Archive for February 5th, 2003

A Nicaraguan reminds us of history

February 5, 2003


I transalted this article written by Nicaraguan reporter German Novelli for today’s Tal Cual newspaper. It speaks for itself.


This may happen (From my exile)

On January 10th. 1978 Pedro Joaquin Chamorro Cardenal, director of newspaper La Prensa and martyr of public freedom was assassinated in Nicaragua. A year later, in the Riguero neighborhood of
Managua, two US reporters, from the ABC news team, were detained by National Guard troops. The cameraman managed to stay back half a block away and, hidden behind some bushes, taped one of the most negative images of the war that would completely wipe out Somoza.

Reporter Bill Stewart was forced by a guardsman to lay face down on the pavement and, without any type of compassion, he was shot by two rifle bullets in the head.


The attacks by Anastasio Somoza began with sanctions against the printed media that was denouncing the abuses. Later he arrested the Editor of the newspaper la Prensa, who suffered, before being assassinated, jail, tortures and exile. Somoza had as his motto:” To my friends, the honors, to the indifferent, the stick, to my enemies, the bullets”

As to the televised media, Stewart was assassinated as revenge for showing on the screen the horrors that the regime was imposing on the people.

The intimidating visits to Venezuelan TV stations, the threat that there will be no dollars for newspapers to buy newsprint, the Content Law that will be discussed by the National Assembly and the repeated announcements by Hugo Chavez to shutdown TV stations are the first steps. Afterwards, more abuses will come. It would not be strange if Gustavo Cisneros is detained for treason and Miguel Henrique Otero assassinated. Neither that the deaths of Virgilio Fernandez and Jorge Tortosa (reporters killed while covering demonstrations) will be followed by those of others.

They are notes of history. A history that is repeating in
Venezuela. Chavez, just like Somoza, argues Constitutional reasons to stay in power, just like Somoza, ignoring the majority that rejects him. Hugo Chávez, just like Somoza, has turned the National Guard into his storm troopers to quiet their voices and run over defenseless women.


Chavez, just like Somoza, has proven that he is not willing to leave stone over stone in the places where the opposition lives. Then, gentlemen of the media, my fellow reporters: Known things are silenced and because they are silenced they are simply forgotten.

Germán Novelli

The stupid revolution or the revolution of the stupid?

February 5, 2003

It is difficult to explain what is going on in Venezuela. I just heard a tape of Chavez’ speech yesterday. In two minutes he said something like (I have no link to prove it) “We will revolutionize agriculture by having people grow things in the cities in every  empty space available……..We have a project to make vertical chicken coops in the cities since there is so little space available” 

Now, just two comments: Since there is so much empty space in the countryside, why grow in the city? Second, how about the health probelm of chicken coops all over the city?. Finally for those abroad, the Venezuelan Government owns over 50% of the land in the country. Truly a revolution of the stupid. .

Gloomy day for Venezuelans

February 5, 2003


I am full of gloom today, so bear with me. Besides Chavez celebrating yesterday the 11 year anniversary of his attempted coup, which I consider to be absolutely grotesque, he also claimed that that day was simply a “popular” victory, while he absolutely disregarded the more than four million plus signatures of the Firmazo on Sunday. As if this were not enough, the Government appears to be rejecting any possibility of negotiation, not only rejecting the proposals by the Carter Center, but apparently also having Chavez tell the Vice-Chancellors of the group of friends that he did not know what they were doing in Caracas, since he had not invited them and he was the democratically elected president of Venezuela. According to a Brazilian newspaper even Lula Da Silva who was supposed to be Chavez’ best ally in the Group of Friends, is said to be mad at Chavez for his refusal to negotiate. Reportedly, the meeting between them at Chavez was tense, they found the President so arrogant and conflictive that reportedly the Mexican Vice-Chancellor is threatening to quit the group. The group believed that the easing of the general strike would create the required atmosphere to begin negotiations. Instead, Chavez gloated on Sunday, claiming victory over the opposition.


Meanwhile the destruction of PDVSA continues, this week most of the workers of PDVSA’s technology center were fired as the Government announced it would reduce its staff from 1,300 to only 200. This is not only depressing conceptually, but my wife worked there for almost twenty years, almost from its creation. During that time INTEVEP became not only a research and development center of the Venezuelan oil Industry, but it made the Venezuelan oil industry more sophisticated and  self-sufficient. I hear that the Government thinks this is all just a victory, as they have tighter control of the country’s premier industry. Meanwhile, the country has essentially no external income as the balance of importing gasoline at $38 a barrel and selling it internally for $5 is barely compensated by the country’s oil exports. Finally, rumors are that the Government will suspend TV station Globovision by the end of the week for 72 hours, threatening the company with removal of its concession if it violates the law again. This is simply a threat to freedom of speech and who knows what may come next. Pessimistic, yes, but there are too many reasons not to be.

Government opens investigation of Venevision

February 5, 2003

Representatives of the Minister of Infrastructrure and Telecommunications showed up today at TV station Venevision, owned by the Cisneros Group, to notify the station that it was being investigated for violations of a 1940 law due to the broadcasting of some news that make the Government uncomfortable (my words). Curiously, Chavez’ Bolivarian Circles had shown up two hours before the Ministry’s lawyers showed up to cheer them when they arrived. Another case of organized state terror. The picture from teh TV shows the lawyers arriving with the bolivarian circles in the background.

The Bible, exchange controls and fundamentalists

February 5, 2003


For a Government that has had many types of fundamentalists in their midst, it is curious that up to now, none have been of the religious kind. It is only fitting then, that Hugo Chavez will name his first Bible toting fundamentalist to Head the newly created office to manage the exchange control system to be created this week. The office will be run by Edgar Hernandez Behrens, a former military officer, who participated in the 1992 coup attempt with Chavez by leading a column of tanks and soldiers from Guarico state, south of Caracas. While barely known, Mr. Hernandez has been President of Banfoandes, a state bank. He has said in interviews that following the principles of the Bible has made Banfoandes prosper and obtain some of the best indices of the Venezuelan banking system. He has said “When one acts with love, you look for what people need…..we looked for change based on biblical values”. He also says his confidence in God has been fundamental to capture new clients and return confidence to depositors. He believes in tithing like the Bible commands and Banfoandes will contribute 10% of its profits to local communities. Hopefully, those asking the Central Bank for foreign currency will not have to pay a “tithe” to obtain it. In fact, even if the do, they may not get anything as Hugo Chávez announced today in his usual democratic way “Not one dollar for the coupsters”. Since all of the opposition is supposedly part of the plot to overthrow him, and 4.7 million people signed Sunday’s El Firmazo in favor of the opposition, maybe the militaristic/bible toting/fellow loving Mr. Hernandez will be using those lists to determine who should or not get foreign currency.