Archive for July, 2006

Does Rosales have to resign or ask for a leave to run?

July 31, 2006

Last Friday the Supreme Court ruled that Hugo Chavez did not
need to leave his position in order to campaign for the December election. The
press has interpreted the decision as suggesting that Manuel Rosales will have
to resign, but legal experts suggest that the interpretation is incorrect and
that Rosales simply has to step down temporarily.

The decision by the Court notes that Art. 229 of the
Constitution establishes that you can not be elected to be President while you
are Vice-President, Minister, Governor, or Mayor on the day you register to
run. However, the Court then uses Article 124 of the Suffrage Law which states
that to be candidates for President those holding public positions have to
resign (defined as absolute absence), but then goes on to explicitly say that
those that have to resign are ďthe Ministers, Heads of Central Offices of the Presidency,
Heads of organizations with functional autonomy, Presidents and Directors of autonomous
institutes and Presidents and Directors of state enterprises.

Thus, Governors are not explicitly included in the article,
which many lawyers believe means that Rosales has to ask for a leave of absence
of no longer than 90 days in order to run for President. (The law does separately
define an absence of more than 90 days as absolute)

The only part that remains unclear to me is how Rosales can
run without losing the Governorship if he would have to register his candidacy
90-plus days before the election. Any lawyers out there?

Weil and Deja Vu all over again…

July 31, 2006

A picture named weil111.jpg

Some nice flowers

July 30, 2006

Above left, Laelia (now Sophronitis) Purpurata Striata, I dropped it as I took it to take the pictures and it tore on the left petal. I loved those purple lines in the petal as well as the lip. Top right: I think it is Oncidium Lanceanum, but some details are different.. Will keep looking, I know it is related. I don’t like the way the picture looks either, I have to angle the screen to have it look right. .

Above left, Slc. Lulu, this is a seedling, first time it flowers. On the right another species Dendrobium Formosum, one of the largest flowers for these species.

I see fingerprint machines in our future

July 30, 2006

El Nacional reports today
that the President and Vice-President of the CNE Tibisay Lucena and Janeth Hernandez consider the use of fingerprint capturing machines “indispensable” because these machines guarantee the principle of “one man, one vote”. This position is also backed by the people on the technical side of the CNE who not only supprt the idea, but are already preparing a purcahse order for Cogent Systems of some 1,500 to 4,000 machines. The problem at this point is that there has been no decision on the matter, as the other three members of the Board have not said explicitly how they would vote, so the issue has not come to the table. What is known, is that most major opposition candidates have said that they refuse to have conditions that are worse than in the 2004 Assembly elections, where the fingerprint capturing machines were not used. Thus, it is likely that they would withdraw if the machines are present, except for El Conde and a couple of more.

What is interesting, is that there is no technical stiudy to back up even the use of these machines, let alone the expenditures. Venezuela uses indelible ink on the pinkie finger as a way of guaranteeing that there would not be people voting twice. Thus, the only possibility is if the poll monitors ignore the ink. In the past estimates of the percentage of people voting twice have shown that this is very insignificant, with other problems such as tally manipulation being much more important. But the worst part is that the CNE has never revealed any technical information about the use of the fingerprint machines in the three elections where they were used. It is not even known whether the system worked in real time to stop anyone from voting twice or how many people actually tried it, or even if whether they were accepted or not.

Thus, our electoral authorities have spent over US$ 100 million on a system that is feared by the people, but that nobody outside the CNE has any idea as to whether it even does the job, whether it is necessary or even if it has worked properly. Moreover, theer was no bidding process, Cogent was handpicked by former CNE President Jorge Rodriguez.

The whole thing is simply a charade. It is the fear induced in the people with the fingerprint machines that makes them a technical imperative. It is once again the abuse of the people’s rights by creating this aura of the violation of privacy of the voters with the machines, that makes them so useful to the autocracy. People have no idea if the Government can tell how they voted, but the fear instilled in them is such, that if the machines are present, many would prefer to stay home. Another generous and Machiavellic “gift” of the perverse revolution.

Ramirez threatens to cut oil supplies to the US, but Ambassador says there is no threat

July 30, 2006

Letter from Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez yesterday to the US Senator Ruchard Lugar:

“There is no threat to cut oil supplies to the US”

Minister of Energy and Oil Rafael Ramirez
today in Iran:

“If the US wants to have a hostile policy towards us, then we will cut oil exports to that country”

I wonder what Alvarez understands as a threat?

Governmenet by revenge and retaliation, not by law

July 29, 2006

The Venezuelan Vice President showed the true colors of this autocracy when he said today that everytime there is an attack on any leader of MVR, the Government will “expropriate thousands of hectares in retaliation”.

So, Venezuela will from now on be ruled by the Law of the Jungle, with a Government acting on the basis of revenge and retaliation, ignoring the law and doing whatever it wants.

Hold it! Isn’t that what has been happening in the last few years anyway? I guess they are taking off their mask by now and simply saying in public what they tell each other in private everyday. Ask Sumate, Primero Justicia, the media, General Francisco Uson, General Carlos Martinez, Carlos Ayala, Henry Vivas, Lazaro Forero, Ivan Simonovis, as well as those killed and injured by this Government’s repression and disregard for human rights.

Ahora Venezuela belongs to…

July 29, 2006

Yesterday Moody’s announced that it was withdrawing the credit rating of PDVSA because it lacked information about the financial and operating state of the company. This is the revolution, after spending years saying that PDVSA was not transparent, they have turned it opaque. The slogan that now PDVSA belongs to everyone or the people is simply as hollow as we knew it would be.

By the way, the Reuters article says that PDVSA turned in the 2004 financials to the SEC in mid-2006. This is incorrect, PDVSA announced that it was doing it, but it has failed to it so far, as any check of the SEC Edgar database shows.

Amazingly enough, PDVSA responded by saying that they will send Moody’s any needed information and that they never recieved any request for information. Of course, they failed to mention that they did not comply with their legal obligation to turn in the 2004 financials by the three deadlines and extensions established by the SEC. These are the clowns running the country!

Sure, the Government would never take advantage and campaign for Chavez

July 29, 2006

Of course the Government will not take advantage of its position and campaign for the President. The Electoral Board will simply not allow it, we are protected by law and the Constitution. Chavez can stay in the Presidency as a candidate, it is a matter of continuity and he is a good guy, he would never abuse his position or take advantage of it.

If by any chance the Government tried to sell toothpaste packaged like the one below in the Government’s Mercal chain of markets it would be immediately stopped.

What do you say? They are selling it already? Just like that? And it has the symbol of the ten million votes for Chavez campaign? And it says ten million smiles? And all Mercal’s are carrying it?

Oh well, I guess I was wrong.

Letter to Er Conde by Laureano Marquez

July 28, 2006

This letter
from Laureano Marquez in todayís Tal Cual
reflects a lot of the thoughts
that went through my mind when I first noticed the enthusiasm of some people
with the candidacy of El Conde del Guacharo. The difference is that Laureano
Marquez can express things in such an exquisite way, that I am just no match for
him. It was not easy to translate because of the idioms and slang used by
Marquez. Hope it works.

The more I
hear about El Condeís candidacy, the less I like it, the more concerned I get. When I hear Mari Pili defending it, Chavezí
Manager saying that it is the only serious opposition candidacy and
former Chavezí supporters
saying he is going to rise to the top of the polls, I canít help but wonder
what is behind all this. There are too many unanswered questions for my taste
and it is so easy to hide behind the words of humor when serious questions are
asked. The choice is simply brilliant. But very few answers are available despite the widespread media exposure of the novel candidate. In fact, there seem to be more questions as the days go by. I donít believe in conspiracies in
general, but somehow I can see the following in our future:

opposition primary goes reasonably well on August 13th.
–The CNE
approves the use of the fingerprint machines for the December election.
–The opposition
refuses to go to the election with fingerprint machines present.
elections are held in December with three candidates: Hugo Chavez, Benjamin Rausseo
and Roberto Smith.
either beats Rausseo or gets the CNE to do it for him and the revolution and
the next 6^n years of Chavez are legitimized.

Paranoid? Stupid?

I just donít
know, we will have to wait, in the meantime enjoy Laureanoís not so humorous

Letter to Er Conde by Laureano Marquez

Sorry for
this letter, but you know better than anyone that there is nothing that us
humorists like to do more that to pick on politicians.

I got quite
enthusiastic with your candidacy while I thought it was serious, like that of
Zapata at the time, but now that I see that it is just kidding, the truth is
that I am disappointed.

In any
case, this shit is not with you, Conde. I donít question your thirst for power

You have
all the right to do it. The trouble is
with ourselves. To say it in your style: this shit is a self-conflict. I thought
that after seven years, we would have assimilated some lesson of what happened
to us and, nevertheless, I see people that voted for Chavez and now hate him to
death, using the same arguments which they, at the time, used to justify him:
the old tale about the anti-politics, the outsider, the leader that. As if
politics was not a matter of projects, vital vocation, of the road traveled, of
long and extensive militancy of ideas, of profound reflection about the destiny
of man; in the end, a matter of politics.

candidacy has aroused the furor of the opposition world. CoŮo, Conde, I just had
a flashback to the 1998 movie, the same shit:

That you
are the expression of dissatisfaction, that we have to give a lesson to the
leaders, that even if we lose anyway, with you we are going to have a ball. Of
the latter, I have no doubt, Conde, but in the end, the victory of Chavez will
take place in the middle of all the joking, criollo and with gusto, which will
make it easier to get along with and accept the installation of his
authoritarian political project. I think officialdom is conscious of this and
that is why they are excited about your campaign launch. ďVenezuelans like to
kid aroundĒ, they say and who better than you to be their leader. When we wake
up from all the kidding around, my dear friend, when we get over the drunkenness,
an accomplice of the petrodollars we have negotiated for our destiny as a
nation, then we will see in action the only leader that truly has a clear

In all of
this you will end up being a sort of electoral Vaseline.

reception that you have been given has served me well to ponder the magnitude of
what awaits us in the bosom of XXIst century socialism, because we are so
removed from the tragedy that is closing in on us. The electoral phenomenon, in which
you have turned yourself into, instills in me the certainty that this society
does not deserve getting rid of Chavez; we have earned him in the end. It is
like Mosesí journey through the Sinai, there is a generation of adorers of the golden
calf that has to disappear from the desert to see if next time around it
deserves to enter the Promised Land. Let us not lose hope, our grandchildren
will see it.

I am sorry
Conde. You know that this shit is not with you. This letter is, like I said
before, a matter of self-conflict.

At this
juncture, on top of that, it is not you; it is our history, our destiny, a sort
of Hegelian synthesis.

That is
why the funniest of the Marx brothers, Karl, pointed out that when Hegel says
that the important events in history repeat twice, he forgot to say that the first
time is as a tragedy and the second one as a farce.

Good luck
Conde, forget what has been said. Donít get pissed at me, because I donít want
to be the first one to be politically persecuted in your Government. If you
decide to change sides once again and go back to humor, we will be here waiting
for you with open arms. As always.

How to lose $45 million in the robolution

July 27, 2006

This is a tale of what is going on
behind the scenes in the robolution. It is emblematic of the lack of
transparency in the Government’s finances, how millions slosh around from one
side to the other without anyone checking where they are, how they went from
here to there or why they were moved. This is the tip of the iceberg of the
stories we hear about daily, except that the details are never known. In fact,
this case is known only because someone was killed. And even then, the Government
has revealed very few
of the details of the case. After all, it is just US$ 45 million that went
missing, while they are used to talking in hundreds of millions if not billions
and people are getting very rich in the process as these funds move around.

It all began in 2001 when the insurer of the local bank’s deposits FOGADE, sent US$ 45
million to French bank BNP for investment. Apparently, nobody seemed to follow
up what happened to this minuscule amount until May of this year when
supposedly US$ 2 million in a CD was due. Except that at BNP nobody knew
anything about the US$ 2 million, let alone the original US$ 45 million and the
proceeds from investing it.

When BNP was asked about the funds all they could say was that the money had
been transferred to an institution called CLBS, which had been the one
providing FOGADE with updates and the statements, not BNP. How the money moved
from one to the other or why, has yet to be revealed.

CLBS was made to appear to be a foreign company, but in reality it seems that
it only had a single office, the Caracas
office from which a local broker managed money for various institutions.
Problem was, the man who ran that office and who was apparently associated with
BNP at one point, was gunned down in the Las Mercedes area of Caracas
in April by two men in motorcycles in what was clearly a gangland style hit.
Since then, the office of CLBS has been closed and reportedly the associates of
the broker who ran it have all left the country.

Besides the ease with which the money was moved, there is also an apparent
connection to the bankruptcy of Refco where many local institutions had custody
of their instruments because of the very generous conditions that company gave
them when lending them money against their holdings. In fact, the murder of the
broker and the FOGADE funds may simply be unrelated, even if all the funds may
be in the Refco accounts under bankruptcy proceedings.

So now, the same Superintendent of Banks who told us in non chalant fashion that the
Refco bankruptcy would have no impact in the country’s financial institutions
has initiated an investigation. Will we ever know? How many other cases are
there? The truth is nobody knows as money is being shuttled around in the
billions with no transparency. In fact, FOGADE had stopped working with BNP in
2000 as the then President had heard rumors of monkey business with the local representative.
As a new Head of FOGADE was appointed the new account with only US$ 45
million was opened.

This is no isolated case, this is
the case that was discovered, but as I said in the previous post, the
development bank Bandes exchanged US$ 1.5 billion in 2004 and 2005 via the parallel
market benefiting their friends, including some that were involved in the
FOGADE transaction. The new development bank Foden is given the central bank’s
reserves which it uses to buy US$ 3.1 billion so far in Argentinean bonds, of
which US$ 2.5 billion has been sold in the parallel market at an average rate
of Bs. 2370 per US$ by the Government to their friendly financial institutions.
While the Minister claims fake profits of US$ 200 million, it is the friends
who are making a bundle. And these transactions have been rumored for months
but were only confirmed recently by the Minister himself.

These are the obscure ways of the robolution. The inner circle and friends are making millions if not billions and only once in a while we get only a peek at the edges of the transactions. And some fools are still silly enough to believe in this farce.