Big Crowd Nice body Even from above patriotic colors
Painted Nice Flag Picture
Little patriot Symbolism
Freedom of Speech
Observations focused on the problems of an underdeveloped country, Venezuela, with some serendipity about the world (orchids, techs, science, investments, politics) at large. A famous Venezuelan, Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo, referred to oil as the devil's excrement. For countries, easy wealth appears indeed to be the sure path to failure. Venezuela might be a clear example of that.
Big Crowd Nice body Even from above patriotic colors
Painted Nice Flag Picture
Little patriot Symbolism
Freedom of Speech
Flag face with and without Chavez
A shirt that votes against Chavez This guy built a boat as a poster, called the “desobedience”.
It was simply huge Top and bottom of the highway, just huge!!
Another huge march today to defend the media not only against the possible suspension, but also against the bill to control “content” which will be introuduced next week. The march ended in front of the Hotel where the “amigos” are staying so it was also a chance to “show off” our strength. It was indeed impressive. Above left Carla Angola, TV reporter, the sexy symbol of the opposition. Above right, patriotic muffins and cakes for sale in the march. More photos in the Pictures section.
Since the referendum was suspended due to political manipulation, the opposition will hold on Sunday what is called the “Firmazo” (The big sign-up) day. The idea is that people will go to their polling station as if the referendum was going to take place and sign the petitions to ALL the possible electoral outcomes available, as well as petitions to recall the pro-Chavez Deputies that were elected under their own name rather than the party slate. The petitions will include the one for the Constitutional Admendment, the August recall referendum and a call for a Constituent Assembly. The drive will concentrate in the larger cities of the country with the idea of collecting a minimum of 2 million signatures. There will be places to do this even abroad, those Venezuelans living abroad who are simply registered to vote should see this link to find where to go in their respective country.
Venezuelans continue to have a strong sense of humor as demonstrated by these parodies of dolls of some of the most relevant political figures
From Chuky Cahvista, to Ken Chavez: who lies and 100% full of hate, to Chavez’ wife: she blew it!, nobody loves her, now you can play with her, to the Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel: Lies, limited memory, toxic toy, shameless, does what you tell him to do, include Viagra.
It has been my sage observation over some 30 years of interviewing world leaders that the press usually attack them. The journalists are the questioners and complainers, not the other way around.
But when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came to the United Nations last week for a speech and afterward admitted a few of us to a press briefing, the quixotic Chavez did things a little differently — and perhaps that should have been expected.
Stalking into the room at the Venezuelan Mission on 46th Street, Chavez looked for all the world the vengeful enforcer, the raging godfather, the paranoid-in-winter. His once-handsome and controlled face was dark and brooding, his eyes tight and wary as he constantly scanned the room. What was left of his nervous restraint broke down completely at the first question from a Latin female journalist: “Why is it that so many say you are capricious and ineffective?”
“It is very difficult for me to talk about myself,” he began, before speaking for nearly 25 minutes about himself. “Not only do they call me ‘capricious and arbitrary,’ but they call me an ‘assassin … Hitler … Mussolini …’ I believe that I am the victim of a psychological war. I am in the laboratory, and you on the radio and in the newspapers, you repeat it over and over, as if I were Jack the Ripper. If you repeat the ‘big lie’ 10 times, or a thousand times, people will begin to believe it.”
Why, he asked, do so many Americans tell him that he is the “enemy of America“? He told us that he said to people in New York: “I am not an enemy; it is the information you are getting. For instance, I was in Baghdad last year, and I was riding around in a car driven by Saddam. How could I know that no president of any country had gone there since the Gulf War? I was also in Riyadh, in Doha, in Djakarta, with other presidents, but nobody was interested in that. “I met with the pope three times, and that was never published anywhere.”
Then this man who has called the Roman Catholic Church in Venezuela a “tumor on Venezuelan society” suddenly proclaimed to the journalists, many of whom were looking more than slightly stunned: “I am a Catholic!” Pregnant pause. “My mama wanted me to be a priest.” At this, he began humming the Mass. “And I am a Christian,” he added. He suddenly took a small silver cross out of his pocket, kissed it vigorously and began to sing robustly, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“They’ve made me into a devil,” he said a little later. He paused, and an ambivalent small smile played around his lips. “Perhaps,” he added, “we need an exorcist.”
Other stories were told that late afternoon, many of them about Fidel Castro, whom Chavez constantly referred to emotionally as “my friend!” But after seven weeks of upheaval, violence and oil strikes in his country, the Venezuelan opposition are not his “friends” at all.
“They ought to be in prison, those terrorists of these last few weeks,” he stated in an obviously disturbed voice. “Why are they here and not in prison? I have political power, but I am not a dictator — otherwise, I would have shot them! In other times, they would have shot them in the patio of the military barracks. Shot them! That has not happened in Venezuela.” With disdain and derision virtually dripping from his words, he added, “You can see what quality of opposition we have in Venezuela — a bunch of fascists!”
At this point, he looked very deliberately at the reporters whom he knew were from Latin America, directing his remarks particularly to Brazil and Ecuador, where fellow leftist leaders of his have just been elected to the presidencies. “It’s fascism, brothers!” he went on. “Because tomorrow it could be you. Until now, the rich have given us presidents, and the rich have taken them away. This is the war of the end of the century, the war of the end of the world. I will fight to the death.”
And all the while — the meeting went on for most of an hour and a half in the early winter’s evening — the Venezuelan president carefully and suspiciously checked off each questioner on a media list prepared for him by his information officers in order to know who was who.
As I watched and listened, I could not help but compare this man of dark rages and apocalyptic visions to the Hugo Chavez I had interviewed in Caracas only four years ago, just before he was elected president of the country. Much thinner, infinitely sunnier and charming, Chavez then spoke only about peacefully reforming the country in its own historic Venezuelan way. “There isn’t any model,” he told me then, “certainly not Cuba or the Soviet Union. We don’t copy other models, we invent them.”
But in these four years, Hugo Chavez has gone completely to the left. Fidel is his best friend and, despite his fulminations to the contrary, the pope is not. After seven weeks of oil company and other strikes that have paralyzed the country, Chavez is at total war with the opposition, which is a melange of substantial middle-class people, trade unionists and businessmen, but also leftover politicians from the two “democratic” parties that ruined and scavenged the oil-rich country for 40 years.
This same week, a “friends” group made up of the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Spain and Portugal has been formed to try to broker a peace settlement between Chavez and the opposition. But one has to wonder whether it is too late. The sense of the Venezuelan crisis, from the Chavez left, is that they are in an all-out push for revolution, no longer for reform. The opposition seems to plan no further ahead than the next day’s demonstration — and every day, those demonstrations grow more violent, more obdurate and more dangerous.
From Caracas, the message is that it is too late for negotiations. The world oil markets have been shaken by the cutoff of Venezuelan oil. An estimated 50 percent of small businesses are in danger of collapse. “Here, there is a clash of systems,” the Venezuelan scholar Alberto Garrido, a specialist on Chavez’s philosophy, was quoted as saying this week in The Washington Post, “something that neither (the Organization of American States) nor the United States understands. For this reason, no negotiation is possible.”
If Chavez believes what he has said, that the country’s public and private institutions must be broken down in order for his revolution to take root in Venezuelan soil, that appears to be what is happening in that important Latin American country. If so, the United States and the world could be up against a war even more bizarre and threatening than Hugo Chavez’s words.
The Democratic Coordinator presented today a modified version of the Carter proposal for a Constitutional amendment. Essentially, it will imply shortening Chavez’ perios to four years, alowing him to be a candidate and shortening the period of the Deputies of the National Assembly to four years also. The amendment has the advantage that the referendum for its approval would take place 30 days after the petition is handed in (Art. 341). Elections would follow within 90 days after the amendment is passed. I think it was smart of the Coordinator to hand it in today right before the arrival of the Group of Friends, it puts the “democratic” ball on Chavez’ Court…..
Today Caracas’ newspaper Tal Cual describes the new perversion by the Chavez administration to maintain its control of public powers in Venezuela in its article “Assault on the Supreme Court”. A week ago I wrote an article entitled “A story of Pilferage (or is it rape?)” in which I described how Hugo Chavez was able to take control of all public powers by a series of maneuvers both legal and illegal throughout his Presidency. I described how the Supreme Court was selected single-handedly by him in 2000, but how time had eroded even the loyalty of roughly half the Justices in the Court. As described today in Tal Cual using the graphic above, which speaks for itself, Chavez and his advisors have come up with another perverse plan to increase their control. Essentially, they will take advantage of the fact that the 1999 Constitution does not specify (Art. 262-266) how many Supreme Court Justices there are. But the Constitution does speak about an Organic law for the Supreme Court, to be approved by the Assembly. Thus, the Assembly, taking advantage of this oversight (was it on purpose?), is attempting to pass this Organic Bill with an increase of the number of Justices from 20 to 30. Since the National Assembly is controlled by Chavez’ MVR, they will be able to pick and choose ten new justices at will. Perverse isn’t it?
The following letter has been circulating at the local German School in Caracas, from a parent (I have translated it liberally as usual)
Good Morning Gentleman
My name is Stefan Welch, I was born in Germany of British parents. I arrived in Venezuela two years ago through my company. The first two years I was not happy, I had difficulties making Venezuelan friends because they always seemed like they were mad, did not collaborate, selfish and they were not attentive when I asked for services or went to the supermarket etc. Before I had lived in Brazil for seven years and my friends considered me “tropicalized” and “adjusted to Latin life”. I did not understand why I could not adjust here.
This perception of Venezuelans has changed in the last six months exactly because of the opposite reason, for all the things that have happened and what is taking place now. People become more united by the day, more open and they have an incredible willpower to fight for their country that I had not seen before. What impresses me is the immense patience the Venezuelan people are showing with what is happening here. As I said before I am not Venezuelan and, sincerely, my education and culture would have made me lose my patience if all of this were happening in my country! As you know, rarely in European history has so much patience been shown, on the contrary, we had many ugly wars etc.
Even a President like you have here would have resigned by now so as not to reach these levels and if not, we Europeans would have done something more definitive. Is what our history teaches us.
The word COUNTRY was added to the vocabulary of Venezuelans, I want to tell you that this renewed love for your country is something contagious and it is already affecting me (and many other foreign friends that stayed here). I march nightly with people that live in my neighborhood, I have a home made drum made by a plastic jar of Montana paint (my fourth up to now, I have broken all the previous ones) and I also march in the large marches here in Caracas, despite the fact that my Embassy has recommended three times that I leave the country. I prefer to leave that airplane seat for those that sympathize with the Government. The wish to be present and participate in the new Venezuela is much larger; I am not afraid neither of the bombs, nor of the violent people, nor the military and least of all of your President!
I am as anxious to march towards Miraflores as many other Venezuelans.
Congratulations in particular to the brave and dignified Venezuelan women, to the ship Captains, to Juan Fernandez (my favorite candidate for President), to Carlos Ortega, to Carlos Fernandez, to Leopoldo Lopez, to Orlando Urdaneta, to Alfredo Pena and to the participants of the negotiation table that have shown so much patience, not only with the Government but also with the OAS itself. Thanks for being here when your country needs you!
I hope we can get out of this as soon as possible, with the least possible blood, NI UN PASO ATRAS (Not a step back) -1000 steps forward and YES to the referendum. If the people need to pay for the referendum because its President prefers to spend the money on airplanes, gasolula (Imported gas from Brazil) and other things, know (since I can’t vote) I am willing to pay for 100 Venezuelans that may not have the financial ability to contribute- and independent of their political opinion and final vote.
Picture from the Madrid march, I prefer not to translate it