Archive for April 22nd, 2003

US Ambassador Shapiro on the offensive

April 22, 2003

I don’t like very much the US Ambassador to Venezuela. He is quite wishy washy, sometimes it is hard to understand what he is saying and has been too diplomatic at times. Thus, I was surprised at his two interventions in the last two days which appear to be more orders from high above than his usual blah style:

– Shapiro first snapped back at Foreign Minister Chaderton who had said Colin Powell was not well informed, by saying yesterday that he kept Powell very well informed as to what was happening in Venezuela.

Today Shapiro challenged General Melvin Lopez calling him a liar and saying more or less:” These accusations are totally false, without any foundation and we believe that to make accusations like this, in an irresponsible manner, only help to damage relations between the US and Venezuela. We are doing everything possible so that they are good. We want them to be good. But statements and accusations like these, immflamatory, besides being false, do not help at all”. He also added through the press office of the Embassy challenging the General “We challenge him to present this evidence” General Lopez has been saying for weeks that he has proof of the involvement of the US Government in the Carmona Presidency last April when Chavez left the Presidency for two days.

New Planning Minister, or is it an old one?

April 22, 2003

Minister of Planning Felipe Perez who was appointed less than a year ago was removed today by President Chavez. Perez, who has a PhD. in Economics from the University of Chicago, did little but make failed predictions as to the path of the economy while invoking the need for divine intervention and positive thinking to have things work out well.

He will be replaced by Jorge Giordani who happens to be the man that led the Ministry during the first three years of Chavez’ administration. Giordani, who is not an economist, set the country in a path that was simply unsustainable. He purposely pushed for the overvaluation of the currency while increasing internal debt by a factor of six in three years at levels above 30%, destroying much of local industry. This contradictory policy  was doomed from the beginning and eventually led to the sharp devaluation in February of 2002 and the continued devaluation since then which in turn led to exchange controls in January.

Some people believe that he comes back because Chavez can’t find anyone else. I disagree, he comes back because Chavez has extraordinary rapport with Giordani and believes in him. Giordani is a true leftist fundamentalist on economic matters who as recent as 1995 was praising the success of the North Korean economy in his academic writings on scientific planning. I see his return as a sign that Chavez wants to exert even more control on the economy. What is not clear to me is what will be the role of Minister of Finance Nobrega. Nobrega is an economist with a sound background, which Giordani does not have. Can’t see how they will get along, given that Giordani was the controlling force on the economy when he was Minister, a role assumed by Nobrega a year ago. Very bad sign for the country.

Government refuses to sign agreement

April 22, 2003

Imagine this: For four months the Government and the opposition have been negotiating to sign an agreement to defuse the Venezuelan political crisis. They reach a fairly innocuous agreement which says there will be a recall referendum if the opposition presents the required signatures, which is in the Constitution anyway, and that there will be international supervision. The agreement was to be signed today. Surprisingly, Chavez’ MVR party, which he has dominated and controlled for the last four years and has always reacted to every wish and whim of the President “refuses” to have the Government sign it and wants the agreement changed. In particular, they don’t want the international supervision and they refuse to accept that the recall referendum would take place no later than 90 days after the opposition hands in the required signatures. For all the fools, both here and abroad, who believed that there would be a recall referendum here, what more proof can you have of the true cynical and dictatorial nature of this Government? As I have said before, the Government will block any attempt to hold a recall referendum until August 2004 when, according to the Constitution, if Chavez were to lose a recall referendum, the Vice-President becomes President. Since Chavez can appoint the Vice-President anytime he wants, he will name his brother when and if he loses the referendum, if it ever takes place. Can it be clearer than this? Some people still think this is a democracy. Fools!

Blogger Sina Motallebi detained

April 22, 2003

Blogger Sina Motallebi has been detained in Iran for describing everyday life there. His blog is now blank…..Wish I knew how to place the following banner permanently in my home page posted by buzzmachine.