Archive for November 8th, 2005

The Idiots Abroad by John Tierney

November 8, 2005

From the New York Times by paid subscription, full text courtesy of Under the Broom Tree

The Idiots Abroad by John Tierney in the NYT

If President Bush wants to know what went wrong on his trip south, I recommend
a book by three Latin American journalists. Their “Guide to the Perfect
Latin American Idiot,” a best seller when it was published nine years ago,
remains indispensable for understanding phenomena like Diego Maradona.

Maradona, born in a shantytown near Buenos Aires,
became the world’s most famous soccer player in the 1980’s after he left Argentina to play for teams in Spain and Italy. Besides collecting his $5
million salary in Europe, he played exhibition
games in Arab countries at $325,000 per appearance and made $10 million
annually in endorsement contracts with corporations based in at least four
continents, companies like Puma, Fuji-Xerox and Coca-Cola.

And what did he learn from this international rags-to-riches tale? During
Bush’s visit to Argentina,
Maradona took time out from his busy schedule (he now has a television show) to
help rally tens of thousands of people against that horrible modern scourge:
free trade.

He was one of the headliners at the rally along with Hugo Chávez, the socialist
president of Venezuela, who
is determined to prevent a free trade agreement among Latin American countries
and the United States.

“We are going to stand against the human trash known as Bush,”
Maradona told the crowd, between puffs on a cigar given to him by one of his
heroes, Fidel Castro.

To be fair, this sort of thinker exists on other continents, too. But what
distinguishes the Perfect Latin American Idiot is his persistence. No matter
how far the continent falls behind the rest of the world, its populists cling
to the same beliefs in socialism and big government, the same distrust of
capitalism and free trade, the same conviction that Latin American poverty is
the fault of the United

“Maradona embodies the wonderful possibilities of globalization, yet he
does everything in his power to deny people poorer than himself to participate
in that world,” said one of the “Perfect Idiot” authors, Alvaro
Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian journalist (and son of the novelist Mario Vargas
Llosa). “Everything Maradona and Chavez stand for has been tried before.
These populists are repeating the mistakes of the Mexican Revolution, of Brazil in the 30’s, of Argentina in the 50’s, of Peru in the

The new wave of populists is led by Chávez, who’s been using the recent
windfall in oil revenues to expand government and solidify his hold on power.
But even while $100 million in oil money pours into Venezuela
every day ($60 million of that from those terrible gringos north of the Rio Grande), the poverty
rate has risen above 50 percent.

Meanwhile, the poverty rate has declined sharply in Chile, to about 20 percent
(compared with about 50 percent in the rest of the continent). Chile has become South America’s economic
success story by embracing capitalism and making its own free trade agreements
with the United States and
other countries, most recently China.

Bush went to the Latin America summit meeting hoping to persuade the rest of
the continent to follow Chile’s
example – the right message but the wrong messenger and the wrong place. Any
American president, especially one as unpopular as Bush, makes too easy a
target for the populists and rioters who turned the meeting into their own
photo opportunity.

“Nothing has ever emerged from a Latin summit,” said José Piñera, the
Chilean reformer who started the first private-account social-security system,
and then helped introduce similar systems in two dozen other countries.
“Real change blossoms from good internal public policies. President Bush
should not attend and dignify these weapons of mass distraction.”

The best American strategy, as Alvaro Vargas Llosa says, would be to do less in
Latin America. Instead of publicly pressuring
the whole continent to sign a free trade agreement, quietly make deals with the
countries that want one. Instead of denouncing and plotting against Chávez,
ignore him.

And instead of fighting a drug war in South America,
surrender. The war has been utterly ineffectual at stopping the flow of
cocaine, which has actually gotten cheaper on American streets. But by
infuriating communities in the Andes, the war
has created a political base for populists running on anti-American platforms.
They may be economic dunces, but in this case the perfect idiots are the drug
warriors in Washington
helping to elect them.

My soup and some of Petkoff’s on Our (In)Justice system

November 8, 2005

Here is Petkoff’s take on the Danilo Anderson case. The Prosecutor had
said that they had the complete movie of who killed Anderson and why,
step by step. Well, the whole things is so full of inconsistencies and
gaps, that it is very hard to take the thing seriously. Here are just
two facts:

-All of the “evidence’ is just the testimony of a single person, a
former member of the Colombian Auto defenses according to some, just a
Colombian Doctor according to the Prosecutor Isaias Rodriguez. Imagine
that the testimony of one person and some the fact that some
of the people talked to each other is the extent of the evidence. There
is nothing else in the case files according to the defense lawyers!

-The Attorney General/Prosecutor Isaias Rodriguez had said that the
“CIA was involved”. Then a warrant for the arrest of reporter Salvador
Romani was issued. Romani has been accused by the Cuban Government of
working for the CIA. The problem is that that Romani does not live in Venezuela. Thus, the intelligence police left empty handed, only to come back half an hour later with a different
arrest warrant to detain Romani’s son. Not even the Keystone cops
screwed up so badly! In fact, Romani’s wife still thinks they want her
husabnd and not the son. But the revolution does not care for such
petty details, what is important is that they have a Romani in jail,
even if it’s the wrong one. I wonder what hapened now to the CIA

That is the state of the judicial power in Venezuela. To those that are
pro-Chavez I just remind them that one day, they or their close
relatives, may have to face that same system of (In)Justice, they will
then join the opposition they so despise today.

Here is more in Petkoff’s usual clear words

by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

The Government is turning the Venezuelan Judicial system into pieces. Last
week, for the nth. time, a judge, Maria Mercedes Prado, was removed because she
sentenced in a way that the Government had not authorized. That is the way it
is now: judges can only sentence, especially in cases of political connotation,
according to the instructions that officialdom gives them.

Yesterday, this judge tried to explain her case, in front of the media,
in the Press Hall of the Supreme Court. She was unable to do it. The
electricity was cut off and between the National Guard, the subpoena servers
and private guards she was kicked out of the room and the reporters and photographers
were kicked out violently. The Press Hall was shutdown indefinitely.

What was the judge going to say? That according to the Penal
Processing Code she had no other recourse that give one of the suspects
conditional freedom for the case of the bombs placed in the Spanish and
Colombian consulates, because the Prosecutor in charge of accusing him, Gilberto
Landaeta, had not done so? She would have pointed out, thus, the negligence of
the Prosecutor and by extension, of the Prosecutor’s office as a whole. With
violence, she was denied her right to express her criteria, using a procedure that
can only be explained by the thick and smelly atmosphere of authoritarism and
abuse to the rights of citizens that is enveloping the country. The Supreme
Court Justice that ordered that barbaric act did it because she feels like a
bully, but above all, because she knows she is supported. Because she knows
that this is the official style.

A typical style of bullies. Nobody in the Supreme Court was capable of
calling her to order because bullies, sometimes, manage to create a climate of
intimidation in their surroundings.

While that judge was being removed, another was put in charge of the Anderson case. Only three
hours later she issued the warrants for the arrests. Quite a prodigy of speed
reading, because the case has hundreds of files. Someone with a dirty mind
could speculate however, that the new judge knowing the fate of Doctor Prado
(and others before her, for the same reasons), “prudently” opted to preserve
her health, doing what was asked of her, without stopping to investigate too
much. In fact, when she was asked about the evidence to substantiate the case,
besides those pointed out by Isaias she “revealed” two more: that someone died;
a second one, that his name was Danilo Anderson. If the other eight are like
that (Isaias spoke of twelve), it looks uphill for the Prosecutor’s office to convince
us that they really have a case.

The judicial system and the Prosecutor’s office not only need to be
honest but have to appear to be honest. Up to now there are too many observed
inconsistencies and too many questions that are raised by what they have done.
If things continue to go like this, the respectability and credibility of the
Prosecutor’s Office, that the Prosecutor himself questioned in his ineffable
internal memoranda, are being put into question. The suspicion that we may be
facing a montage for political ends
is establishing itself in public opinion. And Isaias’ interview in Channel 8
does nothing to dissipate that suspicion; on the contrary, it emphasizes it.

A little bit of humor

November 8, 2005