Archive for August 3rd, 2003

Carlos Blanco’s article in today’s El Universal

August 3, 2003

While I have been more optimistic lately about the possibility of the recall referendum taking place this year, I can’t help but be bothered by today’s article by Carlos Blanco “Maximo Peligro” (Maximum Danger) in today’s El Universal. Blanco, who is usually very well-informed, says that he has been told that Chavez has reached an agreement with Justuce Jesus Cabrera of the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court, so that the Hall will not object the bill being considered by the National Assembly to expand the number of Justices in the Court from twenty to thirty. In this manner, Chavez will say he had nothing to do with changing the composition of the Court, which in turn would “legally” block any effort by the majority of the people to hold a referendum and which would perpetuate this stupid “revolution”. Thus, in the next few weeks we will have to watch if the Supreme Court bill is accelerated in the National Assembly as a sign that this plot is moving forward.

The Cuban issue looms large

August 3, 2003


While the opposition sometimes does not coordinate well its campaign against President Hugo Chavez, one issue that I believe is having a strong impact on the population is the Cuban issue. There are many reasons for this, first and foremost, Venezuelans have never been enamored of the Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro is a mythical image mostly among academic left-wingers who by now mostly oppose Chavez anyway. According to polls, 91% of Venezuelans do not want the country to move politically towards anything resembling the Cuban revolution. The second reason is that there is a xenophobic element in Venezuela towards immigrants, particularly if they are coming to take jobs away from Venezuelans as both Cuban medical doctors and alphabetizers are doing. This is nothing new, from the Spanish immigrants of the 50’s, to the Portuguese of the 60’s, the Argentineans and Chileans of the 70’s to the Colombian’s of the 80’s, Venezuelans have always felt that the Government should not allow so many people in, even if they themselves were not willing to take many of the same  jobs. (Is this an almost universal phenomenon?). Thus, Chavez and his cronies are making a big political mistake in bringing in these people and making the programs sound so purely Cuban. With so many unemployed Venezuelan teachers and doctors, why emphasize the Cuban aspect like they have? Moreover, they continue to do so at every step. Recently, there were charges that a baby was not given proper care by a Cuban doctor who gave him aspirin and the kid died of Meningitis later. I have no clue if this is true or not, but the government has tried to defend the issue even arguing that the clinic where the kid was being taken care of had no resources in a country where all Government medical facilities are facing the same problem. Even the Doctor himself accepted to give an interview saying that when he saw the kid three days before he died, there was no infection. Today, the mayor of the Libertador District of Caracas said it was not true that some doctors were deserting the program, a charge that even I had not heard, and believe me; I read almost every local newspaper with care. The issue simply does not go away, as the Government would like, and today Fidel Castro himself came into the fray saying things (Thanks to RMG for the link) that will simply not help Chavez and are already being used by the opposition as an intromission in Venezuelan affairs by the Cuban leader. Not only did Castro express his total admiration for Chavez, but he went too far saying that the Cuban doctors are here to stay and accusing the clinics that belong to the Caracas Mayor of incompetence. Thus, the Cuban issue may be quite important going forward. It is clear that the opposition has been emphasizing the state of the economy and crime as a way to reduce support for the President, but no issue may do more damage to Chavez than this one, at a time when polls indicate that 61% Venezuelans “think” they are right wing. Clearly in a country where most people are left wing, somehow the center has been misplaced by many. My sense is that no more than 4-5% of Venezuelans are what would be considered elsewhere as “rightwing”, but this is simply one of the consequences of the anti-Chavez attitude, since he represents the “left” most people do not want to be anywhere near him.

How not to run the finances of a country.

August 3, 2003

According to a report in today’ El Universal, in the first quarter of this year the Venezuelan Government spent 5.86 trillion Bs. which is higher than the 3.92 trillion of the similar quarter a year earlier. Now, if the economny shrank by 29% in this quarter, how could the Government do this? Easy, for each Bs. 100 that the Government spent, 27 came from proceed from placing internal debt. Moreover, according to an Economist from Catholic University, there was a decrease of funds spent in compulsory budget items and an increase in discretional ones. The economist concludes: ” If this dynamic continues, the problem of financing the deficit will only get worse, with negative consequences for inflation and salaries”. God help us!