Archive for May 22nd, 2007

An accomplishment of the revolution

May 22, 2007

No, this is not a brand new refrigerator. This is the meat display at the supermarket I go to. This is a daily occurrence as they have not had meat for quite a while, as a matter of fact since at least April 20th. they have received meat twice, both times selling it in less than two hours. This had never happened in the country’s history, but between land being taken over and left unused and price controls, supply has simply disappeared. There you have it, a true, real accomplishment by the revolution!

Ironically, below the fridge is a row of dog food bags, some of the imported. No comments!

The Chavez administration drops all pretense of democracy and respect for the rules of law

May 22, 2007

Somehow, I am always surprised by the lack of scruples of the revolution and its leaders. Maybe I am naive, maybe I would really like in an ideal world, or maybe I was raised by my family and my profession to have high ethical standards. But I can’t help but be surprised by statements from the autocrat like the one last weekend when he said:

“The only way that RCTV’s concession will not end on Sunday the 27th. is for Hugo Chavez not to be President of Venezuela”

There it is, in plain words: I am the law, the king, the autocrat and the Dictator. You disagree with me, either you overthrow me or else. As simple as that.

But then, we also have that apprentice of Dictator, the man who did such a good job as “impartial” Head and Director of the Electoral Board, that he was rewarded now with being Vice-President. No ethical conflict or debate there for the revolution: He was a fanatic serving the revolution in his earlier role, he is now second in command and clearly learning the ropes as mini-Dictator in training, a role that always served VP Jorge Rodriguez well:

“There is nothing to talk about (closing RCTV)…there is nothing more to be said”

Was there ever something to discuss with a Government that barely even talks even among its members? They all play at the rhythm of Chavez says and follow their leader. There are no “legal attributions” that the state is using. The regulator CONATEL initiated one process against RCTV which has not been completed. The Prosecutor initiated another process against RCTV that has barely even been initiated. There is no legality involved. On the day in which the so called “coup” took place, the autocrat actually tried to stop Venezuelans and the world from watching the carnage going on outside. If it were not that the networks decided to split the screen Chavez calmly on one side, bloody carnage on the other, we would have never known how cynical and without scruples Chavez and his cohorts are. That was murder, wholesale murder, but the fanatics that support Chavez could care less about the blood of Venezuelans, as they support and administration that murdered that day and allows without care the daily murders of hundreds of Venezuelans.

This is a Government with no compassion towards its own supporters, least of all the blind daughter of a former President who is denied her passport out of the lowest and cruelest form of spite. Human Rights are secondary in the revolution . RCTV is being closed out of spite, as much as all of the other cruel and negative policies of the autocrat are carried out. Other TV stations complied with Chavez’ desire to silence them, RCTV did not. Unfortunately for the others, one day Chavez will wake up and decide to shut them down too. Then they will remember this week.

Meanwhile, human rights organizations have come out en force to declare the reality of the Chavez administration’s lack of democratic credentials and how they are simply punishing RCTV because it is too critical of its actions. From Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch today, the cry is in unison: Chavez is politically motivated to squash its enemies and is using incorrectly his total control of the state. For once, the left is split unevenly, much like Venezuela’s left has been split over the years. The appearance of democracy has fallen down, only those with pseudo fascist tendencies still support the autocrat who looks more and more like their old nemesis’ Fujimori and Pinochet. They can no longer support the unsupportable.

It is now up to Venezuelans to do something about it.

Chavez announces CANTV will be run badly from the start

May 22, 2007

I guess I can’t pass up the comments today by President Chavez that he would cut both fixed line and cellular prices by 20%. He also announced that he would cut taxes on phone service for those living in “poor” areas, as well as cutting interconnection fees by 30%. Thus, in one swipe, the Government has set the course to ruin CANTV much faster that I ever believed possible.

When I first heard that the Government was taking CANTV over, I thought that given the company’s financial health, it would take sometime for the inefficiency, politicking and indecision to start affecting the company. But given that in the December quarter the company’s margins were 27%, the 20% cut in these three very significant revenue streams will be a large hit.

Some people think that these price cuts will drive customers towards CANTV, but in fixed line, CANTV is essentially the only game in town and in wireless it has come back from a distant second place thanks to good service and smart marketing, neither of which are guaranteed now. In fact, I understand that the company’s advertising agency has already been fired in favor PDVSA’s company, so we will see red colors a lot in CANTV’s advertising going forward.

But even worse were Chavez’ comments about wireless (can’t find the quote I heard), saying that wireless communications was an invention of capitalism. This comment shows the President’s ignorance and superficial understanding of communications. In saying that the “new” CANTV will emphasize fixed line, he ignores or seems to be ignorant about the impact and importance of wireless for Venezuela’s poor. The cost of wiring homes which will generate low ARPU’s was the problem of most underdeveloped countries for years. With wireless communications, penetration of communications soared as the home by home investment was replaced by the building of cells which were shared by all users in the area. In 1991, when CANTV was privatized, Venezuela had 1.7 million telephone lines under a mismanaged Government telecom company. Today, CANTV has 3 million fixed lines, but between the three wireless operators, there are some 15 million cellphones in the country, a staggering number that nobody, either from the Government or from the telecom industry ever thought could even happen and so fast. That is real results for everyone, particularly the poor. It would simply be very expensive for anyone, Government or private to undertake the wiring of 5-6 milion homes to achieve a similar penetration with fixed line.

To compound matters, the people named to run the company have little telecom experience or in running large organizations. People are already resigning en masse, as they have been asked to do, if they are not with the “process”. The President of CANTV comes from PDVSA, a former SAP specialist who had a fairly gray career until she pledged allegiance to Chavez. The new President of the wireless company Movilnet, is the former Minister of the Environment, who did not precisely leave a great track record there. I am surprised by the absence of anyone from the military telecom area, one of the few areas in which the military is strong relative to the rest of the country. Even more, I can’t help but mention the presence in the Board of the academic “expert” who advised the CNE so “impartially” on random number generators when the recall vote took place. The revolution certainly rewards those that claiming to be impartial, participate without ethical values in biased processes to favor the Autocrat/Dictator.

Those are the values of the revolution.