Archive for August, 2002

Venezuela goes Open Source……… Dream On

August 31, 2002

Can’t help but comment on the report by Linux Today that Venezuela would go open source which was reported by slashdot linked by my tyromaniac brother and others. Besides the problems of inefficiency cited by my brother, there are many problems with the proposal. The main one is simply that there is no way to enforce it. The Minister of Planning may want the Government to go Open Source but each Minsitry, Institute and office makes independent decisions which will not only be difficult to coordinate, but are impossible to enforce. Moreover, in the Ministries, where Mr. Perez may be able to coordinate some action, mainframes and IBM rule the day. Any effort to go open source would also require funding at a time when the Government is late in payments to Governemnt Agencies by as many as six months, so it is difficult to see how he can convince turning over to open source without the training, the people and the tools, which are not free.

I have heard the Minisiter of Planning say that he will eliminate corruption using the help of the Open Source Foundation. I have heard him say that the open source concept should be extended to all sectors of the economy, whatever that means. Thus, the Minisiter is dreamer, I like dreamers, but somehow, I think you have to choose the right dream. So far, the dreams of the Minister seem neboulous and unrealistic. Venezuela needs a little realism and pragmatism before we can begin to dream again.

When cell phones become home phones

August 29, 2002



The NYT has an article today about how the number of fixed line phones is going down as people acquire cell phones, since rates have dropped and people find it convenient to have a single cell phone or multiple ones. An added advantage is the fact that when one moves one can keep the number as you change places.


It is interesting to look at what has happened in Venezuela in the last few years, with the caveats that Venezuela did not have the penetration of fixed lines that the US did when cell phones became widely available. Similarly, there is the fact that in Venezuela the billing system is ďcalling party paysĒ, which implies that people are more prone to give out their numbers to others since the caller pays the full call.



1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Fixed Lines 2,666,845 2,803,977 2,517,220 2,470,756 2,520,586 2,692,773
F.L. Penetration 11.95% 12.31% 10.83% 10.42% 10.49% 11.07%
Cell Phones 499,116  1,102,948  2,009,757  3,784,735  5,447,172  6,472,284
C.P. Penetration 2.24% 4.84% 8.65% 15.96% 22.54% 26.28%



Note that since 1996 the number of fixed lines has essentially remained constant, while the number of cell phones has increased from practically nothing to close to six and a half million phones in a country of 24-25 million people. The increase is very impressive. Obviously, phone companies have found it cheaper to sell cell phones in a country which had a deficient fixed-line infrastructure, but it is also true that cell phones are a cheaper alternative even in a country with a GDP per capita much lower than the US or other developed countries. It is also more convenient to have it on you everywhere, except perhaps for Internet access, which requires a fixed line. We suspect, the trend in the Venezuelan case will be followed elsewhere as time goes by and the NYT report is simply the first indicator of that trend.

Digression 8: Having fun with the scam

August 28, 2002

I have always felt a desire to have a laugh by replying to one of those Nigerian-like scams in which you supposedly can get rich by simply “lending” your bank account to some relative of a jailed official who just happens to have, let’s say, some $30 million stashed away and needs your account to get it out and is willing to give you, let’s say, ten percent for your efforts. Well, I would like to pay tribute to Zach Beane of Maine who actually followed up on replying and made an absolutely hilarious exchange with the mysterious spammer (or is it scammer?) Dr. Solomon (Some credit should be given to the tenacious Dr. Solomon for keeping the exchange alive):

A picture named [jpeg0004[1]]


even if the whole thing were made up, it would still be hilarious!!!


Thanks to John Fleck for providing the link 

Coincidentally, I received a new version of the scam today, this time asking to help repatriate the $15 million someone named Jeffery Octavio had in Dubai before his unfortunate death in a car accident. I am considering answering it, given that Zach’s thread might be coming to an end.

up, it would still be hilarious!!!


Thanks to John Fleck for providing the link 

Coincidentally, I received a new version of the scam today, this time asking to help repatriate the $15 million someone named Jeffery Octavio had in Dubai before his unfortunate death in a car accident. I am considering answering it, given that Zach’s thread might be coming to an end.

Is Chavez losing it?

August 28, 2002

In a little noted mayoral election in a rural area in the West of Venezuela, these were the results:

New Time Coalition   47.5%

AD Coalition              30.7%

MPS                           10.4%

MEP                            6.6%

MVR(Chavez)            4.8%

Other                          3.3%

This was not insignificant. Chavez’ own brother campaigned in the town for MVR’s candidate, so did two of his Cabinet Ministers. Despite this in an area where they should have won running away, they lost. Moreover, the previous mayor (who passed away) was elected for the MVR party.  The only explanation, given other polls that say MVR holds roughly 20% popularity is that MVR supporters simply did not feel motivated to go and vote for their candidate.

What a crazy craziness is this craziness

August 27, 2002


What a crazy craziness is this craziness


(The following article is a humor piece published in a local paper, El Nacional, and liberally translated by me. In some sense it reflects the difficulties of trying to explain to others what is happening in my country, my reason for creating The Devilís Excrement. Enjoy (if you can)!!)


By Claudio Nazoa


An Argentinean friend named Carlos Mamut, called me on the phone from his country worried by the images that he was seeing on TV about Venezuela.


As the conversation went on, I became conscious of the craziness we are living in, of which we are not always aware, because we are so immersed in it. My theory is that all Venezuelans have gone crazy. The first thing any self-respecting nut knows, is that he is sane and the rest of the people are not, which is the reason why I ask all of you to analyze and think seriously about the severity of what is happening to us without realizing what is happening: There are twenty million demential Venezuelans, each one of which thinks he is sane and that the other nineteen million nine hundred and ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine are insane. You donít believe it? I didnít believe it either until I had a conversation with Carlos Mamut, mi Argentinean friend, which I taped and transcribed faithfully to support this theory


-Hi, Claudio?

-Yes, itís me, who is it?

-Shit, donít you recognize me?

-Itís me Carlos Mamut

-Carlitos, to what do I owe this miracle?

-Well, what can I say? I had to call. I am watching on CNN that an opposition group is in front of the Presidential Palace, burning tires and throwing stones. Tell, me what is happening in Venezuela?

-Claudio, that is not the opposition, the ones throwing stones are Government supporters.

-Donít be nuts Carlitos, that is the opposition. How can Government supporters create havoc, put up barricades and throw stones? I saw the police repressing the demonstration!

-Well, yes, what happens is thatÖI donít know how to explain it, but it happens that the police are the Governmentís enemy; nevertheless they are trying to stop the demonstrators from overthrowing the Government.

-Listen to yourself, you are saying nutty things, I am watching on TV hooded demonstrators shooting against the marchers that are going towards the Presidential Palace.

-You are right, and now that you mention it I donít understand it either, the point is that the demonstration that you are watching is in favor of the Government and those that are shooting, are shooting against the cops which are led by the Mayor of Caracas, who by the way is not in favor of the Government.

-Nuts! Are you kidding me? I have just seen the Mayor of Caracas saying that he backs ChŠvez.

-Carlos you have to understand that that is another Mayor, I am talking about the one that does not back him.

-Ah! The one that directs the cops?

-No! The police are being led by the Mayor that backs Chavez; I am referring to the Metropolitan police

-Well, the Metropolitan police does not belong to Caracas?

-Yes! But that one belongs to another Mayor, the one that does not back him!

-Definitely Claudio you are dumb! Calm down and explain to me the following: is the National Guard that is there is to protect its bosses, the officials that are being tried?

-NoooÖ.! I donít have to calm down! I am not exalted! Donít you understand? Those are officials that do not command the National Guard, because they donít back the Government. They donít! And what the National Guard  is trying to do is stop the Governmentís supporters from hitting the police that does not back the Government but that are trying to defend the buildings of the Government ,even if the Mayor does not back the Government.

-Do me a favor Claudio, relax, and as a friend I suggest you stop drinking Scotch. Have  tea, or something like it, you are going crazy!

-Sorry Carlos, you are right. I think we have all gone crazy, but the only way to remain sane is to drink all the Scotch I can. But I am going to tell you something, the only person in Venezuela who is not crazy is me!


Way to blog Brasil !!!!!

August 26, 2002


NYT reports that Brasil (or is it Brazil?) has as many as 13% of all weblogs in the world. Moreover,, the Internet division of one of the largest media groups will provide free blogging service. This is not only good for blogging, but it also shows the power of the Internet when a country can so quickly pick up on a trend from another country far from it. Way to blog Brasil!!Way to go weblogs!!

New link on my site

August 25, 2002

Added a new link on my site to :


Toby’s Political Diary – ‘Let it Begin Here’
not only did I like that site, but the spirit of his site is what I want, selfishly, to preserve in my country, justice, equality, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been under attack in my country for the last four years by a band of primitive fascists. Unfortunately, the world seems to defend elections, not democracy. Our President was elected but he is no democrat. We had a chance to get rid of him in April and international groups defended that he was elected to help bringing him back. The fact that his Government had massacred 18 people appeared to be irrelevant. Hopefully, his day will come and he will be found guilty of crimes agaisnt humanity and his people. Sooner, better than later.

B.R. 101 Was there a coup in Venezuela in April?

August 25, 2002

B.R. 101 Was there a coup in Venezuela in April?

I have been asked twice this question since I started posting to this blog. As with everything in the last three years in Venezuela the answer is not a simple yes or no. Perhaps it is best answered by saying there was no coup against Hugo Chavez, there was a coup against the Constitution.

Let’s review the events as they took place:

-A peaceful march was led to the Presidential Palace asking for the President’s resignation. The march was so peaceful that people took their children, even babies and pets.

-According to the testimony of three Gerenals who are former Chavez collaborators, the President attempted to activate an army plan called “Plan Avila”  to supress the demonstration. This plan is a contingency plan used when there is violence or unrest and involves the takeover of the capital by the Armed Forces. The  plan was designed more than ten years ago, had never been implemented and according to many violates the new Constitution approved and proposed by Chavez and his supporters.

-When the march is close to the Presidential palace, it is fired upon by people on a bridge above the crowd and from two buildings. All three of these sites were very close to the Presidential Palace which had been surrounded by the President’s supporters.

– The same three Generals that disobeyed the President’s orders appear on TV asking the President to resign, blaming him for the massacre.

-The Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces, a close Chavez supporter, appears on TV and says the President has resigned. The President asks for an airplane to leave the country, some of the Generals says he has to stay in the country to be tried for the massacre. At that point the President says he will not sign his resignation if forced to stay. (There is even a tape where a General says he is asking for US$ 7 milliom). 

To me up to this point there is no coup or millitary rebellion, no force has been used, his own close collaborators announced that he had resigned. Chavez is jailed. It is from this point on that something like a coup or violations of the Constitution take place.

-The military that had asked for the President’s resignation name the Head of the Chambers of Commerce and one of the leaders of the General Strike of the previous days, as temporary President. He issues a decree in which he dissolves the National Asembly and the Supreme Court as well as renaming the country to what it used to be called until the new Cosntitution was approved.

-The OAS and some foreign Governments begin asking for a signed resignation of the President. People begin calling the decree by the new President a coup, the same military that named him, forced the new President to resign, Chavez returns brought in part at the request of a General who says the Constitution has to be respected. Chavez names as his Minister of Defense the same General who publicly said he had resigned and initiated this whole process.

To me there was no coup against Hugo Chavez, he resigned and should not have come back and should be tried for the massacre that took place on April 11th. The problem was that the Vice-President should have taken over to follow the Constitution. Only if the Vice-President had resigned could somebody different have been named. Thus, there was an attempt to violate the Constitution which interestingly enough was immediately reacted to. Chavez violates the Constitution regularly and nothing happens. Such is life in what Chavez calls the Vth. Republic!!!


B.R. 101: Injustice for the dead

August 24, 2002

B.R. 101: Injustice for the dead.

In April a peaceful demonstration asking the President to resign was massacred by Government supporters. Eighteen people were killed, more than one hundred injured. The President resigned, was replaced and came back in less than two days. One of his promises upon his return was to establish a “Truth Commision” to learn the truth about the killings. Today, four months later, the National Assembly controlled by the Government has yet to vote on establishing this commision.

Ten days ago, the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled that the Generals that refused to obey the President’s orders that day in April could not be tried for rebellion. Six days ago, the National Assembly speedily formed a Commission to investigate if any of the Supreme Court Justices lied about their credentials when they were named to the Highest Court. (A fact that was noted by the opposition when they were named to the Court).

Four months for the dead, four days for the President. That is called the exercise of immoral power.

B.R. 101: Another Economic Mystery brought to you by……

August 23, 2002

B.R. 101: Another Economic Mystery brought to you by……

The <A href=”>Venezuelan economy shrank by 9.9% in the second quarter, after shrinking 4.1% in the first quarter to give a combined record of 7.1% the largest such contraction for one quarter in the country’s history. Isn’t this the definition of a depression? Or is that just the way I feel? Way to go Hugo Chavez!!

The Government blames the strike in April for this, but the economy had shrunk 4.1% in the first quarter before there was a strike. Remarkably, oil prices have been at extremely high levels all year long and are today at almost the highest historical levels. What can you expect from a Government that misplaces US$ 2.3 billion (or is it more?).