Archive for May, 2007

Some new flowers

May 28, 2007

Cattleya Warnerii from Brazil top left. On the right a very nice Cattleya Mossiae, a little past its prime.

Its Laelia Purpurata time, on the left not a very good one, but nice lip. On the right a nice rose one.

Brassavola Little Stars.


Hugo Chavez’ fake democracy

May 27, 2007

This is what Chavez’ democracy offers. Tonight was simply another step:

—A single man imposing his ideas, no discussion, no dissent allowed.

—A single “unique” party, either you join or you are out.

—No separation between the Government, the military and Chavez’ party.

—Unlimited Government funding for political activities of Chavez’ party, despite the Constitution forbidding this explicitly.

—No transparency, leading to rampant corruption.

—A National Assembly with a single party, which is still bypassed, so that the single man can legislate at will for 18 months.

—A project for Constitutional reform, which is kept secret and contains reforms that require a Constituent Assembly

—A handpicked (twice!) Supreme Court, to decide according to the autocrat’s wishes.

—A fascist, discriminatory list of the 4 million plus Venezuelans, which has all of those that signed to recall Chavez’ mandate. The “Enemy”.

—Electoral authorities, all hand-picked by the autocrat, without ethics and morals, whose “impartiality” has been unveiled over and over to have never existed.

—A people’s Defender, who defends only the Government, a Prosecutor who accuses only the Government’s enemies and does not stand up for the rule of law.

—Massive violation of human rights to those that oppose the Government.

—Tripling of crime in eight years of Government; the poorest are the main victims.

—Illegal confiscation of property, with no compensation.

—And today, tolerance for only a single voice for the media, it is either owned by the Government or simply silenced…

Power without limits, front-page editorial in El Nacional

May 27, 2007

Power without limits, front-page editorial in El Nacional

In the last few minutes of this night in May and with all of the musical notes of the Gloria al Bravo Pueblo of the National Anthem, Radio Caracas Television goes off the air. The TV station that for more than fifty years was one of the windows through which we peeked at our country and the world, will have been silenced. Tonight a fundamental stage in the history of our countrys communications will end.

A decision by the Executive branch determined the closure of RCTV, with the argument that the concession had expired. Behind the legal excuse, different factors are present. Beyond the rhetoric, it happens to be an eminently political decision with fatal future implications. Those capable of disagreeing or preserving their independence will have their concessions under threat and no new ones will be given to those that do not march at the rhythm of official ideology.

The measure shows a landmark without precedents in our country: the end of pluralism, on the one hand, and on the other, the growing monopoly of the information exercised by the audiovisual media in the hands of the State. That is what the shutting down of RCTV means. According to the Constitution, Venezuela should be a State with a rule of law, which promotes the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism. Today that is no longer the case.

Represenattive from Communications Ministry threatnes temporary shutdown of all the media for brodcasting a press conference

May 27, 2007

A few minutes ago a representative of the “Board for Social Responsibility” of the Ministry of Communications threatened the media with shutting them down for up to three days if they violated the Social Responsibility law otherwise known as the “muzzle” law.

Their crime? Broadcasting the press conference by the Inter-american Press Society (SIP) in which its President of that institution read a communique expressing their concerns that press freedom in Venezuela could disappear altogether. In the words of its President the representatives of SIP are here in a dangerous and delicate mission because of the RCTV case and in defense of freedom of speech.

Of course, the woman in charge of defending our rights says that this press conference incited people to commit crimes, since all the Government’s decisions were based on the law. This “defender” of our rights even managed to threaten the members of the Board of SIP, who are visiting Venezuela due to the shutdown of RCTV. Thus, according to her circular logic, anytime your disagree with something the Government says it’s done according to its interpretation of the law, the media can be shutdown for it!

You know what? I certainly hope they do shutdown all of the media, just so that there will be no doubt whatsoever of the type of fascist, dictatorial regime we are living under in Venezuela.

Notes from the Bizarro revolution

May 26, 2007

And in the bizarro revolution we read today that:

—The “Development” Fund Fonden was created to finance development projects and is banned from spending in local currency. Well, it turns out that last year it not only spent in local currency, but bought both old and new houses which were given to people that had lost their homes which violates the law that created it, but you could argue does something good even if it has nothing to do with development. But more interestingly, Fonden created a trust for the Ministry of Defense to purchase 15 multipurpose helicopters, 38 MI-17V5 helicopters, Kalashnikov rifles, AK-103 assault rifles, 24 SU-30 MK2 airplanes, long range radars and funds to establish a gunpowder factory.

—Day before yesterday President Hugo Chavez announced the creation of 28 new higher education institutions all of which, according to the imagination of the Autocrat/Dictator will begin functioning within one year. These institution will be comprised of 11 specialized universities, 13 state universities and 4 technical institutes. A surprised Minister for Higher Education, physicist Luis Acuna, says in today’s paper that there is no money for these projects. Another empty and unfulfilled promise by the autocrat. In any case, Venezuela needs more investment in education at lower levels. Higher education receives almost half of the education budget, which makes little sense.

—And how about actor Danny Glover, he finally got his payday for supporting Hugo Chavez as the autocrat gave the actor US$ 18 million to make a movie about Haiti. I guess Glover has no scruples for taking money away from the Venezuelan poor that he sobs so much for. In fact, imagine the impact those same US$ 18 million could have on the Haitian poor.

—And while the Minister of the Interior and Justice minimized on TV the mob assault on Globovision last night, where they are still waiting for him to send the police, the Mayor of Maracaibo issues a decree essentially forbidding any demonstrations this weekend in that city. I guess he has yet to read our Constitution and the rights it gives us, which he is violating.

Pro-Chavez group attacks Globovision network, police fail to show to defend it

May 25, 2007

A group claiming to be pro-Chavez, Marxist, Leninist, Bolivarian surrounded and harassed TV network Globovision in another clear threat to freedom of speech. Meanwhile the authorities “condemned the actions from far away and no police or any of the thousands of National Guards spread around the city to protect the “people” today showed up to defend the ioaltion of the media’s rights.

RCTV is out, is Globovision next?

Studens protest, the regime threatens and the Supreme Court confiscates RCTV’s property

May 25, 2007

So this morning students at two universities (UCAB and USB) began early to protest the shutdown of the RCTV network demonstrating peacefully, blocking the entrance to the university and chanting against the Hugo Chavez regime. After a while, other universities followed (UCV and ULA). The Minister of Interior and Justice called the protests small and said the largest was about 600 people, which did not match what was being seen on TV in Globovision or RCTV, the only two networks “actively” covering the protests.

Then, National Guardsmen in motorcycles and armored cars begin parading around Caracas, some near where the protests were taking place, other just parading around like the picture below left, which was taken near Los Ruices, far from any military facility or any university in what was a clear and direct effort by the regime to intimidate. (Notice the near 100 Guardsmen in motorcycles with anti-riot gear). The picture below right was at the Headquarters of Government station VTV, in charge of promoting Hugo Chavez and his revolution and not informing and entertaining the population.

Then the Minister of Defense going into a military parade comes in and says that “minority groups can not go against the majority feeling of the Venezuelan people to create uncertainty with the closure of RCTV, as if there was a majority support to the decision, which is in any case a legal decision and not one to be decided by popularity, but in any case, all indications are the illegal and political decision is highly unpopular, contradicting the Minister’s words. Meanwhile, as people begin checking the newssites on the Internet, Noticiero Digital, Megaresistencia and RCTV websites are taken down by denial of service attacks, the effects of which are still being felt hours later. This is compounded by problems with the CANTV network which take down some other news sites in what may be unrelated to the denial of serivce attacks, since all the others are hosted abroad.

Then the autocrat/dictator himself shows up at the military parade, the main focus of which is the new Russian planes. I had little tie to listen (or interest) to the speech, but what little I heard may have been Chavez at his nuttiest . While I will wait to have the transcript, the intimidation was there, dressed in military garb (which is illegal since he is not active), the President told his supporters not to worry that “his” new planes (on the right above) are flown by experts and carry bombs which these experts can drop with pinpoint accuracy on their targets. (Us?).

And then, as if this were not enough evidence and proof of how we have lost our rights and freedom in this country, the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court decides to “protect” the diffuse rights of the “people”, the same rights that it refused to protect in allowing the shutdown of RCTV, and essentially allows the Government not only to shutdown the network, but to take over the equipment rightfully owned by the owners of RCTV, all in the name of the “Law”. Gimme a f… break! This is a simple and direct confiscation of the enemy’s property, which goes beyond anything ever seen so far in the Chavez Dictatorship, as usual under the guise of “legality”.

There you have it, a President who is no longer military in military garb threatening the citizens, the National Guard intimidating protesters, the Minister of Defense threatening protesters and the Supreme Court confiscating the private property of a group whose concession has been illegally canceled to protect the “people’s rights”.

And some people still have the audacity to claim this is a democracy, the “script” today certainly proved otherwise. This is as totalitarian as modern Government’s can get without killing people.

And we can still see what is happening, imagine when we can’t! Coming soon in a city near us!

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.