Archive for March, 2006

Do not miss Chavez’s latest live performance

March 31, 2006

Donkey, coward, genocide (“genocida”), drunk…those are some of the
warm words that President Chavez got for President Bush on National TV.

You’ve got to watch it to believe it. Alfredo put the video on Tyromaniac. Here is the link.

Political Apartheid in Venezuela: what did Chavez know and when did he know it? (Part II)

March 31, 2006

When, in a few years, or in a few decades, people think
about the Chavista era, they would probably remember that this was the first
regime that institutionalized intimidation and apartheid in Venezuela.

When the President is shown on TV reminding his viewers that
if they sign for a Revocatory Referendum their names and ID numbers will be
known, that is called intimidation. And later, when workers are fired or citizens
are denied access to jobs, passports or ID’s because they signed, that is a
state of political apartheid.

That had never happened before in Venezuela
and it is probably the darkest political and social legacy of President Chavez
and of any president of the so-called democratic era. I certainly hope that
History remembers Chavez on that account.

Last year, upon hearing president Chavez ask his followers
to bury the infamous “Tascon” fascist list, I wrote this
ghost posting demanding that Chavez assumes his responsibility and that the
country asks a single question:

“What did Chavez know and when did he know it?”

Almost a year has passed since that post, and nobody has asked
let alone answered that question. There has been no investigation, nobody put
on trial, no one, except some private newspapers to register the abuses that
the state of political apartheid has created in Venezuela.

However, in my view, two positive things have happened: the
List has no longer been referred as the “Tascon list” and the documentary called
“The list” has been created.

Referring to the list as Tascon’s, was a way to minimize the
importance of the political blacklisting. A way to overlook the fact that the
political apartheid system was instaured well beyond the petty views of a member
of the National Assembly with fascist tendencies.  We, Venezuelans, are happy people that do not
take ourselves or our governments  too
seriously, so talking about the list as a local colorful issue probably helped
us escape the reality that this was a serious matter that could change forever
our everyday lives.

So when the Tascon list becomes “la Lista” we, as
Venezuelans, are giving a step forward towards questioning the state of our
civil liberties and questioning a State that submits its citizens to a
systematic apartheid.  Remarkably, this
consciousness has happened in less than a year, which was also a year of high
oil prices that greatly improved the economy of the country.

Today, I watched the short version of La Lista that appeared
in Tal Cual multimedia and that you can see here.

I am not going to repeat what
and Miguel  have already written about that film, all I
am going to tell you is that you should watch it and see that the country is
little by little increasing its civic and political awareness. 

Ironically, despite the depressing subject, I was more
optimistic after watching it. I said to myself that maybe sooner than expected
Venezuelans will ask and even question the government with my original

What did Chavez know and when did he know it?

Jorge Arena
Distinguished ghost blogger




An official note proving that there is no presumption of innocence in political trials in Venezuela.- The case of Capriles Radonsky.

March 28, 2006

Scanning the official Ministry of Information pages of the
government of Venezuela
(the MINCI pages), I found the following news:

“The Ambassador of Cuba will ask that the major of Baruta be

Here is the link:

I was quite intrigued by the title and, as a curious ghost
blogger that I am, started reading and digging some information about the case.

Henrique Capriles Radonsky is the very popular mayor of the
town of Baruta, in the East part of
Caracas where the Cuban Embassy is

During the events of April 2002, a group of angry and
radical anti-Chavez people were protesting in front of the Cuban Embassy. After
being called by the Cuban Ambassador, Capriles Radownsky went to the site and talked with him.
According to Capriles, he assured the Ambassador that he was going to do
whatever was possible to insure the security of the diplomatic personnel and he
asked the protesters to leave the place, which they did.

After those events, the Public Ministry started an
investigation on the case and the Fiscalia accused Capriles Radonsky. Capriles was actually put in jail for several
months supposedly to prevent his leaving the country because the prosecution
said that he was not present on three occasions after being called. According
to Capriles, his lawyers were denied the access to the file where the
prosecution declarations were stated.

It follows a long and complicated judicial tail.

At one point even the TSJ declared that Capriles had been
sent to jail in an unjustified manner, but somehow the case was reopened.

Capriles version of the events can be found here and here.

Capriles asked recently that he be judged in an impartial
manner and he denounced that the Cuban Ambassador had meetings with
representatives of the Judicial Power (see here).

After this long introduction, I can take you back to the
note that called my attention and that appeared on March 23, 2006, on the very official MINCI

The page shows the communiqué of the Cuban Embassy not only
denying the allegations of Capriles (which would have been the normal thing to do
for a diplomatic entity) but also ASKING THE GOVERNMENT OF VENEZUELA TO
has been harassed for several years for this event, his case has been reopened ….In
my humble ghost blogger opinion the guy has every legitimate right to be
concerned about the fairness of his trial and scared at the possibility that
the Cuban representatives be in contact with anyone in the Venezuelan judicial
system that is going to judge him…

But although I am quite bothered by the answer of the Cuban Embassy,
that is not what bothered me the most. What really put me in the alarm mode and
triggered me to write this post was the following paragraph that clearly
demonstrates the current state of justice, fairness and separation of powers in
Venezuela. It was
written by the officials in charge of the Venezuelan Ministry of Information
pages (I copy it verbatim in Spanish)

“El alcalde, que en los días del golpe de estado de 2002 tuvo una
participación en los actos de asedio a la embajada cubana, al no impedir que la
turba violenta mantuviera incomunicada a la sede durante 3 días, acusa al
embajador de conspirar en el país.

A continuación la nota completa emitida por la sede

translation :

mayor, that during the days of the coup of 2002 had a participation in the acts
of siege of the Cuban Embassy when he did not prevent that the violent crowd
maintained the Embassy without communications during 3 days, accuses the
Ambassador to conspire in the country.


In what follows we present the complete note issued by the diplomatic

So what we essentially have here is the OFFICIAL pages of
the Goverment of Venezuela SAYING that a citizen that will stand
trial is already GUILTY. The note is written in the affirmative, there is no
presumption of innocence whatsoever in this note.

…And this is the same government that claims that there is
justice and independence of Powers in Venezuela.

Reporting from Cyberspace,

Jorge Arena
Curious ghost blogger

News from Jorge

March 26, 2006

While Miguel is away swimming somewhere in the middle of the
Indian Ocean, your friendly ghost will be reporting
on-and-off. I am quite busy these days trying to start my tomato plants. You
see, bloggers grow orchids and ghost bloggers grow tomatoes. It is a fact of
life and an Internet law.  Actually, I
have been thinking that while Miguel is away on his extended vacation among
Polynesian sharks I should take advantage of his absence and open a new The
Devil’s Section devoted to growing tomatoes…  

So if you want me to keep ghosting as long as Chavez is in
power ( I’ve got the most secure job anyone can dream of!) please prepare your
messages of support for the new tomatoes Section  and keep them handy. I’ll let you know if I
need an outpour of spontaneous support when Miguel gets back.

As usual, there are many interesting news in the Chavista kingdom
of Venezuela:

  •  a
    new Petrochemical
    company that we do not know how it differs from the previous one and that
    will develop Petrochemical technology in Venezuela
    (didn’t we already have one in place?);

but since I do not
have much time to keep you posted on everything, I will start with the one that
concerns me the most: the news that my tocayo, Jorge
Rodriguez, is not running for the CNE

This is sad news for this ghost blogger since Jorge
Rodríguez is one of my favorite government characters, in particular because we
share the same name. So I would like to propose to the 20 people that are electing the
new CNE
directive that the next President of the CNE is called Jorge as

What? Do you think that that is a totally arbitrary
requirement? Why? If the new president is elected to follow strict Chavista
rules we may as well impose that he has at least a charming first name.  It should not be too difficult to find a good
number of devoted Chavistas called Jorge. I would even think that it could be
possible to find one called Jorge Miguel or Jorge Daniel but I do not want to
push too much.

Of course, of course, I know I am being too pessimistic.
Maybe the people that are electing the new CNE will find someone that is
competent and truly independent. The problem is that out of the 20 members, 11
are members of the National Assembly, that is 100% Chavista. BTW Sumate has
asked that those members have voice but would abstain from voting….In any case
I will forgive them for not imposing the Jorge name if they truly elect an
independent Council.

The interesting thing now is to know why Jorge Rodriguez is
really stepping down.  For weeks he was a
sure bet for the new CNE and, all of a sudden, he says that he does not want to
be a roadblock in the presidential elections. He does not want to be an excuse
for the opposition to decide not to run in the forthcoming election.

 You know what? I believe him. I think that Chavez is
desperate to get any opposition candidate against him in December to avoid the
international image that he is holding a plebiscite. So, in my humble ghost
opinion, the order probably came from Chavez himself.  

 There have also been rumors about Jorge Rodríguez being a
candidate to be the next
Vice president.

 Personally, I don’t believe those rumors. Chavez wants to
preserve the idea that the CNE that has been running the last elections and the
RR was fair and independent. If he nominates Rodríguez as a Vice president
there is no way he can say that.

 (Sorry Jorge, I know I just blew your possibilities for Vice
president. When the MINCI guys read this they will be so convinced by my ingenious
interpretation that, upon being informed, Chavez will change his mind on your
nomination. But do not despair, keep reading, I’ve got a better idea for you).

This ghost blogger also learned that before leaving, Jorge
Rodríguez  put in
the list of all the Venezuelan voters by district in the web page of
the CNE. However, in  the VTV article cited
above it is said that the personal data of the voters will not be made
available in order NOT TO VIOLATE ARTICLE 60 OF THE CONSTUTUTION! So now, after
the Tascón list and the Maisanta Program where the personal information of
millions of Venezuelans voters was and is still used for blacklisting by the
government,  and is available from street
vendors in Caracas, the same government says that it cannot reveal the voters’
personal data. Funny that now they discover there is an article 60 in the
Constitution, which BTW is the same
article 60 mentioned in this post…

Before finishing the post, I read that Chavez had some nice
words for Jorge Rodriguez in today’s Alo Presidente, lamenting
that he had to step down because of the bad publicity that he has been unjustly
the object of and that was directed of course from the Empire…

So poor Jorge will have to step down with just a warm congratulation
from the President, no goodies, unless we quickly forget about him and
concentrate on the new CNE President. Maybe then, Chavez can give him more than
his heartfelt congratulations for a job well done.

BTW,  Jorge,  here is the tip: I heard that the Paris
is now available

You know, discussing and tasting the virtues of Moet
Chandons, Foie Gras and Chateau Lafitte is much more interesting than dealing
day in and day out with Maria Corina, the oligarchic media and stubborn
bloggers and ghosts.

So go for it, tocayo, you deserve it!

Reporting from Cyberspace,

Jorge Arena
Distinguished Ghost.


On a jet plane

March 25, 2006

I’m going to take an extended vacation as far away from Venezuela as I can. I may actually try to reach the antipodal point from Caracas. On the meantime, hopefully, the Ghostly friends will keep this updated. Something always happens in Venezuela while I’m away, hope this time is big and good.

Morals and Lights by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

March 23, 2006

Morals and
by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

In the
revolution of upright men, the pot of corruption took its lid off

The septic
tank is overflowing and is running over. The corruption scandals follow each
other in a manner that is unstoppable. Of course, you would have to recognize
that for any reason that may be and no matter what the power game that you may
guess is behind the accusations and investigations of corruption cases, the
truth is that at least in the case of the sugar plant in Sabaneta and Justice
Luis Velasquez Alvaray the bull has been handled by the horns and there has
been action against those presumed to be involved in the corruption.  For now…However, we can’t but point out that
these cases were know long ago and for electoral reasons, that is, for a
political variation of corruption, they were only uncovered once the elections
were over with. Thus, until wee see the corresponding penal sanctions we can
not be sure that what has been taking place up to now was not a show, also with
electoral purposes, to simulate a “war against corruption”, but more of the
declaration and spectacle type than real

to the report attributed to the Inspector General of the Armed Forces, already
on January 5th. 200h, the Chief of State had been informed by
General Delfin Gomez Parra of the administrative irregularities taking place in
the sugar plant. Nevertheless a year went by before the case was made public
and the former Minister revealed with candor that he had done nothing because
“it was not convenient to do it before the elections”

By the
way, Albarrran (the Minister) is going around like a lost soul begging for
access to the state media sources-which is a saying, they belong to the
party-to explain himself and in all of them they don’t allow him even to go
enter. Now we are seeing how the sector that backs Nicolas Maduro has proposed
the bizarre idea of creating in the National Assembly a “Comp trolling
committee” that would control the Comptrolling Committee against corruption
that heads Pedro Carreño, whose apparent diligence appears
to worry the warriors against corruption because it could air too many dirty
rags. It is thus obvious those with what they have taken the lid off, some
think it is already sufficient and that the “war” needs to have the limit of
the conveniences of the party and the Government.

In the
same way, the case of Justice Velásquez Alvaray (or should
we already say former Justice?) we knew about this in Tal Cual since last
October and obviously they let it run for alter the elections.

 In any case, the
accusations of Jesse Chacon (The Minister of the Interior), which ratify what
we said in this daily-without the numerical precision of the Minister-, take
the lid off a sewer whose rugged paths, if they were followed in depth, could
produce more than one surprise, given the ample ties who had-or had-the named
Justice in the highest circles of power.

To top it all off, the ineffable Comptroller of the Republic
has given us a “lesson in ethics” that joined with the foolish acts of the
Prosecutor in the Anderson case, leaves in a very bad place a power that it is
ironically named the Republican Moral Council, of which one of its members, the
Comptroller, never appeared to learn about what was happening under his nose.
Perhaps because he was too busy trying to float the truth about the Sierra Nevada case (A corruption case in the ‘70s)

So you understand it by Oscar Garcia Mendoza

March 23, 2006

Oscar Garcia Mendoza, President of Banco Venezolano de Credito, is always criticized for his dire forecasts, but he his predictions have been uncanningly on the money in the last two decades. His bank is the only commercial bank in Venezuela that refuses to buy Government paper. They may be losing money today with this policy (or making less), but in the long run it will pay off for them. This article was written for Correo del Caroni.

So you understand it
by Oscar Garcia Mendoza in Correo
del Caroni

collapse of Viaduct #1 is the real, physical evidence of what this regime is.
It is the authentic proof of how those that hold power in Venezuela are
finishing it off.

continue not understanding this. The reasons may be many and it is useless to analyze
it. But it is worth using this physical and thus evident destruction for
demonstration purposes.

Viaduct collapsed and we can all see it. We know it happened due to the chaotic
management of the Government. And we also know that there many more areas, I am
cutting myself short: in all of the areas where by the action or inaction of
the Government is physically destroying the country. But these sectors are not
as evident.

It is happening
with health, with education, with oil, with infrastructure, with public
finances, with agriculture, with everything with which the ominous hand of the
Government has something to do with. They cover everything up with lies and
disinformation. But the terrible consequences are there and we will all suffer

hospitals that are now in chaos, soon they will be like Viaduct 1. The schools
and colleges, which are in chaos, soon will be like Viaduct #1. Pdvsa, which is
a chaos, will soon be like Viaduct #1. The roads, bridges, highways etc. which
are in chaos will soon be like Viaduct #1. Public Finances where corruption and
chaos rule, will soon be like Viaduct #1. The agricultural areas which the demagogical
policies are destroying will soon be like Viaduct #1.

These have
been years of destruction and corruption. There are some that don’t want to see
it. Open your eyes, your ears, clear your senses. The suffering, that mary are
subject to today, will be multiplied in the future. It hurts and maybe it is
cruel to say it, but that is the way it is.

There are
some who benefit. In this dance of ignorance and bad management, Government
officials and “clever” entrepreneurs and bankers take advantage of
circumstances and get rich harming the totality of the population. They are the
usual collaborators. They are there for all to see. .

It is time
to change this. Venezuela
has no time, nor do Venezuelans.

The absurd civil service pension system in Venezuela

March 23, 2006

One of the
problems in Venezuela
that needs to be addressed is that of pensions. The country only has 26 million
people, but some three million are Government employees who may enjoy sometimes
easy pensions. To make matters even worse, these pensions are unfunded so that
payment comes out directly out of the regular budget of the institution where
the person was employed, as in the case of the Comptroller who retired from the
Libertador Municipality.

This is where politics usually comes in. It works into this perverse system in
two different ways. First, whenever a new Government is elected, the Government
becomes very generous in giving out early pensions to get rid of those that it
does not consider to be loyal. Second, many retirees get involved in politics
and hustle and lobby for positions that will have a higher salary than the
position they retired from. The reason? Once they leave the new position, they
will retire once again, but at the higher new salary.

The system is so absurd, that at the higher levels, the retirement pension is
equal to the salary of the position and if that salary goes up, so does the
pension. Thus, all former Central Bank Directors have a pension equal to the
salary of a current Director.

The system becomes particularly perverse when it comes to taking into account
the military or university Professors. First of all, they are not part of the
civil service, so that you can actually retire form one, go work for the other
and retire again and get twice the salary while you are still working. Despite
what double dipper Russian said today, this can
not be done in the civil service system. But to make matters even worse, both
the military and the universities have their own pension requirements, which
may be as low as 20 years of service in the military and 25 for Professor’s,
with the added benefit that many times university Professors are given credit
for their pensions for the years they were doing Graduate work, or even for the
years they were TA’s at the University.

Think about it, if you graduate at 22 with a Bachelors and become a TA and
enroll in the Graduate program, you can be retired by the time you are 47. Your
salary will come out of the University’s budget, requiring ever increasing
amounts of money from the budget and the Central Government.

In the long run, this is a recipe for disaster. No budget can support this
unless oil prices go up exponentially. Moreover, most of these people that
retire early go find another Government job, particularly the military and academics
who can retain their pension and their new salary.

Obviously this whole thing is ludicrous, more so when you think about the fact
that Venezuela
is a poor country with a GDP per capita just under US$ 4,000. Given the profile
of its population in terms of wealth, it makes no sense to have double dippers,
getting two salaries when under a more rational system they would be getting
only one salary and retiring later.

Remarkably enough, this structural problem had actually been solved by none
other than Teodoro Petkoff in the last two years of the Caldera administration.
As Planning Minister Petkoff got together with unions, the private sector and
the Government and created a consensus that this could not go on, that pensions
had to be funded and rational. Basically, there would be a new system after a
transition, whereby you could only retire at 60 years of age, if you had worked
for 35 years for the Government or the private sector and 65 years of age if
you had worked less than 35 years.

When Hugo
Chavez became President he held off applying the new law under the excuse that
the new Government had objections to the fact that the law allowed the private
sector to manage the pensions. Chavez gave a committee of his supporters six
months to rewrite the law. Then another six months. Then another six months and
that was the last we heard on this issue. Nothing has been done in seven years
on a problem that had been essentially solved.

The real
problem was not who would manage the funds. The real problem became the
academics who were both in the Chavez appointed committee and the Chavez
administration… They would be the ones most affected by the law, because most
of them would not be able to retire after 25 years, but would instead have to
wait until either 60 or 65 years of age. In fact, many of those that worked on
this problem left the Chavez administration in order not to lose their tenure
at their respective universities and be able to retire after 25 years of work. So
seven years have been wasted on a problem that was essentially solved.

I have
always been interested in this problem because the math never made much sense
to me and I saw how it undermined not only the budget of some of the institutions
where I worked in Venezuela,
but it would undermine their heart and soul also. I had friends in their mid-thirties
making plans for retirement at 45 so they could get another job. Their careers
became secondary to this sort of chess game of finding the shortest path to retirement
and legal double dipping.

as so many things in Venezuela,
it is always difficult to get hard numbers of the situation at any Government
institution or university because of the ways the budget is revealed. However,
the Universidad Central de Venezuela, actually gave out the information to researchers
from Unesco and El
Nacional published a brief summary
of the data.

results are indeed scary. Universidad Central de Venezuela currently has some
50,000 students and seven thousand professors. At first glance this would
suggest there are seven students for each Professor. However, of the seven
thousand Professors, 41.9% are retired! Almost 3,000 of them get a pension that
comes straight from the ordinary budget of the university. This is unfunded and
whenever the active Professors get an increase, so do the retired ones,
including my father’s widow, who will get his pension until her death. He has
been dead for over a decade.

this is no way to run a country. It is problems like this that need to be addressed
for the good of all Venezuelans. The current system only benefits the ones that
already have a job, at the expense of those that have very little. It does
sound indeed perverse to have people getting double salaries in a country with
so much poverty. To make matters even worse, the Chavze administration has
increased salaries at the top two or three jobs at most Government institutions
by factors of ten. When this happens, every single retired person, be it
Deputies of the National Assembly, Directors of the Central Bank, Directors of the
Electoral Board or Supreme Court Justices all have their pensions adjusted to
the new levels. The cost is enormous, at the expense of the needy. But at the
political level the silence on the issue is almost deafening, as those that
benefit from this perverse system, stay quiet in order to protect their potential
future and juicy pensions.

The unethical double-dipper at the Comptroller’s Office

March 22, 2006

The Venezuelan political system has, as part of its checks and balances, the figure of the Comptroller, the man in charge of controlling, supervising and watching over how the Government’s money and property are used. The General Comptroller supervises in turn all comptroller’s at the State and Municipal level and has independence to intervene and supervise any institution that is considered to be part of the Government. (Even if the Government contributes nothing to it).When he finds cases of corruption, he brings goes to the Proecutor’s office with the evidence to prosecute. He can also penalize those that violate procedures with fines and suspensions from holding public office.

There is also the “Citizen’s Power” exercized according to the Constitution via the “Republican Moral Council” of which the General Comptroller is one of its three members. Unfortunately, you need people who are not only politically independent in these positions, but they need to have high ethical and moral standards. The current General Comptroller Clodosvaldo Russian, has been a rather gray figure, almost non-existent, who has pursued very few corruption cases and in some cases has allowed the National Assembly to overtake his functions and mandate. He has been used by the Government to prosecute its enemies, the most recent case being that of succesful Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez, who is being charged for “mismanagement” for using funds earmarked for one thing to pay the salary raises decreed by the Central Government. Lopez had asked the City Council to approve this, the municipal comptroller approved it and by law, he had to pay the raises. Despite this and the fact that dozens of Chavista Mayors followed the same procedure, Lopez is the only one being prosecuted for this. If succesfull, Lopez will not be able to hold political office for six years. Very convenient for the revolution, given Lopez’ win in the last election with 80% of the vote.

But it turns out that the man in charge of controlling corruption has no ethical values or principles as demonstarted by the voucher below. You see, Venezuelan law does not allow for double dipping. If you are a retired Government employee, you can not hold another Government job, unless your pension payments are temporarily suspended. Additionally, there is a decree that specifically says that you can not be a comptroller at any level, if you are a retired comptroller from any state or muncipality. But in the pretty revolution these things do not apply to the rulers. The voucher below is for the pension of Comptroller Russian, who retired as municipal comptroller of the Libertador District, corresponding to payment in January 2005 (He has held the position since 2000), clearly showing that the man in charge of upholding the law, one of the three members of the so called Moral Power is the first one to violate his own rules. Proof that he would not recognize a moral or ethical value if he ever saw one and providing further explanation as to the origin of the rampant corruption in the Chavez Government. Simple: Nobody is watching!

The Chavez administration puts its money where its beliefs are

March 21, 2006


The Chavez

-In a tribute
to the guiding principles that illuminate and guide its daily actions.

-As a reaffirmation
of the belief that there is only one true form of Government for all of the
people of Venezuela
and the world.

-As a way
of sending an unequivocal signal to the world as to where it stands on freedom,
democracy and human rights.

-In a demonstration
of the intelligence with which it handles it public relations as a way of
expressing its love for its fellow inhabitants of the Continent of Simon

-As evidence of its sensibility to the desires, dreams and ambitions of the people of Latin America

-And as an
expression of its desire to use the oil money of the people, for the people, by
the people as efficiently, productive and respectfully as possible, announces with pride that
it has decided that:

It will finance
costs of restoring the one time home
of that illustrious fighter for
democracy, former Argentinean Dictator Juan Domingo Peron,
who patiently stood at the side of the leftwing forces of the world. Or was it
the right? Who stole from the people hands over fists, allowing him to live in
exile for decades in the best style that his people never came close to or ever
dreamed of. Who was the clearest expression of the militaristic, populistic and
fascist autocrat that Venezuelans should learn to admire and love (and get
accustomed to!). And as a tribute to, his up to now, unprecedented ability to
truly damage and undermine a country for decades with his type of divisive populism
and ignorant policies.

Hugo Chavez, Caracas March 18th. 2006