Archive for April, 2003

Good campaign by Ciudadania activa

April 29, 2003

Good poster by the non-profit group Ciudadania Activa to encourage people to March on Thursday (May Day). The poster says: Support Chavez, this May 1st. stay home, the pretty revolution will thank you for it.

Francisco Toro of Caracas Chronicles signs off

April 29, 2003


Francisco Toro, author of the very well written blog “Caracas Chronicles’ has decided to sign off and stop writing his blog, he will be missed. As with everything here in Venezuela these days, his reasons are multiple and complex. But nobody can explain it better than him. We wish him the best in his new venture!:


A number of you have written in to ask what’s up with Caracas Chronicles, which hasn’t been updated in a while now. The proximate reason is rather pedestrian:, the service that hosts my blog, seems to have gone to pot over the last couple of weeks; it keeps giving me an incomprehensible error message and won’t let me post.

But let’s get real: the way Venezuelan politics is going, even if blogger was up and running, I probably wouldn’t have been writing much. It’s simply too depressing a panorama.

I don’t know quite how to describe it. The last couple of weeks have closed a kind of cycle of disenchantment for me. Starting from the heady days of expectation and excitement of 1999, the cycle took me through the slow disillusionment of 2000 and 2001, then through a kind of rekindled idealism with the growth of the opposition last year, and now to a new and very disheartening understanding of the depths of dysfunction this society, all of it, has reached.

It’s no longer interesting or fun or exciting or quirky observing public life here. These days, it’s sad. Just sad. A meaningless, intensely
destructive fight that’s plunging millions of people into real destitution for no particular reason at all.

I could write so long as I kept faith, kept faith in a future that was both possible and worth getting excited about. At this point, I’ve just lost faith. I’ve seen one too many Globovision segment and El Nacional article that twists and stretches and omits for cheap political gain,
I’ve seen one lie too many coming from the opposition leaders who are supposed to save the country from the dregs of chavizmo. I’ve seen one instance too many of the appalling lack of integrity that permeates every aspect of public life here to retain any level of idealism at all. I
don’t even want to think of myself as a member of the opposition anymore:
there’s too little honor in this opposition, too much willingness to tolerate the intolerable for political gain.

It took me a long time to come to this conclusion, it was an excruciating process coming to see things this way, but at this point, I just can’t believe that this kind of opposition holds out the slightest hope for a better future even if they were able to get rid of the mad autocrat
which they aren’t.

What it comes down to is that I can no longer see a plausible path to a desirable future for Venezuela.  As the government’s quasi-dictatorial intolerance and the opposition’s reactionary myopia grow in tandem, feeding off one another in a vicious circle, it becomes impossible for me to imagine the path that links the country I live in now with the imagined country I would one day like to live in, the fair, decent and prosperous society everyone claims to be working towards, but that so few seem to be able to envision clearly. When I wrote the tag-line for Caracas Chronicles, it seemed fascinating to have a front-row seat to a society while it falls apart at the seams. It no longer feels fascinating. Today, it’s just a sad, soul-sapping spectacle, and I just
don’t know that I have the stomach to chronicle it anymore.

So, this fall, I’ll gladly become a statistic here, a figure in a chart
detailing the exodus of university-educated Venezuelans during the Chávez era. Come September I’ll enroll in the doctoral program put together by the United Nations University and the University of Maastricht, in Holland. Four years from now, if all goes well, I’ll have a Ph.D. on the impact of innovation and technological change on economic development in the third world. It’s a mouthful, I know, I guess you’d call it Development Economics for short, but the long and the short of it is that I can’t live here anymore, it’s bad for my soul, and an escape into academia seems like just the solution at a time like this. I’m quite excited about the program, in fact, and definitely looking forward to life in a sleepy provincial town on the Dutch-Belgian border after the unremitting megacity craziness of Caracas.

Making friends for the Cuban revolution

April 29, 2003

Protesters from the organization Reporters without borders were beaten up by Cuban Embassy officials while they were protesting the imprisonment of twenty six journalists in that island. I guess the Cubans keep making friends all over the world, including Caracas with thei tolerance and friendly gestures. Once you are in that page you should read the report on Venezuela entitled: “Caught between an authoritarian President and intolerant media”

US does not speak softly

April 28, 2003


The US Government used fairly strong wording today warning the Chávez administration that the delay in signing the agreement with the opposition is a “test” of Chavez’ committment to democratic principles. “Unfortunately, President Hugo Chavez refused to sign the agreements without modifying them” said Curtis Struble Assistant Secretary of the State Department for Latin America. The time has come to give a demonstration of good faith in the negotiations, the time has come for President Chávez to sign the agreement as is” added Struble.


In what was clearly a coordinated effort, which follows last weeks “activism” by US Ambassador to Venezuela Shapiro, the special White House envoy for Latin America, Otto Reich, also added his two cents saying: “The Interamerican community is vigilant. The democratic opposition has been following the rules, President Chávez has to follow them too, rules that were written by him”. Reich also said:”The first test will be if President Chávez decides to respect or not the agreements of April 11th or if he chooses to postpone or maneuver to raise doubts about the possibility of a just referendum taking place”. Reich also said: “The United States hopes that he and his political sympathizers behave in a manner consistent with the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela”


As reported here, the Chavez administration balked at signing the agreement reached and announced by the OAS on April 11th., reportedly because Chavez’ MVR party did not agree with it. The true reason was that the agreement did not please the President himself once he learned the details of what had been agreed to. In particular, the agreement calls for international supervision of elections and the disarming of the population as well as a 90 day limit for the referendum to take place once the opposition has handed it the signed petitions with the required 2.2 million signatures.


The US has clearly decided not to speak softly on this issue and has clearly gone on the offensive. Separately, today after a meeting with the Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Chilean Foreign Minister announced that a meeting of the “Friends” of Venezuela will happen next week, most likely in Caracas. A local newspaper, also reported that Brazil’s President Lula da Silva also pressured Chavez during his visit to that country last weekend to sign the agreement.


While I am glad the Group of Friends is applying pressure to the Chavez administration, I think that it will achieve little but pressure the Chavez administration into publicly accepting that there will not be a referendum in Venezuela, even if it is in Chavez’  Constitution. He just never thought that his popularity would be as low as it has become and thus is trying to avoid holding it.

Corruption at the National Guard Coast Guard unit

April 28, 2003

Guillermo sends these wonderful shots of live corrution in the Vth. Republic (no charge!). These are pictures of a boat which belongs to the Coast Guard unit of the National Guard being used for the recreation and enjoyment of their friends and family or whatever, during the Easter week holidays. Not only are civilians enjoying the boat, but obviously the boats are not doing what they are supposed to be in a country where smuggling  is rampant, all at taxpayers expense. Such a nice and corrupt revolution! Thanks Guillermo!

Part of Paraguana refinery shut down

April 27, 2003

Curious how there is absolutely nothing about last night’s fire, which shut down the country’s biggest refinery, in the Venezuelan media and I have to read the Wall Street Journal to learn about it (from Dow Jones):


CARACAS — A fire has shut down one of the four hydrodesulphurization units at Venezuela’s giant 940,000 barrel-a-day Paraguana refinery complex, a refinery spokesman said Sunday.

The 84,000 b/d unit is expected to be back online within three weeks, the spokesman added. “Some repairs are needed, but the loss in output is easily offset by three other hydrodesulphurization units at the complex,” the spokesman said.

The fire broke out at midnight Saturday in the Amuay refinery, which is linked with the Cardon refinery. The two refineries make up the Paraguana complex.

No injuries were reported. “The fire remained limited to one unit, other areas have not been affected,” plant manager Ivan Hernandez was quoted as saying on PdVSA’s Web site Sunday. Hernandez couldn’t be reached for additional comment.

Separately, the refinery spokesman said the 60,000 b/d flexicoker unit was restarted last Friday. The flexicoker was the last unit out of order after a two-month opposition strike against President Hugo Chavez crippled company operations in December and January.

State oil firm PDVSA declared force majeure on exports of crude and gasoline shortly after the strike began Dec. 2 as thousands of employees stayed away from their jobs. The stoppage fizzled out in early February and Venezuela’s oil production has been restored to prestrike levels of around 3.2 million b/d.

Also, three refinery workers at a unit of the petrochemical complex of Jose in western Venezuela were seriously injured after an explosion Saturday, local media reported Sunday. No details were available.

PdVSA has been struggling to get its 1.3 million b/d refinery system back online. PdVSA lifted the final force majeure for exports of gasoline last week.

Cuban Ambassador repeatedly in the news

April 27, 2003

The Cuban Ambassador to Venezuela has been in the news quite a bit in the last few days. First he gave an interview in local paper El Nacional yesterday in which he accused the US Ambassador of intromission in Venezuelan affairs with his repeated statements. The US Embassy replied immediately by saying that the Ambassador’s statements were “boring and laughable”and that the US had a policy towards Venezuela and was part of the group of friends. (which Cuba is not). He further accused the Cuban Government of trying to distract attention from the human right violations taking place in Cuba.

 Additionally, there was a demonstration yesterday in front of Cuba’s Embassy to protest the shooting of the three people that hijacked the ferry as well as the numerous detentions and sentencing of opposition figures. Pro-Chavez groups part of the Bolivarian Circles showed up and there was stone throwing and aggressions between the two groups. The group protesting had a permit, while the pro-Chavez group did not. The Mayor of then district where the Embassy is accused the Cuban Ambassador of being responsible for the incidents saying that he called the Bolivarian Circles to come to the Embassy and defend it. Meanwhile, the Cuban Ambassador blamed the Mayor for allowing these demosntrations to take place and saying he had intelligence that the Embassy was going to be attacked. One opposition demonstrator was injured.

New pictures

April 26, 2003

I have placed some new orchid pictures in the Orchids section and some pictures from the anti-Chavez demonstration in Chicago sent in by Mariana in the Pictures section.

Mariana sends these pictures from Chicago demonstration against Chavez

April 26, 2003

Lots of new flowering this week!

April 26, 2003

Catt. Gaskelliana Blue Dragon x self                      Blc. Ronald Hauserman

Oncidium Kinnaree bunch                                Onc. Kinnaree flower                                                       Onc. Kinnaree Plant

Grammatophylum Elegans                                      Dendrobium Golden Aya