Archive for the 'Venezuela' Category

Maduro Declares State of Emergency In Parts of Tachira State

August 23, 2015


I can only worry about the decision by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to declare a State of Emergency in five municipalities of Tachira State, a state that borders with Colombia.

To begin with, the action that originated it, the non-deadly shooting of some military personnel carrying out an anti-smuggling operation in that State, is certainly not the most serious incident either near the border, nor in Venezuela, to justify decreeing a State of Emergency.

But the extent of the terms of the State of Emergency, seems a little exaggerated and certainly prone to abuse. While we do not know the terms of the decree, which has yet to be published, according to the Governor of Aragua State (Why him?) who made the announcement in the name of the Government, Articles 47, 48, 50, 53, 68 and 112 of the Constitution have been suspended in those municipalities. So that you don’t have to go read the Constitution if you don’t want to, these articles deal with:

-Neither home nor your private communications can be intervened without a judicial order to do so.

-You can move freely and with your property around the country and leave the country as you wish.

-You can gather publicly and privately for legal purposes.

-You have the right to protest peacefully.

-You have the freedom to devote yourself to the private economic activity of your choice.

Now, while Governor El Aissami said that Human Rights would be preserved, suspending all of these article of the Constitution constitutes a violation of democratic principles and it is hard to imagine how these articles can be suspended and any action taken without the violation of Human Rights. If your home is invaded, if your communications are violated, if you can not gather with others or protest and if you are not allowed to carry out your daily business, your human rights are being abused and violated. No democracy can afford to suspend all or any of these rights guaranteed by the Venezuelan Constitution.

But even more importantly, how is it that an incident like the one that caused this leads the Government to suspend all of these guarantees, but, for example, the death of 30-40 people, including cops in clashes in Caracas’ Cota 905 do not require the same reaction?

The answer is simple: Maduro could care less about the incident, he was just looking for an excuse to create an incident with Colombia, given that the clash with Guyana did little or nothing to increase his popularity. In fact, Maduro made some very incendiary statements about the Colombians that are coming to Venezuela, at a time that such a flow is minimal, given that economic conditions on this side of the border are so unattractive. In fact, as I described in my previous post, the reverse is true, for the first time in a long time, the flow is in the opposite direction, as Colombians with Venezuelan papers are flooding the border area as they flee scarcity and hyperinflation.

And as you an see in the following video, even if the border is closed, it is not closed for expelling Colombians that live in Venezuela (Nobody knows if legally or not, nobody asked), as they were not only bused out of the country, but badly treated:

In the video you can even see kids being expelled without due process and one of the guys, who lives in Venezuela states they were treated like dogs and denied food for two days. And there are reports of the National Guard searching homes in these counties, painting a very fascist R in red or blue on each house to signify that the house has been checked (Registrada) (More here)

And the worry is why Maduro has decided to create this artificial crisis at this time. It is obvious that he is doing it for electoral purposes, Chávez did it in his time. But how far is he willing to take the conflict with his former new best friend Santos?

And even more worrisome, if Maduro is willing to do this 100 days before the parliamentary election, does he have a plan to extend this State of emergency as he wishes in order to gain popularity or limit the ability of the opposition to mobilize?

The Government’s popularity is down, they can probably limit the number of Deputies of the opposition to a simple majority, but with inflation accelerating, Maduro may be ready to step over the line if his popularity falls further. Chávez used to say that it was only in the Fourth Republic that rights were suspended, but here is his anointed successor doing precisely that, a clear sign that all bets are off going forward.

Meanwhile the opposition is incredibly quiet, as if Tachira was a far away place, rather than an opposition stronghold. Why aren’t opposition leaders present in Tachira provoking the Government or helping to protect Venezuelans and Colombians and Colombian/Venezuelans whose rights are being abused? Is the MUD going to limit itself to issuing bland statements that no media broadcasts? Is anybody going to question what it is that provoked the State of Emergency which state media justifies rather easily as paramilitary attacks on Venezuela’s Armed Forces?

I have no answers for the MUD’s passivity. This is a golden opportunity to show the country and the world the fascism and abuses of the Maduro Government. If nothing is done to slow down the Government in its attempt to escalate the conflict with Colombia, the Maduro administration may create a conflict that would give it an excuse to postpone the election if they deem it necessary.

And as usual its equally undemocratic friends around Latin America will blame the opposition and/or Colombia for it.

The Uncertain Outcome Of The Venezuelan Parliamentary Election

August 10, 2015


On Dec, 6th. Venezuela will elect its new National Assembly. Clearly, the opposition will get the most votes, likely by a large margin. But will the opposition “win”. That I am not so sure. Yes, the odds are in its favor and Chavismo seems to be screwing up the economy sufficiently that there is no way Chavismo can win.

But I worry.

I worry, because Chavismo will pull out the 1001 tricks, from gerrymandering, to banning candidates, to cheating. And it is clear that today, Chavismo thinks that it will win. But I think they should be worried too. The trend is so bad for them, that they may need twice as many dirty tricks to win by the time December comes around. As I noted in my last post, the acceleration of inflation, discontent, protests and scarcity is such, that in four months, very few of the hard core Chavistas will give Maduro the benefit of the doubt.

But this does not mean they will vote for the opposition. And the opposition will need all the votes it can get. In fact, the opposition le by the MUD called for a march last weekend. And so few people went, that there were no marches. Some political parties did not even show up. In the end, the “leaders” addressed the militants, but most people that went, left early, disappointed at the non-event.

So, let me show you why I worry.

First, let’s try to remember the last Parliamentary elections. In the last Parliamentary election, Chavismo got 48.1% of the vote and the opposition got 50.2% of the vote. But Chavismo got 59.4% of the Deputies (98 of them) and the opposition only got 40.6% of them (67 Deputies).

Now, most people think that this was mostly due to gerrymandering, the effect of redistricting to favor Chavismo. However, estimates are that the opposition should have obtained 84 Deputies if the system was exactly proportional or a difference of only 17 Deputies (84 for the opposition and 81 for Chavismo). But only 5 of them would be explained by gerrymandering.

The second origin of the difference is that the “opposition” that got 50.2% of the votes, was composed of two parties: The MUD, which got 47.1% and PPT which got 3.2%. Thus, even in the strict sense of the word, Chavismo would have had a majority, as that division between MUD and PPT implied in a “proportional system” that Chavismo would get 84 Deputies and the MUD 76, while PPT would have obtained 4. Add three Deputies that were simply due to this “division”.  Remember this factor later in the post.

A more important factor is the over representation of less populated states. When the Constitution was changed and the Senate was eliminated, each State got three Deputies first then however many their population  would imply. Thus, humble Delta Amacuro with 100,000 voters has 4 Deputies, one for its population and 3 for being a State. Zulia, in contrast, has 15 Deputies, only five times more than Delta Amacuro, despite having a population that is twenty times more.

Similarly, up to 1997, each circuit could not vary by more than a certain amount. This was eliminated and the CNE can decide how few or how many people elect one Deputy in each district. The CNE has wrecked havoc with this.

Other effects, for example, is that PPT got 28% of the vote in Lara State and got no Deputies.

My whole point here is that Chavismo will do anything to manipulate and obtain an edge in the upcoming election.

So, when I hear that Ramos Allup is a candidate in Caracas and Marquina in Lara, I have to worry, because by choosing people arbitrarily and not by primaries, the MUD may be playing into unintended consequences.

And I worry even more when I hear that Claudio Fermín (Yes, he is alive) has decided to run candidates in 16 States, which will run against both the opposition candidates and Chavista candidates. Now, I have no reasons to question Mr. Fermín’s allegiances, integrity and/or beliefs, but after being a no-show in Venezuelan politics for so long, all of a sudden Mr. Fermín has found the resources (read: money) and the people (where?) to run candidacies in 16 States?

Really? Who is paying for this? Pardon me if I am being cynical.

And these candidates will run as “opposition candidates”, against Chavista candidates, managing to do exactly what we don’t want: divide opposition votes. They would help more if they ran like Chavistas. But that is not what they are being paid for.

But the MUD set up itself for a maneuver like this (No doubt promoted and financed by Chavismo) by not holding primaries, by cornering power within the MUD by people that have no constituency and believing that their manipulation will not impact the final number of Deputies.

In one sentence: For being stupid and arrogant.

So, now go back to the thought that PPT subtracted Deputies from the opposition’s total in the 2010 election just by running separately and you will know where I am coming from.  I would not be surprised if Fermín’s candidates are sprinkled selectively in precisely the districts where the opposition may be running into competition.

A carefully placed (and well funded) candidate in ten or fifteen districts, could switch the election to the other side.

Add to that banning people like Maria Corina, cheating, electoral centers with no opposition witnesses, good organizers like Ledezma and Leopoldo being in jail, and it all adds up. You could turn the election on a dime.

And thus, I am worried. Non-marches like last Saturday’s worry me. Movements to have people not vote worry me. The after effect of a loss on Dec. 6th. worries me. Marquina being a candidate in Lara worries me  and the fact that Ramus Allup could get another four years in Venezuelan’s political life, gives me nightmares.

Which is not to say that Chavismo should not be worried. Given the trends, people may be so mad by the time election time comes around that there is no amount of tricks that can help Chavismo. In fact, Chavistas may just stay home and the opposition may surprise the tricksters.

But it is not a predictable outcome and the MUD has not done, in my opinion, the required “smart” job to insure victory. In fact, I think it has done the opposite: It has created the possibility that Chavismo could win, by being so narcissistic and selfish. Legislative elections are won on regional factors, not on playing favorites on parties that have little popularity and constituencies.

You’ve been warned…

A Not So Subtle Change In Venezuela

August 4, 2015

I just came back to Caracas and my conclusion is simple: Things changed so much in five weeks, that everything seems to be happening at a faster pace, prices going up, scarcity at all-time high levels, people fed up, conflicts growing within the Government, violence increasing and Maduro focused on his war on the “Economic War” which all it does is make him the most popular Chavista, but not necessarily very popular.

But the two most significant factors are the rate at which prices are moving up (previous post) and the ease with which angry mobs  (above) have decided to loot and riot at the smallest excuse. Yes, the problem is the Government controls the media and few people see what is going on, but the looting is taking place in traditional Chavista strongholds. And they don’t occur because people are fed up of lining up to get something, they take place because people are fed up of standing in line and getting nothing: Neither bread, nor Harina Pan, nor diapers, nor contraceptives. It used to be a moment of triumph to find something, now the moments of victory are few and far between.

And every day, there is a new item that can´t be found, last week, as I came back it was bread and toothpaste. Great for my diet, no sandwiches for the Devil! Nor Cachitos, nor bombas, nor palmeras.

We are talking serious scarcity here!

Like there are also no Bills to pay things for. Despite an 80% increase in monetary liquidity (M2), the largest Bill is still Bs. 100, US$ 15.9 at the official rate, 50 cents at the Simadi official rate, but a scant 14 cents at the parallel rate.

To say nothing of the fact that when you call abroad you have to choose your carrier, as most have stopped carrying calls to less “popular”countries, in order to make it less noticeable that they are not paying their counterparts. That is why with a carrier I use, Switzerland is unreachable, while Spain and the US are still connected.

And people know who to blame, from Barinas to Apure. Oh yes, Maduro is popular among the 17% of the population that thinks of itself as Chavista. But the rest? They are looking for a leader and the prize is there to be taken.

Because inflation is not going to subside at a time that M2 and scarcity are accelerating. So, for the first time, I think the probability of “something” happening this year is not small. In fact it is quite significant. (30%?)

And what I mean by “something” is some form of Chavista cabal deciding to ask Maduro to step aside, get sick, move away and let someone save Chavismo. The “Patria” is another matter, for  now, it is only Chavismo that requires to be saved.

In fact, doing something like that may be exactly what Chavismo needs to spice up the Parliamentary elections. Otherwise, they act, but the elections  get postponed in the name of stability and peace.

What evidence do I have for this? The fact that a General was removed for killing some leaders of the “Colectivos”a few months ago, but these days the Government regularly carries out “Peace campaigns” in which 20 or 30 members of the Colectivos are simply killed by police or military.

Or the fact that military officers resent some of the recent promotions to Generals for the new (BoliGenerals 2.0) even richer Government officials, which have stepped down to enjoy their riches while controlling the purses of their former positions.

And you may ask: Why hasn’t something happened yet? Easy, no single group within the military feels they have control or they will be backed in their actions…yet. So, they wait in the shadows ready to save the revolutionaries, if not the revolution.

And perhaps the biggest signal of how bad things are, is that that the payroll in many companies is a couple of thousand dollars a month for many small and medium sized companies. Why close then if you are losing money? Wait it out, keep your employees fed and hope for the best. It is only ten grand a year and the reward could be big.

And that is why on the thirteenth anniversary of this blog I can stick my head out and suggest that there is some light at the end of the tunnel before the end of 2015, even if that light is still looks very red to me. The pace of change is just too fast. And if I am allowed to extrapolate even further after thirteen years, those that may force the change may find out that their own actions  may accelerate change in a direction different than the one where they want to go. You see, if people think there is going to be change, they will probably ask for more than those forcing the change may be thinking of.

A not so subtle change is taking place and things are sure to accelerate in the months ahead…



Santero Economics Will Not End In Venezuela With The Upcoming Elections

July 5, 2015


The Venezuelan Economy has been run in the last few years with a limited, random and incoherent set of principles, that reminds me a lot of Santería, which is composed of a set of beliefs taken from various religions, which are some times incoherent and even contradictory and which are based on hope, spiritual beliefs and ideas with little fundamentals. Thus, we can characterize the current policies as Santero Economics, as the policies are equally incoherent, based on hope and many times go against each other, with no relation to known economic principles and fundamentals.

By the end of last year, the typical narrative (including mine) was that in January Santero Economics would be set aside, as inflation and scarcity would force Maduro to do so, but as we know, nothing happened. By February, I was convinced nothing would change this year.

The current narrative in most analysis abut Venezuela is very similar: Maduro is afraid that adjusting the exchange rate, increasing prices and the like would create a backlash and he is simply waiting for the upcoming Parliamentary elections before making any changes in his Government’s policies.

Well, I now believe that this is simply wrong, as Santero Economics is here to stay, as long as Nicolas Maduro is President of Venezuela, as he has been convinced by by both local and foreign advisers that the problems of the Venezuelan economy are caused by the oligarchy and the opposition and economic indicators such as inflation have little to do with the Government’s policies.

The ideas of these pseudo-gurus, who are close to Maduro, have now taken over, overcoming the opinions of those in charge of the economy, whose proposals get rejected time and time again.

At the core of Santero Economics beliefs is that deficit spending, salary increases and increases in the monetary supply have little to do with inflation, which is a political phenomenon. Thus, at the core of the problem is the economic war being waged by the oligarchs. The solution is simply to import more stuff, control more of the economy and try to bypass the current private sector. It makes no sense to change the Bs. 6.3 per US$ exchange rate, because all of those imported products would have increased prices.

According to the Santero Economics Mythology, it makes no sense to continue giving foreign currency to a private sector that has half a trillion (??) dollars abroad . If they want to produce, let them bring the dollars back and invest them in Venezuela.

Similarly, the Santero lore states that the bachaqueo of Venezuelan products into neighboring countries is an essential part of the Economic War, set up by the oligarchy, which uses the proceeds from this activity (As if the Venezuelan military did not exist) to bring back the money and continue its attack against the Venezuelan currency. Thus, the only rationale for increasing the price of gasoline, for example, is to remove a weapon from the arsenal of the enemy in the economic war. substituting that subsidy by a direct subsidy to the people.

The final part of the plan is to use the communal power to supervise, oversee and denounce unfair prices as a way of controlling inflation.

Everything else is apparently perfect in the world of Santero Economics. There is no answer to the question as to why if deficit spending does not matter why not n-tuple spending without limit. And if the monetary supply is irrelevant, why not increase the money supply without limit and make everyone really wealthy.

Maybe they could visit Greece and solve their problems too.

Meanwhile, Maduro is happy, everything is going well and he can devote his time to other things:

tumblr_mls9arjbFi1rv2mnno4_250 tumblr_mls9arjbFi1rv2mnno3_250 tumblr_mls9arjbFi1rv2mnno1_250tumblr_mls9arjbFi1rv2mnno2_250

Hyperinflated Arepa Index V

June 30, 2015

I was in Caracas a week ago and went to eat an arepa. It was not research, it was gluttony, as I did not expect any change from the sharp increase I had observed in May. But lo and behold, my arepa de queso de mano had gone up another Bs. 45 in that time to close at Bs. 320, almost tripling the price of an arepa in the six months since I started the index.

Here is the chart now:


As has been reported elsewhere, inflation does indeed seem to be accelerating.

At least the size of the arepa is the same…


A Rant For Democracy In Venezuela

June 25, 2015

Give or take a vowel or a consonant, this rant (post) preceded the existence of this blog, which was created in 2002. In fact, in 1998, writing for a private publication, I noted that in the 1998 election, not a single one of the candidates had been selected by a primary election: They had all self-appointed themselves. In fact, even Hugo Chávez did that, and he could have had a primary and won it without a single vote against him. In that same note, I also pointed out that in the previous election in 1994, only one candidate had been elected in a primary (He lost!), despite the country having undergone a fairly undemocratic impeachment of a President, because some politicians wanted to get rid of the democratically elected President of Venezuela.

And 20 years later, things are not too different. Yes, we ask for democracy, but it seems that the opposition leadership has a particular conception of democracy, including “dedocracy”, choosing the candidates you want using your finger in a smoked filled room, if things get uncomfortable. “Dedocracy” works quite well when you have to satisfy the egos of leaders from the Paleolitic age, even if there is no literature that can explain to us exactly how they became leaders at the time.

And that is exactly what the “MUD” did yesterday (We all knew it was coming!) when they announced the 60% of the candidates chosen by the magic “consensus” formula. Here is one guy from MUD looking at it on the Board to figure out who was the candidate for District 3 in Caracas. Anyone that knows any math can tell what it says:


Since it is so incomprehensible, it has to mean Henry Ramos Allup is the candidate for the El Recreo District of Caracas, because it is obscenely incomprehensible that this man can be the consensus candidate there.

And yes, I know all of the arguments about the difficulties of holding primaries everywhere: It is complex, expensive, bla, bla, bla, but in the end, if the alternative is to have such a candidate in District 3 of Caracas, then the system is not only undemocratic, but it stinks.

It would have been better to ask anyone who wants to be a candidate to provide the volunteers to manage the voting polls on primary day. At least, the ability of a candidate to mobilize people would have told us about his popularity and ability to win an election.

Because Mr. Allup was always a candidate for Carabobo, until the 2000 election where he was hand picked for Caracas, maybe because he is not as well liked anymore in his home State, but vaguely rang a bell in Caracas.

And this shows how screwed up the system is. In Distric 3, Jose Guerra, who at least has been more politically active against the Government than Mr. Ramos Allup under Chávez and Maduro, had to go out and win the Primary, while Ramos Allup watched from the seats of the MUD stadium, doing nothing.

Let the candidacy come to him!

And that is the problem, we complain about the neo-Dictatorship that Venezuela has become, but the opposition does not offer a truly democratic platform. I am not inventing anything, this just so happens to be the law in Venezuela, as Art. 67 of the Constitution clearly says:

“…sus candidatos o candidatas a cargos de elección popular serán seleccionados o seleccionadas en elecciones internas con la participación de sus integrantes.”

“Its candidates for popular election will be selected in internal elections with the participation of its members”

Nobody can convince me that the MUD held “internal elections”

To me the only possible solution the MUD had was to have full primaries with the participation of anyone. I was in Caracas the day of the primaries for the opposition and since the part of the city where I was had no primary, nobody was even aware that a primary was taking place in 40% of the electoral districts of Venezuela.

Not the best way to get the electorate involved, says the Devil!

I wrote this same rant when talking about the Coordinadora Democratica (Remember them?), who had even fewer primaries. And there are other rants in this blog (Another one here) about this same subject: I truly believe until people don’t feel there is full democracy in Venezuela, people will continue to put down politicians and political parties will continue to be as “caudillistas”, inbred and gerontocratic as they are today.

And the strategy could eventually backfire, as I am told that part of the Government’s strategy is to “back” alternative opposition candidates against candidates like Ramos Allup, hoping to divide the opposition vote. I can imagine thousands of El Recreo voters, casting their vote for an unknown before  doing it for Mr. Ramos Allup. Yes, I dont like Mr Ramos for too many reasons, but the chief one is that he has no place in Venezuela’s politics, because he stopped doing anything about it, except continue being part of this self-appointed leadership boards. But he has also made accusations against people I respect, like Alek Boyd and Thor Havolrssen, which were not only false, but self-serving.

But I am just using him as an example everyone can understan,  I haven’t gone through the whole list, but I am sure there are many more “Allups” among the candidates of the opposition selected by the dedocracy of the MUD: Permanent members of the self-appointed leadership, “living room” politicians who know theory but don’t get their hands dirty, except when it comes time for self-promotion.

Until the opposition starts advocating the need to comply with the basic principles of democracy stated in the Venezuelan Constitution, there will be no progress. Democracy is what it is, not like what someone wants to say it is at some point in time. It is time for at least the opposition’s selection of all candidates and its party’s leaders to become fully democratic.

End of rant! Thank you!

P.S. Just after I posted this, our magnanimous Electoral Board announced that at least 40% of the candidates have to be women. If the MUD had held primaries, this argument would not hold water, as it would not be democratic. But given that they hand-picked their allupses and ramoses, they can go back and chose again and make some of them female. The tricks have just begun! And the MUD ain’t ready, who would have thought, Tibi is a feminist!




Some Music Brought To You by PSUV

June 24, 2015

As people get in lines for shopping, show their cedulas to be able to buy and Venezuela bickers with Colombia and Guyana over borders, the people from PSUV send this message of happiness, patriotism, socialism and whatever…

What do you think?

Elections Are Coming! Elections are Coming!

June 22, 2015


Elections are coming, but don’t get too excited yet. The ever affable and joyful Tibisay Lucena came on TV today and revealed to the country and the world, the closely held secret of when Venezuela’s Parliamentary elections would be. And then she, bitterly and acidly, proceeded to blast all of the critics of the Electoral Board, whose pristine record, from not having yet revealed the final vote of the 2007 referendum, to gerrymandering, to rushing to swear in Maduro the day after the questionable election in April 2013, she proceeded to defend. Deep in her troubled mind there must be an excuse for keeping the date secret for so long. For leaking and telling friends of the Government any date from September to December, before letting the “people” know when the elections will finally be. (Hopefully)

So democratic, it makes her democratic soul tremble with joy to make the announcement.

And then we are supposed to believe now that Obama and Shannon had something to do with this. Because somehow, Shannon agreed with the Capo to let elections proceed, in exchange for some mysterious concession. Because equally somehow we are now expected to see Leopoldo Lopez give up his hunger strike, as if holding elections was the only thing he was asking for. Maybe he will, but the reason Lopez is in jail, is because he is a dangerous organizer and leader, who in 2013 put in danger the Government’s phantom vote factor with his use of a strategy to have witnesses in over 90% of all precincts.

Of course, there are other theories, like Diosdado was negotiating for himself, undermining Maduro, who simply sent Delcy Rodriguez, his Foreign Minister, to spy on Diosdado during the meetings.  A sort of Agente 007 a la Maxwell Smart and nobody noticed that she was there in order to weave a proper conspiracy theory.

But jeez, nobody seems to find it strange that Shannon would meet with Diosdado (and have pictures taken) if he is being investigated. Yes, there is separation of powers in the US, but there is no lobotomy for thinking strategically. If in a few months an indictment was brought forward against Diosdado, the anti-Hillary, anti-Obama, over half of US politicians, if not more, will raise hell and Shannon would be forced to resign.

All of that for mostly ignored Venezuela, on the third year of a US Presidential term, with an unpopular President?

I find that hard to believe…

But Venezuelans seem to believe everything they are fed these days, particularly those in the opposition, even if Chavistas appear to be quite gullible too. One must look at the way people reacted when some Brazilian newspaper suggested Dilma has called her Foreign Minister to find out about what happened to the Brazilain Senators in Venezuela. Until Itamarati issued the a rather bland press release which was followed by Marco Aurelio Garcia’s statement calling the visit an intromission into Venezuela’s affairs, which was finally crowned by Dilma’s own statement that the visit was “shameful”. and an intromission into, bla, bla, bla. It seemed both statements were written by Maduro’s handlers.

But yes, the elections are coming!

And to guarantee their integrity and the reputation of the Electoral Board, Tibisay will only allow the pure, technical and unbiased observers of Unasur!

What a joy!

Unasur will be here!

The same people that backed the results of the 2013 election and called for an audit that was never fully implemented. For their good job in 2013, they get the exclusive in 2015. They can send as many “observers” as they want. Please no experts, just observers. Just like Chavismo runs things in Venezuela, Unasur is not expected to send anyone with too much knowledge of voting processes, computers, cheating and the like. No, Unasur will send true Foro de Sao Paolo sympathizers, for a taste of revolutionary traveling, as well as arepas and cachapas. If they have time, they can visit some of the revolution’s success projects, wherever they may be ,now that most Barrio Adentro’s modules are shut down.

I mean, it was an exquisite way of proving exactly what Tibisay was blasting her supposed enemies for. Venezuela could have invited the OAS, of which it is a member. Too many “come mierdas” there for Maduro. Or it could have asked Disodado’s best new friends from the US to send four people to observe. But no, in the same announcement of the closely kept secret, she gave exclusivity to an organization that has no record, experience or competence on Electoral matters, other than the infamous 2013 Venezuelan Presidential elections.

Truly, you can’t make stuff like this up. The revolution can always rewrite history any way it wants.

But Tibisay better hope that things go well and the revolution stays in power by whatever means necessary. Because if one day the Electoral registry can be examined or somebody sings to tell us how exactly elections were rigged, Tibisay will have to visit The Hague for violating the rights of most Venezuelans.

She will have to get in line to be tried, but she will be there…But I digress.

And now the strategies begin. I must say I thought that the elections were going to be held sooner (September/October) rather than later (December). Because things are deteriorating fast, very fast. Because right now, there isn´t much of anything to buy or its very expensive. While in Caracas last week, I heard all sort of conspiracy theories about the Government stashing money away to import things ahead of the elections and flood the country with “stuff”.

Really? If the “stuff” will be imported by the Government, you have to be truly gullible to think there will be all sorts of stuff around. They will steal half the money, rob half the stuff and in the end there will be too much of many things and little of a whole bunch of others. And I am not counting what will go to Colombia.

And can the “stuff” I arrive in time for December 6th? Call me skeptical of Chavista “planning”, an oxymoron, if I ever saw one.

Maduro’s plan, according to some sources, is to make the election about the “people”. The “people” are PSUV, and of course, the memory of Chávez, who happened to be elected for the first time on …you guessed it, Dec. 6th.

It will not be about Maduro, the economy, Diosdado or anything like that It will be about “Ustedes”, “el pueblo” and “El Comandante”.

Of course, inflation could screw it all up. I hope it does.

The Maduro Government Has Become Totally Insensitive And Cynical

February 27, 2015


When I began this blog, my objective was to show to those abroad how Chavismo’s claims were always exaggerated and inaccurate, how history was being changed and how Chavismo twisted the truth and the law just enough to get its own way to kidnap the State and its institutions. This objective of this message was achieved long ago, thanks to many people, blogs and institutions.

What Venezuela faces today is quite different. All institutions of Government, checks, balances and the rule of law are in the hands of the same ideological party and Government. Media is mostly controlled by Chavismo, and what little is not, is either being asphyxiated by the Government (Tal Cual is shutting down its daily edition today due to the lack of newsprint) or uses self-censorship in order to avoid confrontations with the Government.

But the level of paranoia and indolence exhibited by Government and PSUV officials has now reached levels of insensitivity that even after observing Chavismo for sixteen years simply flabbergast me.

Upon the death of a 14 year old school boy this week in the hands of a member of the national police, the Government machinery immediately began spinning the murder . The facts are clear, the kid was leaving school and was caught in the middle of a demonstration, he hid under car and a policeman pulled him out of  from under it. As the kid started telling the cop not to repress them, the cop simply shot at his head, with whatever type of gun he was using, killing him. As if this was not sufficient, the cops then tried to drag the body away with their motorcycle, but they were stopped by the friends of the kid and the protesters who simply could not believe what was happening.

Before any specific facts were known, Maduro, who was in Trinidad, made statements suggesting that Colombian paramilitary groups had infiltrated the country into San Cristobal (where the murder occurred) and that the kid belonged to a right wing sect…Yes, he was the member of a Boy Scout troop. Maduro also spewed out all his usual vile about the US wanting to overthrow him, the right wing opposition and the like.

Soon after that, the General Prosecutor said the cop had been detained and would be charged, among other things, with using an illegal weapon in the control of protests. This was clearly denied by both the “People’s'” Ombudsman and the investigative police, both of which said that the kid was killed with a gun that “only” shot plastic pellets. Witnesses said that the wounds the kid had in his head were not consistent with plastic pellets, as there were deep gashes and burn marks around them.

By now the Government in its cynicism, is portraying (The Prosecutor dixit) the cop and the kid both as “victims” of the right wing. Yes, the young cop is also a victim, but it is a victim of the hatred and indoctrination of the police corps, where human rights and respect are not promoted. Instead, it is a culture of repression and hate which is promoted daily in these organizations filled with loyal members of Chavismo.

And the Governor of Tachira State, gets all worked up because people are calling for the abrogation of Decree 8610, the same one that allowed the use of guns by the armed forces in the control of protests, because the murder of the 14 year old kid “had nothing to do with that decree”. Of course it does, when the Minister of Defense calls a decree which violates Human Rights agreements “beautiful”, the murder of this kid has everything to do with the culture and the atmosphere of repression created by Chavismo in Venezuela.

And to prove this point, in the last week, six young kids, all under 23, all near protests or protesting or detained during protests, were either shot dead in the head or found later shot in the head. All were students. none ever detained before.

By now,  the Government is giving, in some cases, “alternative” explanations to these deaths…

Meanwhile, the new media purchased by unknown foreign investors (not allowed by law, but who pays attention?) does not even report the death until hours later, suggesting the students were all attacking the cops or part of the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the “Dean” of Venezuelan Journalism, who presides over one of these, Ultimas Noticias, says he does not even know who purchased the newspaper, but they want to have a “different medium” and defends the concept that some sort of weird coup was indeed staged against Nicolas Maduro.

What a sad and cynical role this supposed “Dean” of Journalism and freedom of expression is playing in the Venezuelan tragedy.

And just as you think you have heard enough, Maduro tells the world (if it was listening) that the world’s powers have to “rationalize” the use of  oil. Funny point to make, from the leader of a country which has doubled daily gasoline consumption since 2001, by giving it away for almost free. But as if this was not enough, he called for the use of clean energies and techniques. I guess he is so concerned with the environment, that this is why he eliminated the Ministry of the Environment last year.

But the beat goes on for Chavismo. The lines at supermarkets are invisible, non-existent and just part of the economic war. The protests are led by USA trained and backed 20 year old students, inflation is not a problem and God will provide. They hope.

And as the family of the 14 year old that was murdered buries him, there are no words of condolences, no expressions of compassion. Just a warning that if the opposition gets pesky and the protests over the deaths, or shortages, or inflation continue, the Government may be forced to ban the opposition, so that it can proceed to have elections in democracy and peace later this year.

Such is the cynical logic of Chavismo/Madurismo today. There is no gray area anymore, just cynicism and insensitivity for all …



Venezuelan Government Flip Flops Between Pragmatism And Radicalism, But…

February 8, 2015

biceLines at a Government owned supermarket in the middle of Caracas, almost daily now

Some people have written to me, asking why I have been so quiet, when so much has been going on in Venezuela with the takeover of Farmatodo and Dia Dia and the jailing of its owners.The reason is simple, yes, there is a lot going on, but to me what happened to Farmatodo and Dia Dia is more of the same, going back to the takeover of the Coca Cola warehouse way back in 2003 and going thru the nationalization (and destruction) of Agroisleña, or the Dakazo, or so many takeovers, nationalizations and jailings that have taken place under the Chavismo Dictatorship.

After all, Chavismo took over Dia Dia, a company founded in 2005 only to serve the lower strata of the population, the sort of project the Government should back and promote and not destroy, which is all it is doing by taking it over. After all, it is merging it with the Abastos Bicentenario (and stealing its inventory) , which was created when the Government forcefully took a majority stake in Cativen and its Exito hypermarkets.

They have not been the same since and have lines as long or longer than those of the private sector.

Thus, there is really nothing much different happening with the events of the last few days or weeks. What is puzzling, and I don’t have the answer for it, is why Chavismo (or Maduro) takes this self-destruction route. If I knew, I would have written a post about it.

Because what the Government is doing is sending very mixed signals. On the one hand, it dollarizes airline tickets, airline cargo and talks about a new “market” (I doubt it!) for foreign currency at a higher price than Sicad 2, but on the other, Maduro keeps confronting, threatening and acting like a Dictator, despite the fact that his popularity is in the low teens, according to the latest polls.

So, what gives?

I don’t know. The Comandante Eterno used to do the same thing when things got tough, but he was Chávez and Maduro ain’t. So, either Maduro is getting bad advice or he is full of himself. Personally, I don’t think Maduro can last this way until the Parliamentary elections. He can last, but he will have to repress a lot of people in order to survive.

But we don’t even know whether Maduro is completely in charge or whether others are telling him what to do, including his wife Cilia.

But I am sorry to tell you, the Government is not acting as stupidly as many lead you to believe. To start, they got US 1.9 billion from the Dominican Republic, which purchased  its Petrocaribe debt at less than half price. Then Citgo sold US$ 1.5 billion in a 2022 bond at a yield to maturity with a coupon of 11.5% and borrowed an additional US$1 billion from banks by pledging terminals and its shares. Not bad, US$ 4.5 billion at the blink of an eye in Maduro’s coffers. Jamaica could do the same and then Maduro may decide to close his eyes and send the gold to London and problem solved for 2015. Yeap, just like that, we are thinking 2016 and not 2015.

Oil is a many splendored thing indeed! Except Venezuelans are in charge…

My guess is that Maduro is betting (hoping?) that oil bounces from here and PSUV can keep control of the National Assembly. A tough and balancing act, given that the country will only feel the under-50 oil prices in March and April. Lines could indeed be long by the time Easter week comes around.

Yes, they are likely to become longer…

But things are really paralyzed right now, as the private sector awaits a foreign exchange system that I don’t believe will be functioning before Easter. Yeap! Think about it. You need to change the Illicit Controls Bill to allow the new market to function. This is at least two weeks from the time of he proposal, since it has to be approved by the National Assembly. Then, you need to issue the new foreign exchange agreement between the Government and the Central Bank, which is just a decree, but it has to follow the the Bill approved by the Assembly. After that, you need to issue the regulations for the market to function. Given that in one week Venezuela and its Government will be paralyzed by the Carnival holidays, even Easter may seem optimistic for this indecisive Government.

Which in the end is the biggest handicap of the Maduro administration. It is not only indecisive, but it has no clear view that a really free floating fx system will be any better. Except someone has told them to stick with it. And they want to try it out, but not everyone agrees.

So, we enter a very uncertain period, with many surprises possible. It is truly uncertain territory with a very indecisive and flip flopping Government. But it is clear there is a short term strategy in place, hoping for the best in the long term. And it will likely fail, leading to uncertainty, chaos and social unrest.

Not a pretty picture…




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