Archive for September 8th, 2005

Skeletons out of the closet to protest plight of the young in Venezuela

September 8, 2005

It’s sort of hard to know what to make of this story. This morning, roughly 70 skeletons were seen hanging around Caracas,
as a form of protest over the Government. The police immediately
suggested that this was a terrorist act and the skeletons contained
some form of toxic substance that intoxicated two cops. Well, a group
calling itself “Cambio” (Change) took responsibility this afternoon for
it, saying this was a non-violent protest and that the charges of a
toxic substance being present “could only be understood as the attempt,
typical of Cuban intelligence of neutralizing, taking legitimacy out of
a form of democratic struggle, which is non-violent and original
against the tyranny and as another episode in the strategy to seed fear
and shut up any voice of protest

group claims represent the young and be protesting against the way the
Government treats young people. They say that young people between 15
and 24 are the most affected by shootings with handguns. They point out
official Government statistic saying that 2,500 people have been killed
by security forces since Chavze took over, but there are more than
3,550 cases denounced to the Prosecutor’s office. The group argues that
the Government says that this ahs always happened in Venezuela,
but they note that in the four years prior to Chavez’ election there
were only 540 such cases. “These skeletons that we plant all over Caracas today are only a reflection of what the policies of the regimen have done to Venezuelans. We experience death and misery. Venezuela requests a change”

Well, it is hard to tell if the skeletons were toxic or not, but the
police have not explained how come only two cops acting together
suffered from this. If they were not toxic, this form of protest
represents an interesting and novel form of protest against some very
valid and relevant issues.

Hat off to the Prosecutor’s Office

September 8, 2005

You have to give credit when credit is due. In july I wrote this post about the strange manipualtion
of the case of the accident in which the former head of the Land
Institute Eliezer Otaiza was involved. Evidence was apparently being
manipualted, procedures were not followed and the police suggested
there was some sort of “phantom” car that nobody saw involved. But
soemthing happened, there were too many witnesses or someone cared
sufficiently and today Otaiaza was charged with voluntary manslaughter by the Prosecutor’s office.

Whatever the reason, hats off to the Prosecutor’s office and hopefully
there will be justice for the woman killed in that accident.

A cartoon with pictures is worth twenty thousand words

September 8, 2005

If the ancient Chinese proverb “A picture is worth ten thousand words”
is correct, then a Weil cartoon with pictures must be worth 20,000

The text says: “And while they criticize the work in New Orleans…”

Onwards the pretty robolution part II

September 8, 2005

On August 21st. of this year I reported how the brother of the Minister of
Justice Jesse Chacon, had recently purchased an investment bank called
Bankinvest of which he is now President, despite the fact that in 1997 he
was not a wealthy man, having participated in the 1992 coup attempt, for
which he spent sometime in jail.

Well, Mr. Chacon seems to be doing quite well in the robolution as reporter
Patricia Poleo published today a letter from milk producer Indulac accepting
Arne Chacon’s offer of US 10 million for the plants the milk company owns in
Machiques and Barquisimeto.

How can Mr. Chacon justify his sudden wealth and power? In 2002 he was a
lowly employee of the tax office Seniat from where he went to the Banc
Industrial de Venezuela, a Government bank, despite having no finance
experience of any sort. Well, Mr. Chacon is all of a sudden buying
properties right and left with his new found wealth.

Onwards the pretty revolution!

Not sowing the oil by Arturo Uslar Pietri

September 8, 2005

A while
back I read for the first time the article by Arturo Uslar Pietri which gave
rise to the famous phrase “To sow the oil”. I felt compelled to translate it
because of its clarity and foresight. A while later I saw another article by
written reaffirming the validity of that phrase twenty five years
later. Today, I found a paid ad in the papers by something called “liderazgoyvision” with an article
written by Uslar in 1992. Once again Uslar’s clarity is remarkable and the
article seems very timely, as the country revisits the same failed roads of the
past. Uslar was a visionary, he said the same thing for seventy years, when
will we listen?

Not sowing the oil by Arturo Uslar Pietri in Golpe y
Estado en Venezuela,
Editorial Norma (1992)

If recent
history shows anything, both in Europe or the Third World, it is the failure of
an economic model founded on the utopia that the State can distribute the
wealth produced by a nation in a better and more just manner that the simpler
and surer ways of the markets. The crumbling down of the soviet bloc, from the powerful
Union that seemed to challenge the world, to the satellite states among which
there were some of the most educated and capable people of the old continent,
this has its basic explanation and foundation on the failure of the state-intervened,
directed and controlled economy, in flagrant contrast with the case presented
by the developed countries of both the Western world and Asia. While the
countries that maintained the essence of a market economy managed to convert
themselves into the most prosperous and powerful countries of the world, the
countries with Statist economies have failed both economically and politically.

the simplicity that the lesson appears to have, there is a lot of resistance to
admit it fully and renounce to those abstract promises. While the socialist
republics proclaimed the elimination of the private property of the goods of
production, the disappearance of social classes and the abundance and well-being
for all, in the most happy of equalities, the market economy, which nobody ever
invented, nor was it the product of great thoughts from any ideologues,
created, by virtue only of its
spontaneous correspondence to the psychological mechanisms of human beings,
conditioned a prosperity for all, that had never been known before. The truth
is that we are not dealing with opposing thesis or contrary ideologies, but of
a historical fact, produced in the real circumstances of social life, as is the
market, against those that rose in the search for more justice and equality, utopian
projects that ended up contradicting human reality.

It has
become a common place to say that the 80’s turned out to be the lost decade for
Latin America and that statement has a lot of truth in it, but it is necessary
to make the criteria a little more fine in order not to fall into the
simplicity of attributing the failure to possible inferiorities of the
inhabitants of the region or geographic or historical fatalities of dubious
validity. What has failed is a model for economic policy that was adopted by almost
all Latin American countries and that became part of a fundamental program of
the parties of the left in the whole region. It was a model that found its
basic expression in the policies for the substitution of imports that was
proposed at the time by CEPAL and the result of which was to condemn to artificiality
and isolation, the economies of each of the countries.

What is
being proposed today is the difficult and necessary answer to this failure,
which is not easy to formulate and carry out going forward because there are
too many loyalties cast in favor of the old principles and because, in some
way, it has become customary to fall for the dangerous and paralyzing situation
of confusing that anti economic policy with the mere notion of nationality and
sovereignty. It is going to take a lot of courage, more clairvoyance and a lot
of objective effort to opportunely adopt the rectifications and corrections
that the circumstances currently require.

The case
of Venezuela
is one of the most pathetic ones in the picture. Everything was given to this
country to realize the most complete economic and social development of Latin America. In the inventory of its assets there were
a number of advantages: a positive geographical position, a variety of climate
and scenery, great natural resources, a then scant population and a growing and
well educated leadership that would appear to predict a very rosy future. As
basis for all this there was the exceptional and overwhelming presence of an inordinate
wealth in gas and oil.

From the
beginning of the oil price increases, at the end of 1973, for almost fifteen continuous
years and due only to the cause of activities related to this resource some 250
billion dollars flowed into this small country. There is no limit to imagine
what may have been done with that immense amount of resources in this small
population, if there had been realistic and practical criteria to rise, over
that base, a prosperous and productive
economy and society.

Not only was
it not done that way, but at the brusque end of that period the country ended
up in a more pitiful situation of economic and social inequalities, with an
enormous marginal population, with bad public services and with a heavy
external debt that lacks any justification. At the bottom of this backwards
miracle is the fundamental fact that it was the Venezuelan state which received
directly that immense wealth and who distributed it according to the
criteria that it was the State, and not
society. who should be in charge of executing the social and economic
development of the country, turning it
into, deliberately, into a parasite of oil wealth, with limited productive
capacity of its own with little competitiveness, with ever deficient services,
with growing and offensive social inequalities. The rentist state turned the
whole country, because of its wrong policies, in a society totally subsidized
in all of its forms and with very limited productive capacity of its own.

More than
half a century ago, when one began to perceive the importance that the oil
wealth was going to have in the future of the country, I had the good sense to
launch a slogan that could have saved us: “We have to sow the oil”.
Unfortunately, it was not sown. The State, evermore powerful and richer, tended
to substitute all of the mechanisms for a normal economy to take away from the
population the possibility of creating an economy and a modern society and
subjected it to a damning dependence on that all powerful and providential

What needs
to be done today, without any possibility of eluding it, is a profound rectification
of all those errors, that needs to have as its basis, to reduce the state to its
true role and transform, in all of its aspects, the abnormal situation of a
society and an economy subsidized onto the stable and sure reality of a productive
and developing economy.

There are
many the things that will need to be changed and will require the will of
shared sacrifice, the need to renounce to unsustainable privileges and to put, definitely,
all of society to life off its own work and creative effort. For that, we have
a favorable possibility, which constitutes at the same time a threatening risk.
continues to be a country endowed with exceptional resources. Only the value of
current proven oil reserves represents an amount close to a trillion dollars,
something that few countries can count on. On the basis of these immense
resources one could carry out, with the least possible trauma, but with the
contribution of the sacrifice of all, the needed transformation, but there also
exits the danger that this same notion of wealth lying around will induce us
still, irresponsibly, to continue the comfortable and ruinous dependency that
has taken us to this tragic situation