
"Corruption, corruption everywhere."


Do you still invest in stocks?   I recall you had a lot of good recommendations back in the Gilder days.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 17, 2015, 01:51:17 AM
George Gilder was/is a brilliant fellow but he is no investor and the Gilder Days ended badly because he didn't have an exit strategy and I was too green to know that one need such a strategy. Yes, I'm still investing and learning but now I'm entirely self directed so I have no one but myself to blame or congratulate for my results. I post about investing as captainccs at The Motley Fool. Investing is a fascinating world!
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on December 17, 2015, 05:55:48 AM
Yes Gilder is brilliant.   He saw the wave coming.   But no one can predict when it will crash against the rocks and what will rise up from the debris.

Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on December 17, 2015, 07:22:02 AM
Following Gilder made me money at first and then lost me far more. 
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on December 17, 2015, 09:15:03 AM
Same here...
Title: Venezuela opposition: Court blocking of 4 lawmakers a 'coup'
Post by: captainccs on January 02, 2016, 03:25:00 AM
Government dirty tricks in the open, they are trying to block the opposition's 2/3 rd. supermajority by preventing three or more deputies from taking their seats. The so called Supreme Court is nothing but a Chavista rubber stamp having been stuffed with Chavista acolytes. One of the aims of the supermajority was to clean up the Supreme Court.

While I understand the desire of the winners to get their rewards I don't think that supermajority is a good idea either. Too much power makes any and all governments dangerous, precisely the reason the Founding Fathers insisted on separation of powers, checks and balances. I love gridlock, it keeps rulers in check.

Venezuela opposition: Court blocking of 4 lawmakers a 'coup'
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
December 31, 2015 9:56 AM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition is calling a Supreme Court decision that bars four recently-elected lawmakers from taking their seats in the National Assembly part of a "judicial coup" and has vowed to uphold the voters' will when a new session starts next week.

The high court released a decision late Wednesday suspending the inauguration of four of the lawmakers declared winners after the opposition swept Dec. 6 legislative elections. Three are anti-government and one is a member of the ruling socialist party. The ruling comes in response to a challenge filed by supporters of the socialist party. The court did not explain the legal justification behind its decision.

The ruling could undermine the opposition's newly won two-thirds legislative "super-majority" and limit its power.

Opposition leaders are pledging that the barred lawmakers will attend the first session of the new congress on Jan. 5. Lawmaker Julio Borges, one of two favorites to be the next assembly president, said President Nicolas Maduro could not be allowed to overturn the will of the people.

"The National Assembly represents the sovereignty of the people, and the president is trying to violate that using a biased court," he wrote on Twitter. "On Jan. 5, we will swear in the National Assembly and preserve that sovereignty as the Venezuelan people and international observers look on."

The opposition won a landslide victory earlier this month, taking control of congress for the first time in more than a decade. The coalition captured 112 of 167 seats, giving it a crucial two-thirds majority by one seat. That super-majority would allow government critics to censure top officials and could open the door to recalling Maduro or even rewriting the constitution.

Opposition coalition spokesman Jesus Torrealba released an open letter Wednesday asking international bodies including the United Nations and the European Union to help stop the government from stealing back control of the legislature.

"The country, the region and the world face a judicial coup d'état attempt against the decision the Venezuelan people made at the ballot box," he wrote.

The ruling has not provoked popular unrest in the middle of weeks-long winter vacations. In Caracas, the streets were unusually empty, save for groups of people launching fireworks and drinking rum in anticipation of the new year.

But Tuesday's swearing in ceremony could be a tinderbox. Government supporters have promised to rally outside the National Assembly, and the opposition is calling for government critics to join all 112 elected deputies in a march to the building.

The hardline members of the opposition who led a wave of bloody 2014 street protests are calling for a show of force.

"The best response to this moribund regime is to show in the streets how many of us there are on Jan. 5," opposition leader Freddy Guevara said.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: DougMacG on January 02, 2016, 10:08:25 AM
" I don't think that supermajority is a good idea either. Too much power makes any and all governments dangerous, precisely the reason the Founding Fathers insisted on separation of powers, checks and balances."

Great point.  I don't want to be ruled by the elite either, or by majorities or even by super majorities.  I don't want to be ruled by anyone.  We need some basic rules of conduct in a civilized society that leaves people with all their basic freedoms intact.  We need a public sector that is only used for the things that need to  be done by a public sector.   In business, the government should be the impartial referee, not your supplier, teammate or competitor.
Title: Wrong man for the job
Post by: captainccs on January 04, 2016, 04:40:20 AM
Chavez was very much the product of the terrible mismanagement of our two old mainline parties AD and COPEI that ruled the country for half a century. Now they've elected an old combative ADECO to lead the opposition in the National Assembly. Big mistake.

The irony is that during all those years I voted for AD as the lesser evil. This old article of mine might be of interest:

August 6, 2006
Uslar Pietri, Venezuelan Democracy's Undertaker

Arturo Uslar Pietri was considered one of the leading Venezuelan intellectuals of the 20th century. He certainly was entertaining and educational on TV where he addressed his "invisible friends." He was also a failed politician who ran for president and lost badly. Carlos Andrés Perez (CAP) was of the opinion that, having failed to reach power via elections, Uslar Pietri was trying to reach a position of power through machination.,%20venezuelan%20d.html

Combative Venezuela opposition leader will head congress
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
10 hours ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — An outspoken opposition leader known for embracing confrontation was chosen Sunday to head Venezuela's new congress when it opens in two days as a counterweight to the socialist administration.

The newly elected opposition majority voted to make Henry Ramos Allup the president of the National Assembly when it is seated Tuesday. The new session will be the first time foes of the administration have had control of any government institution in more than a decade.

Ramos, 72, is a divisive figure that government supporters love to hate as much for his acerbic tongue as for his leadership in the once-hegemonic Democratic Action party that co-governed Venezuela for decades before the late President Hugo Chavez won power in 1998 and began his leftist program.

Ramos' rival for the legislative presidency was Julio Borges, 46, a member of the Justice First party, a newer, moderate movement that won the biggest bloc of opposition seats.

Although Ramos hasn't joined in street protests against the government, he won with the help of opposition hard-liners who favor such demonstrations and other confrontation with President Nicolas Maduro's administration. Borges' party advocates a focus on negotiation and elections.

Ramos said the new National Assembly will show Venezuelans a more democratic way forward.

"We ask the people to watch us, to demand more of us, and keep an eye on what we do to make sure that we honor our commitment," he said.

Ramos' supporters praise him as an experienced operative well-positioned to wrangle the dozens of parties that make up Venezuela's opposition coalition and stand up to what is sure to be an offensive by the administration.

Skeptics say Ramos is too prone to spouting off and plays into the government's attempts to paint the opposition as entitled snobs nostalgic for the days when elites ran Venezuela.

The opposition won a crucial two-thirds legislative "super-majority" by a single seat in the Dec. 6 elections and it will need to corral every lawmaker to get through the most dramatic policies.

But policy and strategy disagreements within the opposition will make it hard to get the most high-stakes votes through, said R. Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies at the United States Army War College Strategic Studies Institute.

"I suspect that the government will also use a combination of personal inducements and legal intimidation to try to coopt some of the members of the new congress," he said.

The opposition has long been split between moderates and hard-liners, and the two sides have exchanged barbs since their coalition's landslide victory over the socialists.

Even as the scale of the victory was still settling after polls closed, some opposition members began talking jubilantly about taking steps to remove Maduro and rewrite the constitution while others cautioned that the voters wanted economic reforms rather than a political fight.

Justice First leader Henrique Capriles, a governor who narrowly lost to Maduro in the last presidential election in 2013, called the opposition's legislative victory a vindication of his party's focus on building electoral support district by district. His party won 33 of the opposition's 112 seats in the new congress.

In recent weeks, Capriles has lambasted opposition leaders who have advocated street activism, particularly a wave of protests that shut down parts of Venezuela in 2014 and resulted in dozens of deaths.

Carpriles said that if the opposition had continued to pursue open confrontation in the streets, the coalition would never have won congress. The street protest movement "must be named among our greatest national failures," he told the Venezuelan weekly Tal Cual.

Supporters of Capriles' chief rival, the imprisoned hardline opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, angrily rejected that criticism. Lopez's father, Leopoldo Lopez Gil, tweeted that he was glad Capriles is a governor and doesn't have a seat in the "new, brave congress." He also backed Ramos' leadership bid.

Lopez has been sentenced to more than a decade in prison in connection with his leadership of the 2014 protests, and he consistently polls as one of the nation's most popular leaders along with Capriles.

The government has so far showed few signs of willingness to negotiate. The outgoing congress filled the Supreme Court with newly appointed judges, and the court last week barred three opposition lawmakers from being sworn in.

Ramos on Sunday reiterated the opposition's pledge that all 112 lawmakers would take their seats despite the ruling, setting the stage for a showdown. Both the opposition and supporters of the administration are promising to convene at the National Assembly building Tuesday.
Title: Venezuela opposition sets out to oust government
Post by: captainccs on January 06, 2016, 04:13:43 PM
They got rid of the Chavez portraits. Demagoguery is no way to run a modern country. Maduro has done a great job of discrediting Chavismo.

Venezuela opposition sets out to oust government
AFP By Maria Isabel Sanchez
27 minutes ago

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela's opposition laid claim Wednesday to a big legislative majority that could empower it to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The opposition has vowed to find a way to get rid of Maduro within six months.

It has taken control of the National Assembly for the first time since 1999, the year the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez came to power.

At its first regular legislative session on Wednesday, the opposition-controlled assembly swore in three anti-government lawmakers, defying Maduro who had secured a court injunction to suspend them.

The three extra deputies boost the total number of opposition seats in the legislature to a two-thirds "supermajority" that could enable them to remove Maduro by constitutional means.

The government side vowed to charge the opposition with contempt of court.

The number two in Maduro's leadership, former assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello, said the swearing-in of the suspended deputies "flagrantly violated the constitution."

- Removing Chavez's portrait -

Opposition leaders earlier had portraits of the socialist government's hero Chavez removed from the assembly building.

"I don't want to see portraits of Chavez or Maduro. Take all this stuff away to the presidential palace, or give it away," the new speaker, Henry Ramos Allup, told workmen who were removing the portraits, in a video released by his staff.

He said his side would within six months propose a way "to change the government by constitutional means."

Maduro responded: "I will be there to defend democracy with an iron hand. They will not make me give ground or waver."

But on Wednesday, he announced a reshuffle of his government.

In elections on December 6, the opposition MUD coalition won a majority in the assembly for the first time in nearly 17 years.

Under Venezuelan law, with a two-thirds majority, the opposition could from next April launch measures to try to force Maduro from office before his term ends in 2019.

But it was not clear whether they will succeed in pushing ahead at odds with the court injunction.

The government side insisted any legislation passed with the votes of the suspended deputies would be null.

Cabello said the government would "paralyze" the assembly by withholding its budget from the treasury.

"No change of government is easy. Everything will depend on the situation in the country in a few months," said Juan Manuel Rafalli, an expert in constitutional law.

"I foresee great social conflict and enormous pressure for change."

- US 'interference' -

One of the first measures the opposition wants to pass is an amnesty for some 75 political prisoners, but Maduro has vowed to veto that move.

The US State Department backed the call for political prisoners to be released, with spokesman John Kirby calling Tuesday for a "transparent" resolution of the dispute.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez rejected that as "interference," in a Twitter message.

December's election result was widely seen as a protest by voters over the state of Venezuela's economy.

It threw up the toughest challenge to the president's authority and Chavez's socialist "revolution" since Maduro took over from his late mentor in 2013.

Venezuela has the world's biggest known oil reserves but has suffered from a fall in the price of the crude on which its government relies.

It is in deep recession, with citizens suffering shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation. Now they face the uncertainty of a political conflict.

"If the government uses its institutional control in a focused way, it could get its way in the short term," said analyst Luis Vicente Leon, head of polling firm Datanalisis.

"While the Chavistas and the opposition get involved in a political debate, the people will feel a great lack of solutions to their main problems."

Title: A Bright And Hopeful Day For Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 06, 2016, 04:33:55 PM
A Bright And Hopeful Day For Venezuela

Workers remove Chavez’ giant poster from National Assembly building

While I am far away, I could not help but be glued to the events in Caracas today. While it was certainly not a smooth day, it was a great day for Venezuela. A day of hope and possibilities, a bright day for the future of democracy in the country. A very important day for Venezuela’s history and the image above clearly shows that change is in the air. The statues have yet to fall, but it’s coming. The beginning is here, let’s see how long it takes to get to a good point.

I will start with the most important signs of the day:

More at:
Title: An Ominous Opening for Venezuela’s New Parliament
Post by: captainccs on January 07, 2016, 11:12:36 AM
The government deputies walk out, the press is allowed in. I love this part:

The opposition also opened the doors of the assembly to dozens of independent journalists, who had been barred from the legislature for years. In a scene few Venezuelans are accustomed to, one of them asked the unsuspecting First Lady (and elected legislator) Cilia Flores a question about two of her nephews, who are facing drug charges in a U.S. jail. Like other chavistas, who never take questions from independent media outlets, Flores seemed perplexed by the journalist’s gall, refusing to answer while fixing him with a malevolent glare.

An Ominous Opening for Venezuela’s New Parliament
Foreign Policy Magazine By Juan Cristóbal Nagel
23 hours ago

The building that houses Venezuela’s single-chamber legislature, the National Assembly, is a small, gold-domed capitol built in the late nineteenth century. The hall where the debates take place is just big enough to fit the 163 legislators who were sworn in on Tuesday for a five-year term. Following a landslide win last December, a large majority of them belong to the opposition.

But 45 minutes after taking their oaths, the pro-government minority decided the quarters were too cramped, and promptly left the building. (Oddly, lawmakers from the ruling party hadn’t found anything objectionable about the chamber while they were still in the majority.)

The excuse was an alleged breach in the rules governing the debate, but it was the overall atmosphere that forced them to go for fresh air. For the first time in the 17 years since the late Hugo Chávez swept into power, the opposition has firm control of one of the branches of government. This proved too much for the chavista legislators to handle, and their walkout foreshadows the tensions ahead.

The ceremony itself was part pageantry, part Venezuelan soap opera. The building was surrounded by three rings of military personnel who briefly blocked opposition legislators’ access to their new workplace. Several Metro stations around the capitol were closed to the public. Chavista paramilitary gangs had threatened to block access to the building in order to “protect the Revolution.”

Once inside, the new majority quickly began enacting symbolic changes. One of the first was to take down giant pictures of Chávez and of President Nicolás Maduro that had presided over the main debate hall since the former’s death and the latter’s subsequent election.

The opposition also opened the doors of the assembly to dozens of independent journalists, who had been barred from the legislature for years. In a scene few Venezuelans are accustomed to, one of them asked the unsuspecting First Lady (and elected legislator) Cilia Flores a question about two of her nephews, who are facing drug charges in a U.S. jail. Like other chavistas, who never take questions from independent media outlets, Flores seemed perplexed by the journalist’s gall, refusing to answer while fixing him with a malevolent glare.

The incoming president of the assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, was respectful of his colleagues in the minority, giving each side their turn. This was a striking departure from previous practice. In the previous chavista-dominated legislature, some opposition legislators were physically assaulted, others arbitrarily deprived of their parliamentary immunity. On several occasions, parliamentary leaders stripped opposition members of their speaking rights.

Ramos, a bookish 73-year-old and one of the few Venezuelan politicians with roots in the pre-Chavez political era, struck a conciliatory tone. He urged lawmakers to bring the country together and find solutions to pressing economic problems. But he also vowed to push the government to implement urgent reforms.

The government is in no mood for dialogue. In the last few weeks, it has stacked Venezuela’s top court with party loyalists. These new judges promptly moved to trim the opposition’s two-thirds majority by blocking the swearing-in of three legislators pending the resolution of an election dispute in the Southern state of Amazonas. (The deputies in question did not attend yesterday, and it is unclear what consequences this will have on the opposition’s ability to exercise its supermajority) The court’s ruling was based on shaky evidence, as demonstrated by the fact that even the chavista-controlled election commission certified the two-thirds majority. However this particular conflict is resolved, efforts by government-friendly judges to undermine its opponents will continue.

Moreover, on Monday, the government stripped the incoming National Assembly of any oversight over the Central Bank, taking away its power to nominate candidates to the bank’s board and to force directors to reveal economic or financial information. Crucially, the government also gave the Central Bank freedom to finance the executive branch, thus allowing Maduro to bypass the legislature to fund his massive budget deficit.

Despite all this, the opposition is determined to press ahead. It has pledged to pass an amnesty law that will free political prisoners. It has also vowed to cut Maduro’s term short via some sort of referendum in case the government does not cooperate. The chavista courts will likely have something to say about all of this.

A clash between the two forces seems inevitable. The legislature can pass all the laws it wants, but the institutions who implement them – the courts and the executive branch – are all firmly in chavista hands.

This means that Venezuela is in the throes of a full-blown constitutional crisis. Nobody can predict how it will play out, but if history is any guide, the military will play an important role in the outcome.

In the meantime, the country’s economy is in freefall. As the two sides bicker, Venezuela suffers from the world’s deepest recession and its highest inflation rate. The price of oil, the country’s top export, is tanking. And the Maduro administration has no idea what to do.

Watching Venezuela is seldom boring, and the swearing-in of the new National Assembly proved it. But the entertaining theater makes it easy to forget that this is a country of 30 million people living through an economic maelstrom, a president with no answers, and now, a divided government. The showdown in the National Assembly suggests the Venezuelan tragedy has a few more acts before it finds its resolution.

In the photo, opposition legislators argue with pro-government legislators during the new Venezuelan parliament’s swearing-in ceremony in Caracas on January 5, 2016.
Title: Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy TO UTTER RUIN
Post by: captainccs on January 07, 2016, 11:27:43 AM
I can live with a pragmatic socialist but clueless ideologues are dangerous.

Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
1 hour ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on his existing economic policies with the appointment of a young leftist hardliner to head the country's cratering economy, setting up a potential confrontation between the ruling socialist party and the newly powerful opposition.

Luis Salas, the new 39-year-old vice president for the economy, has scant administrative experience, but champions the same theories of price and currency controls that have defined Venezuela's leftist economic policy for 17 years.

Like Maduro, Salas says the country is suffering from the world's worst recession and triple-digit inflation because business interests are colluding with the U.S. to sabotage the economy.

He even goes further than Maduro in arguing that many of the country's problems are the result of being too capitalist.

A professor at the Bolivarian University, an institution created by the late president Hugo Chavez, Salas was relatively unknown before this week. But he has outlined his economic philosophy in a large collection of open letters and pamphlets.

"Inflation doesn't exist in real life," he wrote last year.

He added that prices go up not because of scarcity, but because of "capitalist economies that are driven by the desire for personal gain through the exploitation of others; by selfishness."

Along with shortages, inflation has become the No. 1 concern among Venezuelan voters, many of whom spend hours each week waiting in line for goods that are increasingly impossible to afford.

After the opposition swept Dec. 6 legislative elections, Salas wrote an open letter in which he attacked as "pragmatists" those people within the socialist camp who were floating the possibility of devaluation, a move that outside economists agree is a necessary first step for righting the economy.

Disbelief at the president's choice for a new economic czar echoed in opposition circles Wednesday night, with some speculating Maduro might be trying to drive the economy into the ground.

Since its landmark victory, the opposition coalition has been split between those who favor negotiation with the government and those who want to start to remove Maduro from office. The new appointment and the socialists' combative rhetoric since the new congress was seated Tuesday could silence opposition voices favoring dialogue.

Socialist supporters have supported appointment of the new economic czar. Some pro-government people rallied in downtown Thursday morning to protest the opposition leadership's removal of portraits of Chavez from the gold-domed capitol building.

Maduro named other hardliners to top spots Wednesday as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle he says is intended to protect the revolution during a new political era.

He also created a new urban agriculture ministry and announced that he and first lady Cilia Flores had taken up urban farming themselves.

"Cilia and I keep 50 chickens at our home. It's time to start building a new culture of production," he said.
Title: Re: Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy TO UTTER RUIN
Post by: G M on January 07, 2016, 12:23:21 PM
No such thing as a pragmatic socialist.
I can live with a pragmatic socialist but clueless ideologues are dangerous.

Young socialist hardliner will lead Venezuela's economy
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
1 hour ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Nicolas Maduro is doubling down on his existing economic policies with the appointment of a young leftist hardliner to head the country's cratering economy, setting up a potential confrontation between the ruling socialist party and the newly powerful opposition.

Luis Salas, the new 39-year-old vice president for the economy, has scant administrative experience, but champions the same theories of price and currency controls that have defined Venezuela's leftist economic policy for 17 years.

Like Maduro, Salas says the country is suffering from the world's worst recession and triple-digit inflation because business interests are colluding with the U.S. to sabotage the economy.

He even goes further than Maduro in arguing that many of the country's problems are the result of being too capitalist.

A professor at the Bolivarian University, an institution created by the late president Hugo Chavez, Salas was relatively unknown before this week. But he has outlined his economic philosophy in a large collection of open letters and pamphlets.

"Inflation doesn't exist in real life," he wrote last year.

He added that prices go up not because of scarcity, but because of "capitalist economies that are driven by the desire for personal gain through the exploitation of others; by selfishness."

Along with shortages, inflation has become the No. 1 concern among Venezuelan voters, many of whom spend hours each week waiting in line for goods that are increasingly impossible to afford.

After the opposition swept Dec. 6 legislative elections, Salas wrote an open letter in which he attacked as "pragmatists" those people within the socialist camp who were floating the possibility of devaluation, a move that outside economists agree is a necessary first step for righting the economy.

Disbelief at the president's choice for a new economic czar echoed in opposition circles Wednesday night, with some speculating Maduro might be trying to drive the economy into the ground.

Since its landmark victory, the opposition coalition has been split between those who favor negotiation with the government and those who want to start to remove Maduro from office. The new appointment and the socialists' combative rhetoric since the new congress was seated Tuesday could silence opposition voices favoring dialogue.

Socialist supporters have supported appointment of the new economic czar. Some pro-government people rallied in downtown Thursday morning to protest the opposition leadership's removal of portraits of Chavez from the gold-domed capitol building.

Maduro named other hardliners to top spots Wednesday as part of a larger cabinet reshuffle he says is intended to protect the revolution during a new political era.

He also created a new urban agriculture ministry and announced that he and first lady Cilia Flores had taken up urban farming themselves.

"Cilia and I keep 50 chickens at our home. It's time to start building a new culture of production," he said.

Title: Venezuela President Gets Rare Live TV Criticism
Post by: captainccs on January 16, 2016, 11:31:56 AM
The truth shall set you free!

The government has lost control over the press. Independent reporters are now allowed into the National Assembly (parliament) and can report what happens. The two thirds landslide victory shows that people have had enough of the revolution and now they can get the juicy details as well. The end of Chavismo is now only a question of time.

Venezuela President Gets Rare Live TV Criticism
CARACAS, Venezuela — Jan 15, 2016, 10:44 PM ET

In a stunning display of Venezuela's tense new political order, President Nicolas Maduro suffered through a long scolding from the head of the country's new opposition Congress Friday after presenting his state of the nation address.

Congress leader Henry Ramos wagged his finger inches from the embattled president's head in a rebuttal that was broadcast live across the South American country — unprecedented media access for an opponent of the country's socialist revolution.

It had already been a night of firsts. Neither Maduro nor his predecessor the late President Hugo Chavez ever had to contend with a hostile audience for their state of the nation speeches. Critics of the administration took control of the institution last week for the first time in 17 years.

Maduro himself had mostly bad news to share.

Hours earlier, the Central Bank released key economic data for the first time in more than a year, showing an economy in shambles and for the first time acknowledging what analysts have long said: That annualized inflation has surged into triple digits.

Maduro described the numbers as "catastrophic" and devoted most of his three-hour speech to what he called a "monstrous attack" on the economy by business owners and other foes of the leftist government.

In his rebuttal, Ramos took a professorial tone as he laid out the opposition's view that Maduro himself is responsible for the crisis.

"If you don't want to hear this, close your ears or leave," he warned as Maduro sipped from a coffee cup and checked his watch in the next chair.

"If you give in to the desire to have more and more bolivars with the same number of dollars, your bolivars are going to lose value," Ramos said, referring to the country's plummeting currency.

The sight of an opposition leader lecturing the president on a live television feed all networks were required to carry shocked even ardent supporters of the sharp-tonged new congressional leader. Maduro rarely exposes himself to questions from independent reporters, much less questioning from political opponents. And few broadcast networks carry opposition events.

Maduro had taken an unusually conciliatory tone in his address, calling for dialogue even as he warned the opposition that it could easily get overconfident and lose the next election. He also vowed to block one of its key initial projects: Giving people who live in government housing the title to their homes.

"No, no and no, we will not permit it," Maduro said during one of the most dramatic moments of his speech. "You'll have to get rid of me first."

The opposition has pledged to do just that, issuing a six-month deadline to hold a recall election.

Maduro mentioned in passing that his newly appointed Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz had spoken this week with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and a high-ranking U.S. diplomat.

Ahead of his speech, Maduro declared an economic emergency giving him 60 days to unilaterally enact sweeping reforms. He later hand-delivered the decree to the head of Congress to be debated next week, but it's not clear that the government will wait for approval to enforce it.

Venezuela, which has the world's largest oil reserves, has suffered enormously as the price of oil has crashed from above $90 a barrel two years ago to just $24 today. Analysts say that means Venezuela is dangerously close to just breaking even on the oil it produces, which accounts for 95 percent of export earnings.

The country's economy contracted by 7.1 percent during the quarter that ended in September 2015, and inflation reached 141.5 percent, according to the new Central Bank data.

Maduro echoed many Venezuelans' fears Friday when he said he hoped the coming year would see peace, "not senseless violence that could lead anywhere."

Title: IMF: Venezuelan inflation to reach 720%
Post by: captainccs on January 24, 2016, 09:52:42 AM
The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.

Venezuela congress nixes Maduro request for emergency powers
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
January 22, 2016 5:58 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition-led congress on Friday rejected President Nicolas Maduro's request for emergency powers amid a plunging national economy, the depths of which were dramatized by an IMF estimate that inflation this year will top 700 percent.

Ruling party and opposition lawmakers accused each other of trying to run the country into the ground in the first major congressional debate Venezuela has seen in more than a decade. Critics of the socialist revolution kicked off by late President Hugo Chavez took control of congress last month for the first time in 17 years.

Maduro had proposed an economic emergency decree that would give him expanded authority for 60 days. In the past, when it was dominated by first Chavez's and then Maduro's allies, congress made a habit of approving these kinds of exceptional powers.

The opposition argues that Maduro is responsible for raging inflation and chronic shortages dogging daily life here, and is promising to oust him within six months.

The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.

The South American nation already suffers from the world's highest inflation and a crushing recession. The IMF estimates that prices rose 275 percent last year in Venezuela, while the economy contracted by 10 percent.

Ahead of the final vote on his decree, Maduro announced he had approved a change that will allow the country's small export sector to use a more favorable currency exchange rate. He scolded opposition activists for "turning their back on the country."

"They're bent on the politics of sterile confrontation," he said as state television began promoting the slogan "irresponsible opposition."

Opposition leaders rejected the decree as a trap intended to make them look intransigent and unwilling to fix the economy.

"We're not closing any doors. On the contrary, today we opened the door to a serious discussion," majority leader Julio Borges said. "We're not looking to double down on the same policies that got us into this crisis. What we need is real change."
Title: Re: IMF: Venezuelan inflation to reach 720%
Post by: G M on January 24, 2016, 10:01:23 AM
Good thing that could never happen here.

The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.

Venezuela congress nixes Maduro request for emergency powers
Associated Press By HANNAH DREIER
January 22, 2016 5:58 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's opposition-led congress on Friday rejected President Nicolas Maduro's request for emergency powers amid a plunging national economy, the depths of which were dramatized by an IMF estimate that inflation this year will top 700 percent.

Ruling party and opposition lawmakers accused each other of trying to run the country into the ground in the first major congressional debate Venezuela has seen in more than a decade. Critics of the socialist revolution kicked off by late President Hugo Chavez took control of congress last month for the first time in 17 years.

Maduro had proposed an economic emergency decree that would give him expanded authority for 60 days. In the past, when it was dominated by first Chavez's and then Maduro's allies, congress made a habit of approving these kinds of exceptional powers.

The opposition argues that Maduro is responsible for raging inflation and chronic shortages dogging daily life here, and is promising to oust him within six months.

The debate took place against the backdrop of more grim economic news as the International Monetary Fund predicted that inflation in Venezuela would more than double in 2016, reaching 720 percent.

The South American nation already suffers from the world's highest inflation and a crushing recession. The IMF estimates that prices rose 275 percent last year in Venezuela, while the economy contracted by 10 percent.

Ahead of the final vote on his decree, Maduro announced he had approved a change that will allow the country's small export sector to use a more favorable currency exchange rate. He scolded opposition activists for "turning their back on the country."

"They're bent on the politics of sterile confrontation," he said as state television began promoting the slogan "irresponsible opposition."

Opposition leaders rejected the decree as a trap intended to make them look intransigent and unwilling to fix the economy.

"We're not closing any doors. On the contrary, today we opened the door to a serious discussion," majority leader Julio Borges said. "We're not looking to double down on the same policies that got us into this crisis. What we need is real change."

Title: Venezuela lawmakers to reject economic crisis plan
Post by: captainccs on January 24, 2016, 10:09:34 AM
Why is the government team afraid of the media all of a sudden?
Maduro's economic team pulled out at the last minute saying they would only participate if it was closed to the media, Ramos said.

Venezuela lawmakers to reject economic crisis plan
AFP By Ernesto Tovar
January 22, 2016 2:16 PM

Caracas (AFP) - Venezuelan opposition lawmakers vowed to reject on Friday President Nicolas Maduro's bid to decree a state of economic emergency, deepening a political crisis in the oil-rich nation.

Friday is the deadline for the opposition-controlled National Assembly to vote on Maduro's decree, which would give him special powers to intervene in the economic crisis.

A refusal to pass it will prolong a tense political standoff in the volatile South American state, where citizens are suffering shortages of food and goods.

The opposition speaker of the congress, Henry Ramos Allup, accused Maduro's government of failing to adequately inform lawmakers of the details of the decree so they could debate the plan.

"It would be totally irresponsible for the National Assembly to blindly approve a decree of such magnitude, scope and implications, without having any information because the government itself refused to provide it," he said on television.

He said earlier that lawmakers suspended a session of the assembly in which the government was due to defend the decree because the ministers did not show up.

Maduro's economic team pulled out at the last minute saying they would only participate if it was closed to the media, Ramos said.

Senior pro-government officials accused the center-right opposition, which this month took control of the assembly for the first time in 17 years, of trying to turn the session into a "media show."

View galleryThe chairs for the ministers summoned to a parliamentary&nbsp;&hellip;
The chairs for the ministers summoned to a parliamentary session to explain the emergency decree rem …
The decree, issued a week ago, would give Maduro 60 days of extraordinary powers to combat a deep recession and triple-digit inflation.

It allows for the administration to commandeer private companies' resources, impose currency controls and take "other social, economic or political measures deemed fitting."

The opposition as well as some businesses and unions have warned it is a threat to free enterprise and jobs.

- Tense political standoff -

Announcing the decree last week, Maduro admitted Venezuela was in a "catastrophic" economic crisis.

He called on the assembly to approve the decree and "help me navigate this crisis."

But he vowed to resist any shift towards what he called "neoliberal" policies.

View galleryVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks with&nbsp;&hellip;
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (L) speaks with the president of the opposition controlled Natio …
"You will have to come and overthrow me if you want to pass a privatization law. No, no and no!"

The same day Venezuela's central bank released its first economic growth and inflation statistics in more than a year.

The figures showed the economy shrank 4.5 percent in the first nine months of 2015.

Annualized inflation in September hit a painful 141.5 percent, fueled by crippling shortages.

Maduro said his emergency plan would allow the government to shore up its health, housing, education and food services.

He vowed to overhaul the country's system of production to shift it away from the oil revenue on which his social spending programs have relied.

Venezuela has the world's biggest known crude oil reserves but the price of oil has plunged over the past year and a half, slashing its revenues.

The opposition has branded the socialist policies of Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez a failure.

It wants to scrap government's price and currency controls.

The head of the congressional commission examining the decree, lawmaker Jose Guerra, said the opposition would make its own economic proposals to the government.

"Our interest is in resolving the crisis, but it is not going to be resolved through the government's policies," he said Friday on television channel Globovision.

The commission opened a session about 1530 GMT on Friday to discuss the decree. The full assembly was due to convene later.

Analysts say the political deadlock threatens to worsen the hardship that drove voters to hand the opposition a landslide election victory last month.

They have warned of the risk of a repeat of violent street clashes that left 43 people dead in 2014.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on January 24, 2016, 06:28:23 PM
Perhaps it is non of my business but why do you live in Venezuela?    :?
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 24, 2016, 07:45:19 PM
Perhaps it is non of my business but why do you live in Venezuela?    :?

It's my country and a lovely place it is!

What are sailors saying about Venezuela? I stopped collecting these stories in 2008 because Chavismo had practically destroyed the cruising industry long with everything else. It seems we are getting our country back.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: ccp on January 25, 2016, 06:26:21 AM
Thanks for response.  I am glad you like it.  I was just wondering if it is safe there and one hears about the turmoil because of the drop in oil as in other OPEC countries that cannot afford low prices as can the Arab countries.

Went to Marguerite Island once and a day trip to Angel Falls but wrong time of year and falls were only a trickle.  I never saw such large ants as in the Amazon we walked through! 
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: captainccs on January 25, 2016, 07:11:37 AM
Is Paris safe? Are American schools safe? The excessive worry about safety is paralyzing. Americans have lost their freedom to government security agencies like the ones guarding airports. There was a time when no one could ask you for an ID in America. No longer. Now you are not you but whatever a piece of plastic says you are. Humans have domesticated themselves. What a pity.

A long time ago my mom was knocked down by a purse snatcher in Caracas. She was mad as hell and she decided she no longer wanted to live in such a savage country. Maybe Canada. A week later she got a letter from her niece in Montreal with the news that she had been robbed!

The world is so safe and bland that now people jump out of airplanes without a parachute to get some excitement back in their lives.
Title: Re: Venezuela
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 25, 2016, 09:29:38 AM
Title: WaPo: Venezuela on brink of collapse
Post by: Crafty_Dog on January 31, 2016, 07:30:57 PM
Title: From Energy and Capital
Post by: ccp on February 05, 2016, 01:52:29 PM
OPEC Stands on the Brink
By Keith Kohl | Friday, February 5, 2016

Although the media headlines today are dominated by Russia, Saudi Arabia, speculation on China's slowing demand growth, and the tight oil drillers in the lower-48 states, it really was only a matter of time before other OPEC members reached a breaking point.

And that's precisely where Venezuela finds itself today.

What you might not know is that Venezuela actually has a very long history of oil exports.

Not many people know that the first barrel of Venezuela oil was shipped abroad about 320 years before Col. Drake's famous well struck black gold along the banks of Oil Creek, Pennsylvania.

It's true.

Just after the Spaniards conquered the area, there were rumors that oil could be used to cure gout, which led to a barrel of crude being shipped overseas to Emperor Charles V (it's a shame it didn't help with malaria).

But historical tangents aside, you have to ask yourself just how desperate Venezuela is over the potential collapse of its oil industry.

A State on the Brink

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Venezuela.

Any time you need to physically hit your president in the head with a piece of fruit to get his attention, that might be your first clue that something is wrong.

I guess he has other things on his mind, especially considering that his oil industry is on the brink of collapse.

But just how desperate is the Venezuelan oil industry? Let's just say that it's been pushed far enough to go over Saudi Arabia's head. Just this week, the country sent its new oil minister on a mission to visit both OPEC and non-OPEC producers and plead with them to cut production.

His travels included stops