Archive for February 22nd, 2003

Analysis of status of Venezuelan Oil Industry

February 22, 2003

Detailed analysis of the status of the Venezuelan Oil Industry (In Spanish) (big document) prepared by the Union of Oil workers Unapetrol and the Civil Assiciation “People of Oil” (Gente del Petroleo). Key facts:

-Production still below 1.5 million barrels a day.

-It would take at least 6 to 8 weeks to supply internal gasoline market.

-Only one refinery working at 60% capacity.

-No natural gas to start petrochemical industry.

-Security, health and enviromental accidents up a factor of 50 over pre-December levels.

-12,500 people fired. (71% of Executives, 51% of professionals and technicians)

-Country’s cash flow to turn negative in May.

-If fired  workers return in February, country’s cash flow up by US$ 4.5 billion for the year.

The criminal and Chavista past of Judge Maikel Moreno who ordered the detention of opposition leaders

February 22, 2003

The judge who ordered the detention of opposition leaders Carlos Fernandez and Carlos Ortega said yesterday (El Nacional, page A-2), that he was not pro-Chavez or anti-Chavez, he was apolitical. Well, the picture below shows in a red circle Judge Maikel Moreno on April 11th. 2002, among the pro-Chavez crowd that was waiting for the anti-Chavez march right before 19 people were killed that day. Note the stones on the hands of the people around him. What was he doing there, research? The man on the left is Chavez’ MVR Deputy Juan Barreto

But there is more to the history of Mr. Moreno

1987- As a member of the intelligence police he is found guilty of homicide and sent to jail.

1990- Released from jail

1990- Weeks after being released, he finds a position in a Court.

2002- Is seen with Chavista Deputies during the disturbances of April 11th.

May 2002- The Head of Chavez MVR in Caracas says the party will provide defense for the gunmen filmed shooting from Puente El Llaguno at the peaceful opposition march. Among the gunmen were an MVR City Councilman and two workers of the same municipality. Then lawyer Maikel Moreno is put in charge of their defense.

September 2002- He is appointed provisional Judge by a Government panel and ratified by the Supreme Court to the position. The law says to become a judge you need to have some form of postgraduate work which Judge Moreno does not have.

February 2003- He orders the two opposition leaders detained despite of the fact that one of the charges is not even in the criminal code. The charges are brought by a prosecutor who is the niece of the Attorney General (Chavez’ first Vice-President) whose area of expertise is not even criminal law.

Is this an independent judicial decision? Ha!

When is a Dictator a Dictator by Glenn Reynolds

February 22, 2003

Glenn Reynolds does get it:

       Hugo Chavez of Venezuela — after failing in a coup attempt some years ago — was legitimately elected president of Venezuela. But many now consider him a dictator. Is that fair?
       Well, yes. Many dictators were originally elected (look at Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe — whom few besides Jacques Chirac would deny is a dictator today — or Peru’s Alberto Fujimori) and, in fact, the original source of the term is with the Roman Dictator, an “elected magistrate” who gave dictators a bad name by abusing the powers of that office. Amusingly, though some on the left call President Bush a “dictator” they seem inclined to dispute the term’s application to Chavez, whose friendliness to Fidel Castro apparently establishes his democratic bona fides.
       As far as I’m concerned, though, a dictator is as a dictator does, and by that standard Chavez is looking pretty dictatorial lately. According to reports in the New York Times, Chavez opponents are being assassinated:
       Venezuela was still reeling today after the weekend killings of three dissident soldiers and a protester opposed to President Hugo Chávez, and the police and grieving relatives split over whether the killings were politically motivated.
       According to police investigations, about 12 armed men kidnapped the four victims on Saturday night as they were leaving a protest. They were bound and gagged, and some were tortured before the gunmen executed them, the police said.

       Meanwhile, according to an Associated Press report, other opposition leaders are being arrested by secret police. And even some of Chavez’s former allies have been subjected to abduction, rape and torture.
       Partly because the war is distracting people, and partly because human-rights abuses by Friends of Fidel seem to inspire less indignation among many in the human-rights community, Chavez’s behavior isn’t getting the attention it probably deserves. But it’s being covered by bloggers. Two Venezuelan weblogs worth keeping tabs on are The Devil’s Excrement, by Miguel Octavio, and Caracas Chronicles, by a former New York Times stringer who quit his position so that he could report more extensively on his weblog.
       If you follow the news from Venezuela, I think you’ll probably conclude that Chavez is, indeed, a dictator, one whose people have been demonstrating against him in numbers that dwarf the recent antiwar protests in the United States, but with far less media attention.

Francisco Toro on the Internationl Press and Venezuela

February 22, 2003

As usual Francisco Toro does an excellent job in describing the reaction of the international press to recent events in Venezuela. Particularly interesting is his news that a different reporter will arrive to replace the sloppy reporting of Juan Forero of the NYT:

The Full Mugabe

There’s one positive side to this whole Carlos Fernández incarceration hubbub: the foreign press is finally taking the gloves off. After months of not quite knowing how to deal with the crisis, of not being entirely sure whether to treat Chávez like a normal democratic president or an autocrat, the Fernández episode seems to have tipped the scales. It’s the Mugabization of Hugo Chávez in the court of world public opinion. It’s still far from complete, but now it’s definitely on the way.

Consider this remarkable story by Scott Wilson in the Washington Post. I’ve been friends with Scott for a long time and consider him one of the best journalists around. I understand the pressure he’s under – both from his editors and his personal sense of journalistic ethics – not to write any further than the facts will allow. Whatever, intimately, he might have thought or felt about Chávez, for a long time the facts were just too nebulous and contradictory for him to give Chávez the full Mugabe treatment. I had the feeling he understood, at a gut level, how dangerous Chávez was. But Scott doesn’t draw a paycheck to tell the world how his gut is feeling – his job is to tell the world what happened. And it hadn’t happened, yet.

Now it’s happened, and his treatment in the Post is absolutely brutal. I’ve never seen the government take it this hard in a reputable foreign news story before. I think a lot of foreign journalists were, in a sense, waiting for a big stink-up to pounce – and now the stink-up is here, the government’s heavy autocratic character is in plain for all to see, and the pouncing has started.


Reuter’s is just as harsh as the Post – they played that papaya quote for all its worth – and AP is just acerbic – I can’t think of a lead anywhere near as biting as this one in any AP story I’ve ever read out of Venezuela. The NYT is flying in David González tonight, and while I only know him superficially, he’s a fantastically talented reporter and can be expected to write some good stuff.

Is it the Full Mugabe yet? Not quite. But the treatment Chávez is getting now is far, far closer to it. My fear is that he’ll use the international media blackout that will come with the start of the war on Iraq for cover – people will be very nervous here the day the war starts. Specifically, it’s easy to foresee that he’ll move against the independent TV stations within minutes of the start of the war. Under normal circumstances – and the stories of the last few days bear this out – he’d be pilloried abroad for a stunt like that. But with the green lights streaking over the skies of Baghdad on CNN, who can tell?