Archive for April 20th, 2005

Venezuela increases income tax on oil projects

April 20, 2005

I don’t know why I had missed this item, but Venezuela on Sunday announced
that it was increasing the income tax rate on all operating oil
projects from a 34% to a 50% rate effective when all companies are
notified. The increase will apply only to operating projects and not to
joint ventures such as Cerro Negro, Petrozuata, Sincor and Hamaca.

This will, of course, increase income for the country. It does create
two problems which in the end affect the credibility and attractiveness
of the country: First of all, all of these projects were planned when
the tax rate was 34%, which was ratified three years ago when the new
Hydracarbons Bill was approved with the majority of this Government.
Most of these are marginal fields which are very old and yes, they make
money today at high prices, but what if they do go down. The second
problem is that it is a very high rate. This is the income tax on the
earnings fo the companies, on top of the royalties. This implies that
there will be reduced inetrest in other such agreements and these
projects may not get loans form their home companies if they were
needed when prices go down if the rate of return is not adequate.

April 20, 2005

Don’t play
dumb Isaias!
by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Don’t you
think you have to ask that the parliamentary immunity of Adolfo Tascòn be

Isaias Rodriguez has sent us a short setter congratulating Tal Cual on its
fifth anniversary. In a few lines he tells us: “Let this opportunity be an
occasion to wish for the recovery of the vocation for social service that has
always distinguished Venezuelan journalism, forgotten, at times, for the mere
interest of selling a product to obtain gains, or confused by the political stardom
assumed by part of the media in the last few years.”

Taking advantage of the suggestion,
we also wish for the recovery of the social vocation that should distinguish
the General Prosecutor of the Nation, forgotten, in these years, for the mere
desire of placing the institution that is supposed to guarantee legality in the
acts of the Government and the State, at the service of the circumstantial political
interest of President Chavez, to guarantee the impunity of the crimes by the
Government and the State. What Isaias says about the media and his criteria about
that will be left for another opportunity, because after the public recognition
made by the President of the Republic of the continued and systematic perpetration
of a crime by his Government, which was the elaboration and public broadcasting
of the roguishly famous list of Adolfo Tascon and of the use that official
institutions have made of it to violate the law and the Constitution, trampling
the human rights guaranteed by the latter, the “bicha”.

Chavez has already completed the
most important part of the investigation.

What he said is condensed in a
judicial aphorism which nobody can object: “When people confess, you need no
proof”. Chavez confessed that the McCarthyst list of Adolfo Tascon exists and
recognized that it had been used to deny work or fire Venezuelan citizens, as
well as to deny or make it difficult, to the point of humiliation, any
transaction with any official institution which any citizen attempted to make, in
legitimate use of his constitutional rights.

Will you reach, Isaias, the
Rangelian cynicism of saying that they were “exaggerations” of the opposition and
that there was no crime? This is now beyond doubt, because Chavez even
described the modus operandi. There was a crime. Its intellectual author
confessed. By the way Isaias that if he had not done it, you, not even if drunk,
would have thought of ordering an investigation about a crime that was public
and well known. That’s not the way you are. You don’t even dare to not laugh at
a single joke by him. You are scared of Chavez. But you have been liberated
Isaias, I the Supreme, admitted the crime. You have nothing to fear now.

It is now your turn to accuse the material
authors of the crime. I am not going to ask, because I know you will not go
there, even in the most daring of your deliriums, to investigate the intellectual
authorship. To charge the material authors you don’t even need the courage of Fermín
Toro. You have to start by asking Chavez to give you the letters that he claims
to have received in which the tasconian abuses were exposed to yhim. Using those,
you will have the name of the institutions and officials that committed the
crimes. You have to find out, Iasias, something which is not difficult, how was
it that Tascon obtained the lists for the consultative and recall referenda. At
the CNE, they can probably tell you. We are not going to demand, Isaias, that it
was your duty as Prosecutor, by just way of “notitia criminis”, that you were
obligated to investigate how during months, a Deputy of the Republic maintained
a webpage open so that all the little kings of the regimen could consult it. What
would be the point? But now, you can’t play dumb, Isaias. Don’t you think you have
to request the removal of the parliamentary immunity of Adolfo Tascon, to request
that he be tried? The matter is not just simply to “bury” the McCarthyst list.
Of course, that is not a bad thing, but the crimes committed in its name, can
not be buried. That is why you were named: to prevent that the Government bury
its own crimes.

Manipulated Democracy

April 20, 2005

I have been holding off on commenting on the internal
elections of Chavez’ MVR party, after all, holding elections of his party is
more democratic than anything the opposition has done in the last few months
for its supporters. And if truly democratic and fair, one has to praise Chavez
and his MVR because if there is something this country needs is a huge dose of
democracy, no matter where it comes from.

Having said that, the process has not been as free or
as democratic as desired. Other parties
in Chavez’ coalition like PPT and Podemos were only allowed to field candidates
according to a predetermined quota. Who decided on the quota? MVR authorities,
of course. This, of course, is a distortion of the process as it does not give
individuals the right to field their candidacies. We could call it manipulated democracy.

Similar complaints have been raised in many parts of
the country. Basically, MVR authorities closely controlled who could run, in
some sense limiting the extent of the democratic process. But, once again,
people did vote and participated in electing some of the candidates which is definitely
a step forward in this beleaguered country.

But the ugly face of the process did flare up yesterday,
when the celebration of the anniversary of the country’s independence, which
was organized, led and composed of Chavistas, was interrupted
by a violent protest
by other Chavistas. Their basic complaint was that only
those chosen by the Mayor of the Libertador District himself, Freddy Bernal,
were allowed to be candidates in the process.

The speaker at the ceremony was none other than “mystic”
General Baduell, which meant that
Bolivar square was full of National Guards. Despite this, the protest got to be
so strong that the General had to actually cut short his speech.

But the most surprising aspect was that the same Government
that has been so critical of the manipulation of information by the private TV
channels, the same person, now Minister of Information, who resigned from a
private TV channel in April 2002 in protest for the blackout of Chavista
protest by that channel, chose to simply hide what was happening. The ceremony was
actually being transmitted live by the official TV channel. But if you watched
it, you could not tell anything anomalous was taking place. No images of the protests
were shown, the microphones were carefully manipulated so that the sounds of
the protests could not be heard, and most images became simply close-ups of the
speakers, so that the surroundings could not be seen. Only if you watched
carefully did you notice that Baduell cut short his speech, which was confirmed
today by the press.

The explanation by Minister of Information Izarra was
typical of this carefully manipulated democracy. Said Izarra: “This was not a
news program, …we were transmitting an official act. It is the policy of the
Ministry, it was the instruction given”. Yes Andres, you can justify anything,
when you are the one guilty of manipulation. Excuses are the easiest thing to
come up with.

Thus, even the attempts to make this country look more
democratic by one hand of Chavismo appear to be quickly destroyed by the other
hand. The truth is, the protests are not covered by any of the “official” sources
today either. But we are sure Minister Izarra certainly has an explanation for
how this “news” sources were not covering the “news” yesterday either. Could it
be that the Minister instructed them not cover it? Or did the Minister have other reasons for this additional manipulation?