Archive for May 24th, 2007

The Kingdom of Darkness by Dorothy Kronick

May 24, 2007

Dorothy Kronick wrote an excellent article for The New Republic, which you can read in its entirety by registering free here. Entitled “The Kingdom of Darkness”, it could have as subtitle a saying Venezuelans use frequently “We have seen this movie before” as it outlines how Chavez is making the same economic mistakes made by some of his predecessors. Yes, we have seen this movie before and we know the ending and it is not very pretty. Some highlights from the article, but you should go read it all, worth your time and the perspective:

“In fact, the long economic catastrophe that led to Chavez’s
election in 1998 was created not by market reforms but rather by
policies just like those that define Chavez’s Bolivarian project. While
neoliberal adjustments in Venezuela were problematic, a Chavez-style
development model holds primary responsibility for the country’s
abysmal poverty and inequality.”

“To be sure, there are significant differences between Chavez’s
economic policy and Perez’s: Chavez devotes a larger portion of the
federal budget to social spending; tax collection has increased under
Chavez, while it suffered in the ’70s; and, perhaps most importantly,
Chavez has kept the national debt profile under control (total debt is
about 30 percent of GDP). The government still has nearly $25 billion
in international reserves, though this represents a sharp decline from
$36 billion at the close of last year.

But these differences are unlikely to save Venezuela from
1980s-style troubles when the price of oil falls–and perhaps before
then. While debt accumulation has not yet reached dangerous levels, it
has been increasing since January; analysts predict that the government
will finish 2007 with a sizable fiscal deficit. Unless the economy
generates value outside the oil sector, it is only a matter of time
before the government must borrow or cut expenditures (and it is
unlikely to do the latter).”

Letter to Senator Richard Lugar (reply to Bernardo Alvarez) by Gustavo Coronel

May 24, 2007

Gustavo Coronel’s letter to Senator Lugar is simply priceless as it debunks in very simple terms the lies and attempt to deceit by Venezuela’s Ambassador to the US

Letter to Senator Richard Lugar (reply to Bernardo Alvarez) by Gustavo Coronel

Senator Richard Lugar
May 24, 2007
Foreign Relations Committee
United States Senate
Washington, D.C.

Dear Senator Lugar:

I congratulate you and Senator Christopher Dodd for submitting
Resolution 211 to the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States
Senate, dealing with the closing of television station RCTV by the
Venezuelan regime and with the loss of freedom taking place in my
country. I would also like to comment briefly on the letter sent to you by
the Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Bernardo Alvarez,
in connection with such Resolution. As a Venezuelan citizen and a lover
of democracy, I wish to say that the Ambassador’s letter is a sad
example of how our Venezuelan foreign service, mostly staffed by
political appointees, is being utilized to justify aggressions against
Venezuelan democracy. Examples:

1.) The Ambassador says that RCTV’s license expires May 27, 2007. This
claim is based in article 1 of Decree 1577 of May 1987, fixing a
20-year life for licenses being issued at that time. What the
Ambassador fails to mention is that article 3 of the same decree
stipulates that such licenses will be automatically renewed unless
there are legal, formal reasons not to do so. Such reasons simply do
not exist against RCTV, the oldest TV station in Venezuela with a
record of 53 years of continuous operations.

2.) The Ambassador claims that such an act is simply “a regulatory
issue.” If this was the case, all other TV stations in the country,
including the government controlled Channel 8, would have to be subject
to the same treatment, since they all share the same legal status. The
selection of RCTV is clearly the result of a personal act of revenge by
Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chavez, against the owners and staff of
RCTV, who have maintained a firm position of civic and political
dissent against his undemocratic attitudes.

3.) The Ambassador claims that such a decision “‘will allow for wider
access to the Media and will expand the diversity of news, opinion and
entertainment available to all Venezuelans.” Such a statement is an
offense to the intelligence of the reader, since the elimination of an
independent TV station in any country cannot lead to more “diversity”
or more “access” to the media.

4.) The Ambassador claims that the controversy surrounding this case
“has been caused by disinformation by the Media.” Our country has
witnessed the arbitrary manner in which this case has been handled by
the regime of Mr. Chavez. Thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the
street in protest against the action of the government. 81% of
Venezuelans polled reject this measure. All over the world, even in
those countries and press that have shown some sympathy for the
Venezuelan regime, this action is being unanimously condemned. This is
not the product of disinformation but of indignation against such a
gross violation of democratic principles.

5.) The Ambassador suggests that the new station will be dedicated to
“public service.” He obviously does not know that a public service TV
station should be, by definition, independently run and non-political
in nature. What Mr. Chavez truly wants is to add a new station to the
collection of five TV stations, more than one hundred radio stations
and almost two hundred newspapers, magazines and other publications
already politically controlled by the government, not to mention the
myriad of websites promoted by the regime, some of them through the Venezuelan Information Office (VIO) established by the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington for political propaganda purposes.

6.) The Ambassador claims that “since 1976” RCTV has been sanctioned by
“violations to the regulations, including the transmission of
pornographic material,” and mentions its role in April 2002, when
President Chavez was briefly ousted from power by members of the
Venezuelan military High Command, led by General Lucas Rincon, who is
currently Chavez’s Ambassador to Portugal. The Ambassador cannot claim
past violations, if they ever existed, to justify this current
decision, since it is clear that such violations, if they ever existed,
should have been by now legally settled. As for the April 2002 role of
RCTV the whole country knows that all Venezuelan independent TV
stations behaved in the same manner, showing how Chavez had ordered the
armed forces of Venezuela to act forcefully against the popular
protest. It was as a result of this act of aggression against the
Venezuelan people that Chavez was asked to resign by the Venezuelan
military High Command in April 2002.

7.) The Ambassador claims that “The Supreme Tribunal of Justice” of
Venezuela has passed a “definitive” sentence in support of the action
against RCTV by the Executive power. This is technically incorrect
since the Tribunal is still “considering” the legal recourse by the
owners of RCTV but, what is really important, is that the Supreme
Tribunal of Justice of Venezuela is only a submissive appendix of the
dictatorship that exists in my country today and not an independent
power. There are no independent powers or institutions in today’s
Venezuela and, therefore, no hope of fair treatment for the citizens of
my country who are not aligned with the regime.

8.) Ambassador Alvarez is ill informed about the Venezuelan media. He
claims, for example, that “of 118 newspapers in Venezuela, 118 are
controlled by the private sector.” He does not know that there is an
official government-controlled newspaper, VEA, as well as many other newspapers, such as Maracaibo’s Panorama
that, although owned by the private sector, are strictly under the
political control of the regime. The same consideration applies to the
dozens of “community” radio stations promoted by the regime, often
engaged in the sowing of social and, even, racial hate in my country.
During the Chavez years in power he has imposed on Venezuelans, in
violation of our freedoms, about 1,520 national media linkages (cadenas) so that he can speak to the nation on mostly unimportant, always politicized topics.

If the Ambassador wants to visit with you regarding this matter he
should accept sharing the visit with Mr. Marcel Granier, the head of
RCTV, so that the Senate can hear the two versions of the story,
although it is clear from your proposed, bipartisan, resolution that
the Senate already knows the truth about this issue. As an independent
and free Venezuelan I can say that the closing of RCTV is a clear
example of the existence of a dictatorship in Venezuela. Venezuela is
rapidly becoming a rogue state, firmly aligned with the worst examples
of totalitarian regimes in our planet: Cuba, Iran, North Korea,
Zimbabwe, Syria and Belarus.


Gustavo Coronel

Administrative Hall admits RCTV case, but does not grant injunction against Sunday shutdown

May 24, 2007

Strange (and long!) decision by the administrative Hall of the Venezuelan Supreme Court admitting the case of RCTV but refusing to grant an injunction because they have not studied the details of the administrative procedure which Conatel followed in 2000. I thought it was precisely in such cases that an injunction was warranted: Courts grant injunctions to protect your rights while the details of the case are being studied. In a very circular and convoluted argument the Court says that nothing guarantees RCTV the right to have a concession thus until they look at the case, it is just tough, but you will be shutdown next Sunday.

Thus, the stage is set for the autocrat’s decision to become reality. It all seems so carefully staged. First the Constitutional Hall refuses to look at the case the week before the shutdown, saying that this is an administrative case and that they could not find anything in the case file saying their rights had been violated. I guess the members of that Hall don’t watch TV where Hugo Chavez has been announcing the closure without giving the right to RCTV of either defending itself or following the the path established in Venezuela’s legislation. I guess RCTV should have sent some videos along.

Unfortunately my intuition that nothing would stop Chavez from this blatant violations of the rights of RCTV and our rights to choose will be consummated on Sunday. I could care less for RCTV’s programming, but I do care less for VTV’s or the pablum we will be fed by this contraption that is being given the concession this Sunday. What I do know is that there will be fewer outlets for opposing views to the Government. I have seen dissenting voices being quieted down slowly over the last few years, we now get this giant act of suppression of dissent. It is now a matter of who is next, whether Globovision, the Internet or whatever the autocrat decides bothers him.

Whatever happened to Chavez calling private broadcasting station the Four Horseman of Apocalypse? How come only one horseman is being sent to the slaughterhouse? Easy, some of them have become very docile, so that they can keep making money. Others are protected by the fact that shutting more than one TV channel at once would be too obvious. But the “legal” case, if it exists against RCTV, would apply to all the stations, a point to often forgotten and obviated by the fanatics that claim the procedure is legal.

So the noose gets tighter all over. People are looking into moving their phone and Internet service away from CANTV and the Government’s prying eyes, getting more cable channels which the poor have little access to, just as protests are not carried by the rsurviving media. It will be word of mouth or maybe as in Petkoff’s Editorial, we will begin using smoke signals or maybe the old Dixie cups tied with strings. Fortunately technology is different these days. Hopefully somebody will take the time to write a guide and tell us how to protect our rights and privacy in the future from this Government, from browsing, to email to contacting each other it looks like we will need a lot of help in the future. Are there any takers? I would glad to translate any useful material and post it.

Thus, alea jacta est, in another remarkable step by Hugo Chavez, the man who some claim is a Democrat but discusses nothing and talks to nobody, a man who claims to support participative democracy, but has reduced the levels of participation, a man who true to his military origins is closer to Pinochet and Fujimori in both ideology and practice that anyone thought possible. However, the institutional and legal destruction in Venezuela has been much higher and the factors that led to the demise and self-destruction of those Dictators seems remote in our country. It is indeed a sad moment in our country’s history, one that I would have never thought I would see in my lifetime.