Archive for February 14th, 2006

A grab bag of deterioration and frustration

February 14, 2006

It is with an almost sense of frustartion or despair that I watch and read the news these days in Venezuela. There is a sense of total disarray on the part of the Government, the rule of law seems to be more irrelevant every day, and the lack of scruples on the part of Government officials from Hugo Chavez down is such, that they can deny saying something that was said days ago with a straight face. It is not a matter of what to write about, it is a matter of having so much to write about, but at the same time it is the same junk day after day: lies, corruption, inefficiency, lack of honesty and decency have now become such a way of life that the headlines on their own are a source of outrage.

The last two days have been particularly dense in content, dense in outrage, dense in despair. Can all of this be happening? Can people care so little? Is this any way to run a country? Is this any way to treat a country? These are questions that I ask myself daily as events continue to unfold that never cease to outrage and amaze me. Each of the following could be an article on their own, but why bother? There is no need to explain, detail or or extend myself on any of these, they all speak for themselves:

-In his testimony on the Barinas corruption case in front of Congress yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture said that “he held up the case…due to political circumstances…but once the results of the regional elections were known, he made Chavez and his father know what had happened”. I mean, I knew that in this Government politics takes priority over corruption, but to confess it like that should be enough for public outrage to force this man to resign simply out of sheer decency. Is he stupid or what?

-In the same case, the level of corruption was simply outrageous, proving that our military are by now experts on such matters. I related in the previous post how the military itself was supposed to execute the construction of the sugar plant but instead hired other companies to do it. Well, the details are obscene; they hired other companies owned by other military or family members to do the job. These companies in turn used soldiers as laborers, but they created a phantom payroll to rip off the money. Additionally, they paid for work never performed, paid for the use of machinery never rented or used and paid companies a bribe to hide all this. As if this were not enough, the land where the plant is being built, was covered with oak trees, which the soldiers cleared and the military officers sold on their own for personal profit. This is organized crime, racketeering, mafia-like behavior by the Venezuelan military on which the shoulders of which this revolution sadly “rests”.

-Meanwhile, Chavez is asking the Venezuelan Central Bank for an additional US$ 4 billion for Fonden, while Government officials tell foreign analysts that Fonden will likely only invest US$ 2.5 billion in 2006 due to lack of “capacity” (Do they mean due to incapacity?) and will likely have US$ 13 billion in it by the end of the year. A country with disintegrating infrastructure, unemployment, insufficient health facilities and a deficit of two million housing units has the luxury of putting US$ 13 billion into the President’s discretionary piggy bank. Long live the revolution! (And the headlines alone, below left and right say it all, even pro-Government Ultimas Noticias reports in the sub-headline on the right that two “parts” of the Sucre highway collapsed in yet another failure of the country’s infrastructure.

-And the large headline is just as bad. General Baduel claims the Nation is threatened, he claims it is from the oustide, I think it’s from the inside, he and his lot are our enemies. These guys are spending 4.5% of GDP in buying military toys and useless guns that will likely only be used to kill other Venezuelans. Yes. Gral. Baduel, we agree on this, except our reasons are different. You can’t have a fourth generation war with second generation brains!

-Meanwhile, reading the silly statistics I like to read, I find a press release by Cadivi in the paper saying that the number one country receiving dollars from the foreign exchange control office for personal aid, which is a small allotment each Venezuelan may send to their family members abroad every month, is Colombia and the number two country is…Ecuador? Nope. The US? Nope. Dominican Republic? Nope…It is none other than China!!! Yes, the huge Chinese population of Venezuela (??) sends so much money to support their relatives that they sent the second largest total abroad of any country. (Almost 200,000 Venezuelans live in South Florida alone). Of course, nobody but me seems surprised by this, but I certainly smell a rat there.

-While US$ 13 billion are saved in Chavez’ piggy bank, the Minister of Habitat with his newfangled fancy name, finds it incredible that the private sector is complaining that the Government will fund only 30,000 housing units in 2006, which he considers a “very high investment”. Small minds, small goals.

-And speaking of the development fund Fonden, it received US$ 6 billion from foreign reserves according to a special bill passed by the Chavista Assembly last year which said that Fonden could spend the money only in foreign currency for projects. Now Fonden uses the money to buy Argentinean sovereign bonds, which it then turns around and sells to local banks in exchange for Bolivars! Seems to me the law has been violated. But nobody says anything least of all the Comptroller who said yesterday that nobody was untouchable, he probably meant nobody in the opposition was untouchable. The other headline, below right, is quite specific, 6 billion Bs. in pensions for the elderly dissapeared, but does the Comptroler even know about it? Those guys are truly untouchable!

-And the Prosecutor General speedily says categorically that he will continue the prosecution of Sumate for receiving US$ 31,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy, but has not prosecuted any of the pro-Chavez groups, including Deputies, who regularly have received funds from the NED, but all of this happens on the same day that the anti-corruption Court in Spain is holding an audience to determine the jail term for the Directors of Spanish Bank BBVA who illegally gave US$ 1.5 million to the campaign of Hugo Chávez and his candidates to the Constituent Assembly in 1998 and 2000. Somehow, the smaller Sumate case, which did report the donation, is more important than the bigger Chavez case, which never reported the campaign contribution, as well as the fact that it was illegal. But the Prosecutor General cares little about Justice and a lot about political revenge and persecution.

-And yes, as expected the superior Court ruled that censorship of the media, be it TV, radio or press is allowed, when it refused to consider an injunction against the gag order by the Judge in the Anderson case, because the media was simply showing what a mockery of Justice the whole Anderson trial and its witnesses were. Make my day!

Indeed, we live in a corrupt autocracy. But we have known that all along.

Happy Valentine’s Day, in a Scroogy sort of way!