Archive for July 21st, 2004

Corruption in theVth. republic

July 21, 2004

The last three weeks have seen clear cut proof of three corruption cases that are relevant despite the relative insignificance of the amounts involved within the size of the corruption that is taking place in the country. They are relevant because they are clear cut, there in no way to justify what was done and nobody can deny that they are cases of corruption involving the highest officers of the land:


1)      The Citibank building that was sold to a local real state company for US$ 4.7 million, only to be sold to the Government one week later for US$ 9.5 million. Even worse, the building had been offered to the Government by Citibank itself earlier, but the Government expressed no interest. 


2)      The Bilbao building (see Editorial in Tal Cual this Monday July 19th.) in La Urbina in which Yavonca C.A. a local company purchased some  space in that building, where a technical school had already purchased some property, for 1.92 billion Bs. Eleven days later Yavonca, sold the same space to the Government for 3.8 billion Bs.


3)      Today, there is a copy of the approval by Chavez of the repairs of a Merlin III airplane owned by the Government for more than US$ 1 million, which was published in Reporte Diario de la Economia, which has now online version. There are two things that are outrageous about this operation. First of all, the memo, which is signed by Chavez and Minister of Finance Nobrega, actually says that the funds to repair the airplane will come from monies approved by the National Assembly for social programs. A Merlin III looks something like this, holds roughly 16 passengers, so it is hard to see what its social function is going to be. But what is more amazing is that for a million dollars you could probably rebuild it! The two engines, brand new, would cost only about US$ 300,000. In fact, a quick google search reveals that you could buy used ones for less than one million dollars easily!!! So, someone is making a nice piece of change from the fund for social programs.


Unfortunately, the absence of checks and balancs in the IVth. Republic is such that nobody is even looking into these cases. Such a pretty revolution!

Electoral Registry official at 13.89 million. Down a million or up a million?

July 21, 2004

After last Saturday’s report that the Electoral Registry had reached 15 million voters, the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) approved today the final registry and it only reaches 13.89 million voters. The difference? Nobody has yet explained it. Last Saturday’s numbers were supposed to be the CNE numbers state by state as given to local newspaper El Universal. While the opposition never acknowledged the higher number, Chavez’ “Comando Maisanta” that is running his campaign asked that the registry be revised and cleaned up last Friday and the Head of the CNE himself had expressed his concerned that it would be difficult to handle the new unofficial number of voters. But after clean up, the registry went up by only 1.3 million voters. So you go figure, it is either up 1.3 million or down one million from the earlier report.

The approval of the registry was not without controversy as the non-Chavze members of the CNE said they voted against it because they could not trust the numbers. One of them, Sobella Mejias, said that she had asked for updates of the number of registered voters everey month, was until the meeting began, she did not receive the update. She also added that the total number of voters that registered abroad had actually gone down in the last two and half months which sounds very peculiar. Of course, it is peculiar because in the last election, Venezuelans abroad voted 70.32% of the votes against Hugo Chavez, who only received 25.91% of the votes cast at the country’s embassies all over the world.


In the end, the CNE will likely approve only 304 new electoral poll booths in the centers that were already planned. There will be 115 centers abroad.  The new number implies that if we assume 43% abstention, there will be 7.9 million votes cast, thus if the opposition obtained a simple majority it would obtain the minimum number of votes required of 3.75 million votes.