Archive for June 2nd, 2005

Debunking Eva’s Code or her sloppy work by Veneconomy

June 2, 2005

This article by Veneconomy
is too important to not reprint here, even if it can be found on
various other websites including Veneconomy (for subscribers only) and vcrisis
and Daniel’s blog.

You could subtitle it Debunking Eva’s Code or her sloppy work

VenEconomy reviews for
the benefit of its readers the new “chavista” best seller titled “The Chávez
Code.” The book was written by Eva Golinger, a U.S.-Venezuelan dual national
whom President Hugo Chávez has personally baptized, “The Bride of the Bolivarian

Why be subtle? The
Spanish-language version of “The Chávez Code,” launched officially in Havana before it arrived in Caracas recently, is 355 pages of organic
fertilizer dedicated to the memory of Danilo Anderson, the prosecutor killed by
a car bomb in November 2004. Anderson
was buried in a grand ceremony where President Chávez praised him as a hero of
the revolution. Then police investigators posthumously exposed Anderson as the presumed leader of a gang of
extortionists working out of the Attorney General’s office. Golinger should
dedicate a book of lies and distortions to the memory of a public prosecutor
who has been pointed out to be crooked instead of heroic. Golinger reportedly
is living in the Caracas Hilton as an official guest of the Chávez government.

A recent interview in
Exceso magazine, and anecdotal reports of her travels throughout Venezuela on
book-signing tours, confirm that Golinger is delighted with her 15 minutes of
fame. The Chávez government is certainly delighted with Golinger, whose
meteoric rise to Bolivarian fame started when she was interviewed on television
in the United States while
protesting in support of Chávez in New
York City. Now she is the author of the Bolivarian
Revolution’s “true” account of the forces and events surrounding the violence
of April 11-14, 2002, in which Chávez left the presidency and returned to power
less than 48 hours later. The official Bolivarian truth recounted by Golinger
is that the government of the United
States conspired to oust Chávez from power
by working through the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Endowment
for Democracy (NED) to finance, organize and train a civilian-military coup
against Chávez. Golinger bases this claim on documents she obtained through the
U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the help of a U.S. photojournalist
named Jeremy Bigwood (if readers wish to know more about Bigwood, do a Google
search and click on his web page).
VenEconomy read the book
from cover to cover. This included double-checking what Golinger claims in the
principal text of the book with the official U.S. documents that she obtained
under the FOIA and cited in the book’s footnotes. In every case involving a
specific quote linked by footnote to a specific U.S.
official document in the book’s appendix, VenEconomy found that none of the
statements she attributes to various U.S. diplomats in the main text of
the book are found there. She cites the U.S. documents included at the back
of the book in English as the source of these statements. This is odd,
considering that Golinger claims that her many professional skills – besides
immigration and entertainment industry lawyer, jazz singer and nouveau
glitterati of the Bolivarian Revolution – also includes certified translations.
VenEconomy did not count all of the factual mistakes, distortions and lies in
the book. However, following is a small sample of Eva’s deceits. First,
Golinger claims in her biographical description that she obtained
“ultra-secret” CIA documents through the FOIA. This is untrue. The CIA
documents in question were never even designated as classified documents. They
consisted of intra-government security briefings the CIA provides daily to a
restricted number of U.S.
government officials. The reports are confidential, but they are not secret.

Golinger claims that she
obtained her trove of official U.S.
documents through FOIA requests that Bigwood assisted her with. She claims in a
recent interview in Exceso magazine that no one helped her financially.
However, this is untrue. The U.S.
government charges fees for providing documents sought under FOIA requests.
Depending on how many documents are sought, the costs climb quickly to
thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, Golinger promises her readers the
investigation will “continue for decades.” Who will finance it?

On page 49 of her book,
Golinger claims that NED and the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) have spent “more than $20 million” in Venezuela since 2001 to “foment
conflict and instability.” Elsewhere in the book, Golinger says the sum spent
by NED and USIAD was $2 million. This could be a typographical mistake, of

In Chapter 3, which starts
on page 59, Golinger discusses the natural tragedy that destroyed Vargas state
on December 15, 1999. She states that the torrential rains started on Dec. 14,
one day before the Avila
Mountain slid downhill
into the sea. This is mistaken. It rained almost ceaselessly for over a week
before Dec. 15, and civil defense officials reportedly warned Chávez on repeated
occasions that a natural disaster was imminent. However, Chávez was more
interested in campaigning for his new Constitution than in flooding rivers or
landslides. He ignored all warnings, and did not react publicly until at least
three days after hundreds died and tens of thousands were left homeless.
Golinger also claims on page 60 that the U.S.
unilaterally sent military warships and Marines towards Venezuela
without being invited in the aftermath of the Vargas tragedy. She goes on to
say that, when Chávez learned of the U.S. action, he issued orders that
the uninvited Yankees be turned away. This is also false. The U.S. government
officially offered humanitarian assistance, which the then-Venezuelan Minister
of Defense Raúl Salazar accepted. The President subsequently overruled him when
the boats were already on their way.

In Chapter 4, Golinger
discusses the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Republican offshoot
of the NED. The Democratic Party has the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She
describes Georges Fauriol as the head of the IRI’s Latin
America program on page 70. This is incorrect. Fauriol is the
IRI’s director of global strategic planning. He is the former director of the
Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His
expertise almost exclusively centers on Haiti. Fauriol was taken to the IRI
by its president, George A. Folsom, who has good Republican connections through
Brent Scowcroft but is not regarded as the brightest bulb in the Republican- Latin
American policymaking circles of Washington, D.C. Golinger does a fast shuffle
on page 74, where she refers to U.S. laws that supposedly prohibit the NED and
its offshoots financing political parties outside the U.S. She cites Title 2,
Section 441e of the U.S. Federal Criminal Code, as reportedly barring the U.S. from
interfering in any foreign local, state or national elections. In fact, the
statute she cites refers to foreign financiers of U.S. political campaigns. NED and
similar entities are regulated by other U.S. legislation. In any case, NED,
the IRI and NDI do not finance the political campaigns of foreign politicians.

In Chapter 5, Golinger
cites documents that purportedly show the U.S. Embassy knew a coup against
Chávez was being planned as early as September 2001. The documents she includes
in the book, and which are found on her web site, do not substantiate that
assertion even remotely. Golinger also claims in this chapter that other
documents, which she included in the book’s appendix, prove the U.S. government
shared and encouraged the political opposition’s desires to throw Chávez out of

VenEconomy read the
documents in the appendix, and then consulted other documents at her web site,
and none of the documents substantiate her claim. VenEconomy wants to make it
clear that the criticism here centers on apparently sloppy research and
unsubstantiated claims not supported by any of the alleged evidence cited by
Golinger. In VenEconomy’s view, the book overall is disorganized and poorly written,
and its supportive documentation doesn’t validate any of the claims the author
makes about alleged U.S.
encouragement and advance knowledge of a coup against Chávez.
That said, in the weeks
before the violence of April 11-14, 2002, the persons who most frequently
claimed that a military coup was imminent were Chávez and then-Defense Minister
(now Vice President) Jose Vicente Rangel. This is a matter of public record.

In Chapter 6, Golinger
claims that former U.S. Ambassador Charles Shapiro, who arrived in Caracas in February 2002, had been a military adviser at
the U.S. Embassy in Chile
when President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a military coup. This is
incorrect. Shapiro is a career foreign service officer, a diplomat, not a
military official. He certainly did have an image as a tough guy because he
spent time in El Salvador in
the 1980s and was the senior Cuban Affairs officer at the State Department
before arriving in Venezuela.

However, Shapiro wasn’t
sent to Caracas
because the Bush administration wanted to take a tougher stance with Chávez. In
the State Department’s ambassadorial seniority list, Shapiro was next in line
for an ambassadorship, and then-Ambassador Donna Hrinak’s term in Caracas was nearly over. U.S.
ambassadors rarely stay in one post more than two or three years. In any case,
Ambassador Shapiro soon earned the nickname of “Goofy” among opposition
leaders, which definitely is not a nickname appropriate to the tough guy image
that preceded his arrival in Venezuela.

When she discusses Otto
Reich, Golinger claims the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked his
appointment as Assistant Secretary of State for the Western
Hemisphere. Actually, the culprit was Senator Christopher Dodd
(D-CT), who has a personal feud with Reich dating back 20 years. Golinger
claims on page 103 that the CIA had “detailed knowledge” about the coup against
Chávez that could only mean the CIA was in close direct contact with the
conspirators. However, the CIA documents she cites are not any different in
content than the reports that were being published and broadcast daily during
those tense days in April 2002 by the Venezuelan news media. The CIA reports
not claim to know more about the alleged coup against Chávez than what was in
the news media locally at the time. They do, however, contain analytical
judgments that lean towards predicting that some kind of move against Chávez
was imminent.

Golinger cites former CNN
correspondent Otto Neustadt’s alleged claim that on April 10, one day before
the march against Chávez ended in death by gunfire in downtown Caracas, he was approached by a group of
generals and admirals that wanted to pre-tape a message to be shown on April 11
after people had been killed and injured. Neustadt lost credibility. He was sacked
by CNN soon after the events of April 2002 because unedited videotape he
transmitted to CNN’s world broadcast center in Atlanta contained outtakes that showed the
CNN reporter had a close personal relationship with then-Vice President
Diosdado Cabello. CNN’s management concluded that Neustadt was compromised
professionally and they terminated his employment contract.

The timelines Golinger
cites for the violence that occurred in downtown Caracas do not match the known facts. She
claims video of rooftop snipers was destroyed by the private television
channels, which is also false. There hasn’t been proof that there ever were any
rooftop snipers. Forensic analysis and photographic evidence from April 11,
2002, presently consigned before an international court proves conclusively
that the descending trajectory of the bullets that killed 19 persons resulted
from the fact that “chavista” shooters were firing at anti-government
protesters from higher elevations and at a long distance. On page 111, Golinger
attributes to Shapiro a written statement in quotes that she footnotes to an
embassy cable in the book’s appendix of documents. The document does not
contain the statement. This is a recurring problem with Golinger’s footnoted
citations throughout the book.

“The Chávez Code” doesn’t
stop at the events of April 2002. It includes chapters on the oil strike of
December 2002-January 2003, and the August 2004 presidential recall referendum.
VenEconomy found many more inaccuracies in these chapters, but did not want to
deprive others of the chance to make their own discoveries as they read this
Bolivarian best seller. Besides, this book review is already too long.

Inflation, that untamable beast

June 2, 2005

Inflation, that untamable beast, also from Tal Cual

What is not going at the speed of a tortoise is inflation

In May it made a jump with a pole vault and placed itself at 2.5% so
that, annualized, from May to May, it is above 17%. There is no country in the
world that has such a level of inflation. It may seem unreal, but once again we
have a Government that believes that macroeconomics is a neoliberal invention.
It may also seem unreal that fifteen
consecutive years, before Chávez, with inflation above 30%, have left no lesson
and the Government seems engaged in repeating the same usual errors. They think
that price and exchange controls are sufficient, but the cost of living is
running, is escaping from them. With an inflationary rhythm of this magnitude
there is no Mercal which can counteract it nor public finances that can indefinitely
tolerate the food subsidies. A country with two budgets, one public, approved
by Parliament, another parallel, managed in the shadows, at the margin of any
controls, of unknown amounts, which transforms into a mystery the real amount
of the fiscal deficit, the uncontrolled indebtness and the constant
manufacturing of inorganic money by the Central Bank, transformed, against the
Constitution and the Law in the financier of the Government , an exchange
control which is destroying the country’s industries, all of this has to be
paid sooner or later. You pay it with a delay, in unemployment and informal
employment, to sum up, in misery.

Failing grade in Housing by Teodoro Petkoff

June 2, 2005

I talked about this last night, Petkoff picked up on it

Failing grade in Housing by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Yesterday the President complained, not without bitterness,
of the slow progress of the plan to build houses. It is not the first time that
he refers to this matter, in the same terms of complaining. Because in this
area the failure of the Chavez administration is clamorous. Chávez, whose personalistic
conception of power makes him aspire to hand himself the keys to each house,
said that he would have to reach the age of Methuselah in order to fulfill that
purpose, the development of which is going, in his own words at the” speed of a
tortoise” Not that long ago he assured us that 120 thousand homes would be
built this year, among other things, thanks to the help of the Chinese. Well,
it is known that a Chinese mission came and after learning about the market,
they told him that it was silly to import prefabricated houses from China, that
he had to forget about it, because we have here in Venezuela an enormous
building capacity which is idle as well as high technical levels and all he had
to do was to lean on the private sector.

He was also told, not without some sarcasm
that if he continued to believe in “self-construction” and the “coops” he was
going to end , like them in their own countries, shooting the supposed
beneficiaries (Even though the term is used metaphorically). In other words, he
was told: you have here the ability to do it, use it.

What is true is that in the first semester 10.120 homes were
completed, 8.4% of the 120 thousand offered for this year and it is obvious
that, with the same methodology, it is very improbable that the goal can be
met. For the seventh consecutive year, what used to be routine for the previous
Governments (delivering each year between 60 and 90 thousand homes) the limping
chavista administration can not place one brick over the next. Moreover, there
is a conceptual problem. For the President, overcoming the drama of the housing
deficit consists simply in building houses and apartments.

That is why the Government got rid
of very early of the team that Josefina Baldo was directing in Conavi, whose
conception pointed to emphasizing the rehabilitation and humanization of the
popular barrio areas, taking advantage, it works in that case, of the enormous
potential for self-construction and cooperation that exists in the barrios, to
repair homes, give them complete public services (with emphasis in garbage
collection and sewage), creating community public services, transform in the
end , the habitat, in order to increase the quality of life of the poorest
sectors. This included an important inventory job to give title over the
property of the land and the shacks to its current inhabitants. All of this was
left in the nebula of the bureaucratic guerilla and what could have been a
truly revolutionary housing policy was discarded, to repeat the traditional
patterns, which rely exclusively on the construction of houses and apartments.
Here, however, with the bunch of useless (and thieves) that populate the civil
service, they can’t get any work done.

However, the blame is not on the blind people but on those that hit them with
the stick.