Via Instapundit I learn that while the world was looking for Salam Pax and wondering whether he was real or not, he was acting as an interpreter for Peter Maass’ in Iraq. Moreover, he will now be blogging for the Guardian!. I guess some stories do still have a happy ending! I also enjoy the fact that I always believed Salam had to be for real, which has now been confirmed!
Archive for June 2nd, 2003
Difficult to summarize three weeks, particularly because I am still jetlagged and perceptions from reading what happened in the last 21 days may be affected by not having lived it. But here goes, the highlights of my absence and my views on the most important events of the month, in no particular order. Fortunately, nothing terrible happened, in fact, the country continues to be in a holding pattern of continuous deterioration and decay. Some may call it the Africanization of Venezuela:
-The opposition planned a march towards the west of Caracas, they got the permits, they organuzed it. The pro-Chavez forces vowed to block it, the result: 2 dead and 18 injured. As usual the Government blamed the opposition for the “provocation”, forgetting who is in charge of security. I have some pictures of the preparations against the opposition which I will post later. How many more have to die?
-By a process that I fail to understand in detail, the Government finally agreed to sign an agreement with the opposition which it had balked at earlier in the month. From what I have been able to determine it was a combination of international pressure and some changes to the earlier agreement. I still believe the Chavez administration will block any attempt to hold a referendum.
-The economy shrank by 29% in the first quarter, yes, -29% shrinkage of GDP in a single quarter. The oil economy shrank by 47%. This is the largest drop that any historian has been able to find in a single quarter in any country. The Government as usual blamed the opposition. The number for the oil economy shows that PDVSA is lying about production levels. This horrific number is due not only to the strike, but also to the fact that from January 23d. to March 31st. not a single dollar was given out by the Central Bank in an economy accustomed to importing between US$ 4 billion to US$ 5 billion per quarter. Official unemployment reached an all time high of 19.8%.
-There is no Electoral Board yet as the Government and the opposition has not agreed on its members. The Chavez administration wants a majority, the opposition thinks if this happens there will not be a referendum or clean elections. The Supreme Court has given both sides until today or they will select the commission. This will likely favor Chavez.
-The current electoral commission ruled that the question used in gathering the petition was legal.
-Chavez continued disposing of former collaborators as he got rid of the tax authorities and has distanced himself from the Mayor of the Libertador District. Both were extremely loyal to him but in the end it did not matter. This is typical Chávez.
-The US Ambassador held a party at the Embassy and invited a local comedian. The comedian imitated the President which led the National Assembly to censor the Ambassador.
-Less than US$ 200 million has been approved by the Exchange Control Office while the Government is now competing with the private sector by importing foodstuffs. Nobody knows whether the Government pays taxes, charges customs duties or makes a profit on these imports. Somehow I think somebody is making a lot of money since quality is reportedly bad and prices are less than 10% cheaper.
-Finally, in what I personally consider a sign of the deterioration, stupidity and ignorance of the Chavez administration as well as a reflection of what they think of knowledge, no Mathematics Olympics will take place in Venezuela this year. The reason: PDVSA who has financed the event for years, says it does not have the funds for it. Imagine a company with more than US$ 20 billion in revenues has no money for such a tiny event! So much for a PDVSA responsive to the people’s needs!