Archive for October, 2005

The healthcare crisis in Venezuela: Oil money, where art thou? by Maritza Ramirez de Agena

October 25, 2005

This article sent to me by a reader of my blog, speaks for itself aboout the state of the healthcare crisis in Venezuela

Oil money, where art thou? by Maritza Ramirez de Agena

in the oil rich Venezuela
have no medicine!” These were the words of a Norwegian reporter from TV2, who
visited Vargas Hospital
in Venezuela.

persistent reporter and his crew managed, after three days of resistance by
President Chavez’s bodyguards, to get close enough to the president during a
public event, where he promptly said: Mr. President “I visited a hospital with
a lack of medicine, I don’t understand that”.

Chavez’s response reflected clearly not only his incompetence; but also a
premeditated attempt to lie about the chaotic situation faced by the health
care institutions in Venezuela:
“I do not know to what you are referring… What hospital did you visit? Well,
what is important for you to know is that independently of what you found in a
particular site, my government has developed a strategic plan that has been
already put into place… you know, social programs… for example…”

reporter proceeded to explain that the president started talking about
something else, and turned away allowing his bodyguards to finally push, the
TV2 Norwegian news crew, away from President Chavez.

Venezuelans, in my opinion, the vast majority of my fellow citizens, are in a
survival mode while the president spends millions of dollars on worldwide
tours; helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans (while Vargas’
“reconstruction” is still in blue print, if so) and financing the spread of his
“social revolution” in South and Central America. Meanwhile his own
people are dying in hospitals because of a lack of resources.

Not long
ago, my family called me from Venezuela
to inform me that one of my cousins was seriously ill. Apparently, she had a
brain aneurysm. To confirm the diagnosis, my cousin and her closest family
members had to make arrangements to travel to a different state, because the
hospital in Merida city, did not count with the medical equipment necessary to
perform the CT Angiography (a noninvasive way of seeing brain blood vessels), required
by the neurologist.

When my
cousin got the CT angiography, she returned to Merida where the neurologist confirmed she,
indeed, had a brain aneurysm. She had to undergo surgery. Unfortunately,
she could not be operated on immediately, as it is required in such critical
situations; she had to wait indefinitely — while hospitalized– for her turn
to use the surgery room. One, two and up to three months can pass by while a
Venezuelan citizen awaits for his/her chance to receive the appropriate medical
treatment because of lack of surgical materials, medicines, medical equipment
and ultimately the lack of availability of beds and surgical rooms due to high

weeks of anguish, frustration and desperation, my cousin went to the surgical
room. Unfortunately, my cousin’s operation had been delayed so long that
her brain blood vessel was under too much stress. She died of a brain
hemorrhage during the surgical procedure. She leaves behind two children and a
family who will never understand why in oil rich Venezuela, a country where there is
supposedly a “strategic plan” to save us all; she could not do anything but to
wait for her death on a hospital bed.

Chavez said to the TV2 reporter that his government had a “strategic plan”,
when asked why there were no medicines in the hospital the reported visited. I
am thinking, well, it is possible that the only two hospitals with lack of
medicine and resources are the “Hospital Universitario de Merida”, where my
cousin died, and the hospital visited by the TV2 reporter. The other
possibility is that the “strategic plan” conceived by the Chavez administration
has taken SIX YEARS to be designed and implemented… Six years to send the
hospitals around the country the necessary budget for them to function
properly. Let us see, there is no excuse uh? Skyrocketing oil prices! Would not
it be great if the president did a “tour” of the hospitals around the country,
instead of going to so many exotic places?

hospitals cannot satisfy the high demand of low- income citizens that cannot
afford private clinics. Is not this ironic? So much love for the poor,
proclaimed by Chavez, and they are the ones abandoned to their luck in the
“free Venezuelan hospitals”.

As the
doctor interviewed by the TV2 reporter said:

“Someone (else) is keeping the money,
because it is obvious the money is coming to Venezuela”.


Those Right Wing Chavistas!

October 25, 2005

Talking about
right wing Chavistas may sound oxymoronic, but it is a testimony to the
confusing state of Venezuelan politics today, that in a recent poll aimed at
measuring the values of the Venezuelan electorate by Liderazgo y Vision, 47% of those
that support Chavez either directly or via other parties like Podemos, spouse
values which have been repeatedly called or defined by the press as right wing. But
let’s start at the beginning.

The poll
was aimed at measuring values of the electorate. In fact, it sounds almost like
a marketing poll for politicians. The first interesting fact is that a large
percentage of the Venezuelan electorate feels that nobody out there represents
them and would like a new party (Francisco Toro has been talking about the Nini’s
which may or not necessarily be this segment of people. The Nini’s are more
closely defined as those that simply don’t care about politics, but you should also
read that discussion here,
and here).
In the poll, 36.6% of the population sympathizes with the right, which
remarkably is the best defined group of all, as only 17.4% think they are left
wing, 8.7% considers itself center right and 5.4% think they are center left. Clearly,
the biggest problem is that 31.7% of the population has no clue as to how to
define themselves.

difficulty is that while the press has focused on the right wing aspect of it
with all of its connotations, what the polls shows is slightly different than
that. The values that are considered right wing maybe more closely defined as
conservative. These Venezuelans are nationalistic, militaristic, in favor of
law and order and defenders of the country’s sovereignty. Thus, part of Chavez’
speech resonates well with them. What was staggering in my mind is the huge
percentage of pro-Chavez people that this represents.

I have not been able to find the detailed numbers of this poll, but it would
appear as if of those Venezuelans that consider themselves conservative, a
majority of them are supporters of President Chavez. I say this, because the
poll indicates that of those that think that new political parties are needed (45.2%
of those polled), 38.4% believe that it should be a “right wing” party. It would
also be interesting to see the gender differences among those polled as men
tend to be more conservative and pro-military than women.

What this
shows is how complex, and in my opinion, little understood the Venezuelan
electorate is. People did not vote in 1998 for Chavez’s revolution as he defines
it today, they voted in the hope of changing the system, making it better, more
efficient, less crime and improving the standard of living. While Chavez has
failed to deliver on any of these, the authoritarian and militaristic style
definitely resonates with a large segment of the population. Incredibly the
poll indicates that fighting poverty is not among the top priorities of the
population, in fact, economic development is the main priority according to the

the higher the economic level and education level the more likely that a Venezuelan
will define himself or herself as being leftwing. Thus, the poor tend to be
more right wing than the well to do. However, there seems to be little
conception of what “left” or “right” mean in terms of an economic model for the

As a
Venezuelan, what probably bothers me the most about this poll, which is
consistent with values measured decades ago, is that there is still the
yearning for some form of authoritarian and military figure to lead us. It is the
tragedy of Venezuela in
particular and Latin America
in general that these values remain there under the surface, despite the
repeated failure of the military to solve the problems of any country and all
of the damage that they have done to our region.

I don’t
claim to understand all of what this poll means or implies, as I said, I have
not been able to see but pieces of the data. In fact, I have started this post
like four times in the last two weeks and was never happy with the outcome. But
I think the results of the polls are important and need to be discussed and understood
and thus needed to be presented here in some fashion. What is clear to me is that there is a
large segment of the Venezuelan population that spouses fairly conservative
values (not right wing!) which may be thought of as arising form nationalistic ideals. Remarkably, a larger fraction of them appears
to support Chavez than oppose him, despite his left wing message.

Makes you
think, no?

The amazing Gonzalez family from Zulia State and other electoral registry curiosities

October 23, 2005

There is a family from Zulia State, last name Gonzalez, that
should be the subject of studies by Statisticians and the like for
their ability to give birth on the same day. You see, according to the
Electoral Registry, 2002 Gonzalez’ were born
on the same day and year March 15th. 1974. Even more amazing, 1887 of
them haver registered in the same state of Zulia under Chavez’ flash ID
campaign by the Government before the recall vote in 2004, instead of
doing it when they should have. But these guys are really, really good.
On top of that 409 are registered to vote TWICE. Isn’t that wonderful?

the Electoral Registry, as handed over by the CNE to the politocal
parties, 2.8 million people have no address, which is against the law,
this is the first thing you have to provide in order to know where you
vote. 476,800 have new ID cards and thirteen thousand or so are
registered to vote simultaneously in two different electoral centers.

then, of course, there is the mystery of the new Minister of
Information and Communications Yuri Pimentel. He is too old for his cedula (ID) number:

Cédula: V-21759900
Parroquia: PQ. 23 DE ENERO

Moreover, Yuri did
not vote in the recall referendum last year. It is not necessary for a
person to be born in Venezuela to be a Minister, but did Yuri become
Venezuelan last year? Where is he from? Why hasn’t the Government
explained this? Go figure for a Government that claims to defend
sovereignty in every nook and cranny (but doesn’t!) !

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyberdissidents

October 23, 2005

Reporters without borders has published a Handbook for Bloggers and Cybersdissidents. I am trying to translate it into Spanish, but it is slow going, in the meantime you will have to do with the English version.

Thnaks Roger for the head up!

Norwegian TV gets it!

October 23, 2005

Well, somebody in Norwegian TV seems to get it accoridng to this video

Thanks Stig, my Norwegian is rusty!

Factoids about the proposed 2006 budget

October 22, 2005

–It is the largest budget in the country’s history both as a
percentage of GDP (35%) or in absolute terms in US$ at US$ 40.46

–It is six times larger in local currency than Chavez first budget in 1999.

–It assumes oil prices of US$ 26 with production of 3.4 million
barrels of oil a day (dream on!). In any case, the reason for
underestimating is simple, money to the regional Governments is given
out in terms of expected revenues. Thus, they will get less than what
the law says. (What else is new?)

–Funding for housing is budgeted at Bs. 205 billion (US$ 95 million),
while Presidential Expenses are budgeted at Bs. 243 billion (US$ 110
million), up 72%. I guess he has to pay too many $4800 a night suites
to go to useless summits,
like he did in Salamanca. Yes, it is bad being rich!

–Tax collection will come from Indirect Taxes 76.5% (US$ 12.6
billion), corporate taxes 21.8% (US$ 3.59 billion) and personal taxes
1.7% (US$ 283 million), which shows what a terrible tax system we have,
where most taxes are collected from everyone via the VAT tax, but
personal taxes are tiny. Is this fair? I don’t think so,
but it is easier to collect it thus way. Revolutionary!

–The Ministry of Defense will get Bs. 3.81 trillion (US$ 1.77 billion),
continuing a long tradition of buying expensive and useless toys for men
who have no idea how to use them and will likely not mantain them at
all. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

–US$ 6 billion will be spent via the newly created Development Fund
(Foden). None of it is specified in the budget. You could call it
Chavez’ petty cash fund.

A variety of flowers

October 22, 2005

Top left: Brassia Datacosta (Brassia Edvah Loo x 
Longissima)  Top Right: I don’t have too many Phalenopsis, but
they keep flowering beautifully as if to change my mind.

Left: Cattelya Gaskelliana Blue Dragon x self. The purple color is
absolutely outstanding. It opened yesterday, it may have been premature
to take the picture. Right: This plant was sold to me as Brassovola
Digbyana, but onetime I posted it and someone said it was a hybrid Blc.
Aristocrat. In any case, the Brassavolas are now known asRhyncholaelias as botanists keep changing names to challenge my memory.

Chavista ochlocracy attempts to assault Petkoff

October 22, 2005

A group from the Chavista ochlocracy attempted to assault
Editor Teodoro Petkoff as he was beginning to present his book “The Two
Lefts” in the Eastern city of Maturin. Petkoff has been going around
the country in what is clearly a tour to measure whether he should run
or not for President in 2006.

The mob of 30 Chavistas apparently sent by the Chavista Mayor of
Maturin entered the building where the presentation was to take place
with shouts and pushing people around. A radio announcer for a local
radio station was injured. The group was led by MVR councilman Eulogio
Santana. They accused Petkoff of playing a role in the April 11 2002
events.Petkoff said this is the first time in his tour around Venezuela
that this has happened. The police showed up, calm prevailed on the
part of those attending and the presentation was succesfully completed.

Once again, intolerant and fascist Chavista groups attempt to block
others from exercizing their rights for the only reason that they
disagree with them.

What else is new in this fake revolution?

Gustavo Coronel on PDVSA: Opening the can of worms!

October 21, 2005

And don’t forget to read Gustavo Coronel’s comments on PDVSA’s filing to the SEC either here or here. A
can of worms indeed, it reveals new lies as well as proving earlier
ones. Pay attention in particular to the comments about page 14 and the
Cuban refinery, page 20 on drilling activities and page 21 of the
report on the company’s oil production. Great job Gustavo, this
shows why Citgo announced they are repurchasing their debt this week,
so that they don’t have to file reports like this anymore!

The Venezuelan revolution : Trying to take your rights away one step at a time

October 21, 2005

while back I reported how someone had placed paper skeletons all over Caracas calling for
“Change” and saying the protest was by young people who were
protesting how the Government treats them. Well, yesterday the
investigative police summoned
Alexandra Belandia Ruiz Pineda to
testify on the case (which case?). Alexandra is the granddaughter of Leonrado Ruiz
a Secretary General of the Accion Democratica party that was killed
by the security police of Dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez. Alexandra is heavily
involved in politics through the “Movimiento Cambio” and has yet to
say whether it was that movement that placed the skeletons.

Coincidentally, today is the anniversary of Ruiz Pineda’s death and what better
tribute to her grandfather’s death than what she said as she left the
investigative police headquarters’: “the regime is bothered by dissidence,
but they will not succeed . But they will not succeed. Here I am confronting
them. The best homage I can pay to my grandfather is this, facing them

And indeed it is, this brave woman is confronting the fascism and intimidation
of a Government that has its investigative police spend time figuring out who
placed some harmless paper skeletons in public places as a form of protest.
This is a clear violation of Article 57 of the Venezuelan
which says:” All persons have the rights to express
their thoughts, ideas and opinions in live voice, in writing or through
any other form of expression…

But the true incompetence of the Government comes through when one realizes the
fact that the many cases of people killed or injured in dozens of demonstrations
by the opposition are not being investigated. That a year ago, one of the largest
buildings in the city where most of the Government ministries functioned burned
down and to this day we have not heard an explanation as to what happened and that
the death of murdered prosecutor Danilo Anderson is being
blamed on the CIA
by the Attorney
General/Prosecutor himself. Of course, they reach such silly conclusions or are
unable to figure out why people died, because they are wasting their times performing hatchet jobs for the all powerful
leaders of this fake revolution, who tremble when they see a paper skeleton
that might have a chance of undermining their fascist and abusive power.