Archive for June, 2007

The end of Venezuela as I know it

June 6, 2007

A blogger, in English, from within the student movement:

The end of Venezuela as I know it

A priceless statement on the RCTV shutdown by a Government adviser

June 6, 2007

Dorothy Kronick wrote this excellent article  in the American Prospect (worth the short free registration to read the whole article) on the RCTV shutdown, which contains some very interesting tidbits about it, like the “new” justifications for the end of the concession, such as the fact that the Minister of Communications said that RCTV had the “highest quality bandwidth” of any station and that is why it was singled out.

But for sheer ignorance of democratic principles, fair play, equality, the law and the like, nothing beats this cynical statement by Temir Porras, an adviser to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. As they say in those ads, simply “priceless”:

Temir Porras, who began working in the Chávez government in 2001 and is
currently an advisor to the minister of industry and commerce, has a
similar view.  “Of course there are political motivations, and I
support that.  A media outlet should not adopt one particular political
line,” he said in an interview. “Venevisión and Televen, for economic
reasons, realizing that Chávez will be around for a long time,
re-accommodated their political line after the coup.  RCTV and
Globovisión didn’t.  They forgot that their existence depends on
Chávez. I am sure that when the Globovisión concession expires, Chávez
will not renew it — we can say that right now.  Unless, of course,
they try to moderate their tone, which would make them look rather
ridiculous.  Essentially, those that collaborate with the government
project will be left in peace — that can be said about media outlets
as much as landowners or other actors.”

Cuban style exploitation by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

June 6, 2007

Cuban style exploitation by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Information coming from Barinas tells of a large numbers of Cuban workers that were hired to accelerate the construction of the soccer stadiums for the upcoming America Cup

Cuban workers are also the only ones working at that mysterious “city”that is being built near Carayaca. Those Cuban workers should be the concern of the local criollo unions.

With the complicity of the Chavez Government they are being subjected to a truly salvage exploitation, of the pre-capitalist savage style, a feudal savage style, which would make you laugh at the neoliberal type. They do not contract the workers; the Cuban state does it from them.

They receive as payment less than the Venezuelan minimum salary and the Cuban Government charges for each worker US$ 600, of which the worker and his family in Cuba, see nothing but US$ 20, in pesos. They are true servants of the master, depending on the feudal lord of the Cuban state. Exploitation, extraction of added value, sneaker than this one, does not exist in any other country n the world.

Venezuelan union leaders, specially those from UNETE, which supports Chavez and has an internationalist duty, because of that which says that the proletariats from the world have to be united, and since they have nothing to lose but their chains, should go and aid their humble Cuban proletariats, subjected to such a savage exploitation. They should do it even as self-defense, because that is the relationship, which “I the Supreme” wants his Government and his party to have with the working class. He has said it even. The unions, that is, the organized working class has to be subordinate to the party. , which now is the same as the Government and the Sate. Chavez does not want unions that represent workers in front of their employers, but he wants them to represent the Government in front of the workers. He wants neither complaints nor collective bargaining agreements.

I remember visiting, many years ago, a workers Assembly at a Cuban company. They complained that they had been requesting the building of a locale for chemical products, because not having it threatened their health. They asked me to say a few words. I said that if Cuban workers could exercise the right to strike, that locale would have been built three years before. There, at that moment the assembly ended. “Thanks to the Venezuelan comrade”

The union leader of the company, by the way, was in the Presidium, together with the General manager, and his voice was not that of one of the workers, but that of management.

That XXth. Century Socialism is the one Chavez wants for his. Unions that are there to watch the interest of the State-employer and not that of the workers.

As an old extreme-left Venezuelan used to say, when referring to the Polish workers of “Solidarity”: “Those are not strikes, because the workers can not strike against themselves.” It was not cynicism, but innocence. Cuban workers, over exploited and mistreated, deserve the solidarity of Venezuelan union members.

Chavez wants to buy himself a revolution by Joaquin Vilalobos

June 6, 2007

Joaquin Villalobos of Salvadorian guerilla fame, wrote this interesting article about Chavez and his revolution, although I do not agree with a few things he says, a lot of them are right on the money and I thought it was worth translating it.

Chavez wants to buy himself a revolution by Joaquin Vilalobos

With a lack of conditions and credentials to make a revolution, the Venezuelan President relies on provocations. The closure of RCTV, his last act of brave arrogance, has reverted against him the process of accumulation of strength and revitalizes an opposition that was demoralized

Normally parents punish their kids banning them from watching TV, however Cubans when their kids behave badly, are forced to watch state TV. Chavez has made a grave error in shutting down a pro-opposition TV station that had been on the air for more than half a century. Like it or not, this was not an attack on the capitalist meditatic power, but a direct hit to the cultural identity of Venezuelans that will have severe implications for the Government.

To pretend to replace soap operas and the entertainment of the poor with pathetic “revolutionary” programming is as grave as leaving them without food.

The starting point of this and other mistakes by Chavez is to believe that he has made a revolution, while all he has done is simply to have won elections and this did not happen because of his accomplishments, but for the errors and arrogance of an opposition that has many jewels and not much popular backing. This helped him get an electoral majority that allowed him to control institutions and change some rules, but it has not given him sufficient correlation to impose a drastic ideological turn like he is pretending.

There has been no revolutionary rupture in Venezuela, like there was in Cuba and Nicaragua, where democracy had no precedent.

In Cuba the change was violent and complete, all of the institutions were founded again and up to today, there is no opposition, nor elections, nor freedom of the press, nor private property.

In Nicaragua the change was equally violent, even if it damaged freedom of the press, elections and private property survived.

Venezuela may have an extreme crisis of polarization or a prolonged period of unrest, but not a revolution. When that happens political violence takes preeminence first as a rebellion and later with a counter-revolution. In Venezuela, political violence continues to be more verbal than real.

Sleeping with the enemy

Forty years of pacific alternation built a democratic culture among Venezuelans that up to now has managed to block political violence. In Venezuela there is a weakened legality, but there is legality. The mistake of the opposition coup in 2002 was precisely to ignore the importance of this. It is not easy to overthrow Governments and it is also not easy to radically and coldly modify the pillars of a preexisting system. A revolutionary rupture creates a situation of great social exaltation that, for better or worse, opens spaces to change many things, including ideological or cultural topics, very sensitive in a society, however, these are the hardest to change.

Ant-capitalist revolutions emerged more from dictatorships than from poverty. In Venezuela there was no dictatorship and poverty was not important in Chavez’ ascent, even if is today to defend him. All revolutions are austere and this is not known by Venezuelans from either the right or the left. Venezuela is neither an industrial, nor an industrious capitalist country, but rentist and consumerist. Chavez is strengthening the economic role of the State redistributing oil income and forming new economic elites via populism, business opportunities and corruption.

All of this is neither new, nor a revolution, nor is it socialism.

Chavez does not have a revolutionary party but a fragmented political structure, composed by a diverse ideological mix. To his right are the military, to his left some intellectuals and below him a multicolor base. To turn that into a party implies to confront a whole bunch of leaders who are accustomed to express their dissent. Chavismo has done something positive in giving power and identity to thousands of Venezuelans that were excluded but its political structure is not cohesive neither by its ideology, nor by its history, but by oil income. Chavez does not have a revolutionary army; on the contrary, the Army has defeated him twice (1992 and 2002). The current complicity of the Army depends on weapons purchases, which are not in preparation for combat but lucrative corruption, and are precisely these privileges that shutdown the path to revolutionary ideas.

The Venezuelan army will not kill nor die for Chavez.

Fidel Castro survived innumerable attempts on his life, Ortega led a triumphant insurrection and Evo Morales jumped from the barricades to the Presidency.

Chavez, on the other hand, sells oil to the Americans, in two occasions has surrendered without fighting and sleeps with an enemy’s army. This pushes him to use provocations that allow him to obtain his revolutionary credentials, at least with an insult of Bush. The attacks strengthen him and his tolerance weakens him. He needs external enemies that help him hide the corruption of his civil servants, the incompetence of his Government, the divisions among his ranks and the insecurity in the streets of the country.

With the closure of RCTV, Chavez is reverting against him the process of accumulations of strengths and is revitalizing a demoralized opposition.

Perhaps Chavez may make changes in Venezuela, but he will never be able to eliminate elections and in these, there are no unmovable majorities, nor eternal alliances, nor insurmountable fraud. The money from oil can help Chavez to do many things, but it will never allow him to buy a revolution.

Government feels the heat and the impact from student demonstrations

June 6, 2007

Well, the Chavez administration must be feeling the heat by now, given the performance of the Deputies of the National Assembly today. The students have by now moved their fight beyond freedom of speech and RCTV to turn it into a discussion of all civilian rights for all Venezuelans and without discrimination. And the message seems to be getting across as the members of the National Assembly held a press conference which was diametrically the opposite of what the Chavista Deputies said last week about the student demonstrators.

As they invited the students to go to the Parliament on Thursday, the Deputies praised them for their ideas and proposals, saying their movement was authentic and will contribute to the discussions. They said they would of course invite them, as this is what they do regularly with Venezuelans from all walks of life (Did they hear anyone on the RCTV shutdown?). It was all niceties, filled with phrases like “Venezuela for all”, “these bright kids”, “authentic” and the like. And most of the words were spoken by none other than Cilia Flores, the wife of the Foreign Minister, who was one of the members of the Cabinet that blasted the students the most last week, calling them preppies, arrogant and manipulated.

Clearly, polls must be telling the Government something that they have changed so much in so little time. Lost in the intensity of the student demonstrations was the fact that at the University of Los Andes, the movement led by Nixon Moreno, the same man that is currently requesting asylum at the Vatican’s Embassy, beat the Chavista group by more than a three to one margin.

The students are definitely mad at the politicians. In press conferences today, they reiterated that they are owed an apology by both the National Assembly members and other members of the Government. They also began talking about the fact that the Chavez Government has placed social rights above civil rights, but has delivered little on social rights, while forgetting the importance of civil rights. Thus, they said discrimination is rampant on the part of the Government and the way they have been treated has shown that. They said they want this to stop and will march and demonstrate until it is stopped.

The Government is looking for a way to neutralize the protest. Initially they tried repressive action, but it backfired as the children of revolutionary officials are part of the protests and Venezuelan police has always been quite abusive of demonstrators so that given them a free rein to control the crowds led to excesses and repressive actions that have affected the image of the Government in Venezuela. A second strategy has been to delay permits, but while this worked well on Friday, did not work on Monday and there may already be problems with tomorrow’s “Universities”march. After not allowing that march today, now the Mayor of the Libertador district is saying he has received no request for tomorrow’s march.

For the Government the problem is critical, after Chavez sailing for the last six months with his whims and wishes, Enabling Bill, nationalizations, secret discussion of Constitutional reform and the like, the student movement represents a significant stumbling block on his path and is suddenly very well organized. The path to indefinite reelection and other reforms of the Constitution, the fight for control of the Universities and even changing laws under the Enabling Bill, will now become a difficult battle for the autocrat.

Even worse, any misstep along the way, like excessive force on demonstrators or a move against a media outlet, could increase international pressures, which while irrelevant at the end of the day for the outcome of the confrontation, seem to matter quite a bit to the Government and thus would like to avoid them.

For now, the students are ready to take things one day at a time, as the Government feels thei heat and the impact of their demonstrations.

The pathethic People’s Ombudsman once again fails to defend the people’s rights

June 5, 2007

And you have to wonder about that little pathetic man, the People’s Ombudsman German Munadarain , whose position in Spanish is called “The People’s Defender”, but who seldom is seen around when it is time to actually defend anyone’s rights. Yesterday he suggested he was actually outraged at the Human Rights Committee of the OAS for having the audacity to request a list of those detained during last week’s demonstrations.

According to Mundarain, the OAS Committe (CIDH), composed by only people with a track record in the defense of human rights, “invaded” its own functions, when it asked for the list of those students detained during last week’s demonstrations. Mundarain hilariously said that he had to protect the honor of reputation of people and even more hilariously he said that those detained were just those that overstepped the law.

Well, first of all, I wonder where Mr. Mundarain was when the same “honor and reputation” as well as the privacy and human rights were violated and invaded by the Chavez administration via the infamous Chavez/Tascon/Maisanta database which not only contained the names and addresses of over four million Venezuelans who signed the recall petition against President Hugo Chavez, but it also had a list of all of Chavez’ “supporters” classified by their participation in the Government’s “misiones” as well as their participation in recall processes against non-Chavista officials. This list was used to discriminate, fire, deny basic Government services and in hiring and contractual decisions. The list was so perverse, that you could select a voting center and click on a button called “Patriots” to identify those that the software classified mathematically as being pro-Chavez. This list was used for two years in blatant fashion and is still in use today by teh Government, even though Chavez himself “ordered” this fascist use of the list to stop, as it had been “enough” in the Dictator’s own words.

And where was Mr. Mundarain when all this happened? How about the honor, reputation and rights of those that were discriminated and identified using this devilish tool of the Chavista Government? He never said anything, investigated anything or even publicly said anything about it.

And if the OAS’ Human Rights Commission is asking for information is because there has been so little of it. First of all, hundreds were detained for over 24 hours and held incommunicado in violation of the country’s laws. Second, many were charged with blocking the streets which in itself is not a crime in Venezuelan law. But more importantly, even today the discrepancies between the numbers given by the Prosecutor’s Office (only 130 detained during last weeks’ demonstrations) and those of Mr. Mundarain’s office (276 people detained during the demonstrations), leave a lot to be desired. Moreover and very curiously, not a single policeman has been charged, despite the fact that there are dozens of pictures showing police officers carrying concealed weapons during the demonstrations, which in itself is a crime, without regards to the violent repression of the demonstrators in many instances as well as the practical news blackout by the official media.

If Mr. Mundarain were doing his job, truly defending the people and not his job, then the CIDH would not have to request any information. Until he is changed or imprisoned, Venezuelans only have the legal intervention of the CIDH of the OAS to defend them, because the People’s Ombudsman has miserably and totally failed his mandate in the last seven years.

Another hard hitting report by Reporters without Borders on the RCTV case.

June 5, 2007

Reportes Without Borders (RSF) released its final report on the visit to Venezuela to look into the RCTV case and once againm I found the report expertely written, these guys not only understood the issues but wrote about them once again with extraordinary precision. The report entitled : “Closure of Radio Caracas Television Consolidates Media hegemony” goes right to the point and details why the move was simply political:

“Reporters Without Borders went on a fact-finding trip to Venezuela from 24 to 28 May, meeting with national and foreign journalists, media owners, media specialists, human rights activists and political analysts. It was at RCTV on the day it stopped broadcasting. Its requests for meetings with government officials and representatives of public and pro-government media went unanswered. Their silence was as eloquent as the comments of the people it did meet, and tends to confirm that RCTV’s closure was not just an administrative measure. On the contrary, it was a political move, one that establishes government hegemony over the broadcast media and constitutes a grave danger for editorial pluralism. It also revealed a new aspect of this political system known as “Chavism” – one that could be called media hegemony.”

“Imagine yourself with a TV remote control, zapping between five or six TV stations all showing exactly the same images of the president giving a speech. This bizarre situation is the almost daily lot of Venezuelans. The president’s speeches rarely go on for less than three hours and some go for seven if he is feeling inspired. Far from limiting himself to cutting ribbons at openings, making the occasional formal address to the nation or praising the recipients of awards, Chávez delivers dissertations. “

“The licence did end on 27 May but RCTV could under the law request its renewal. Venevisión, whose licence expired on the same date, succeeded [on 23 May, the same day that the supreme court’s constitutional division rejected RCTV’s appeal] in being able to continue to broadcast for another five years.” What is the reason for this different treatment?

“Let us sum up. Complete control of the state, government and armed forces. No opponents in parliament, as the opposition boycotted the 2005 legislative elections. A ruling party that is virtually the only party. Twenty-two out of twenty-four state governors who are entirely loyal. And soon, a largely neutralised civil society.

By closing RCTV and above all by taking its equipment for Tves, Chávez has tightened his grip on the last bastion that was holding out – the media. “

“As the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuelan decided unilaterally to close RCTV;
Reporters Without Borders intends to refer the case of RCTV to the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose next session will be in Geneva from 11 to 18 June, to the UN special rapporteur for freedom of expression and to the Council of Europe. The press freedom organisation also intends to refer the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights IACHR) and to its special rapporteur for freedom of expression and information. Referring the case to the IACHR obliges the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to cooperate with the commission and attend any hearing it convenes.”

It’s certainly nice to know some people dig in and “get it” in contrast with this reporter who in very unethical fashion and even though he claims to have lived in Venezuela, managed to selectively ignore some of the most important facts of the case, such as the fact that there were other stations involved and not a single legal decision has ruled against the  TV station. In fact,  the only legal decision on what happened in 2002, was handed down by Chavez’ hand-picked Supreme Court, when it ruled in the case of the Generals involved in Chavez’ departure, that on that date there was a  “power vacuum” and not a coup.  In fact, it was a Chavez’ Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, who later became his Minister of Defense, who came on TV and told Venezuela and the world that Chavez had resigned. Without that, none of the events of Chavez departure in 2002 would have occurred. The Chief of Staff was never  asked by the Prosecutor to explain why he did what he did on that fateful day.

Government tries to pull fast one on students, but they march, while Venezuelan officials bicker with the world.

June 4, 2007

Once again the Government tried to pull a fast one on the students today, but they did not fall for it and they ended up marching via the route they had originally proposed. Essentially, the students proposed one route and the Government said that a group from Chavez’ party PUSV had requested to march somewhere nearby before them and they were approving an alternative route, designed by the authorities, which went via the road near the mountain.

The students balked, saying that it was their right to march and propose the route and the Government had no right to change it or not, it had to approve or not and they would not yield on that point. They also argued that they were being manipulated and discriminated against as nobody knew about the other activity. While negotiations were taking place, the terrorists shown in the pictures above dealt with the cops and National Guard who were out en force.

Eventually the students managed to win their argument and their march began according to the original plan of going to the Supreme Court via the city streets, in public view and where they wanted. Once there, a delegation of leaders from the universities represented at the march met with some of the Supreme Court Justices. They handed the Justices two injunctions, one requesting that their civil rights be protected and they not be discriminated against. They handed in a second request for an injunction, asking that the Court protect their rights to protest everywhere they want, including upcoming demonstrations in public squares in Caracas that have become Chavista enclaves, where opposition people can not go and protest without Chavista groups attacking them.

The students praised the members of the Court that met with them, emphasizing the difference in the way they were treated today, with the way the members of the Cabinet and the National Assembly have so far treated their protest. Thy said both the Cabinet and the National Assembly had disregarded them, insulted them and in general treated them with the same discriminatory and patronizing style that Hugo Chavez has promoted in the last few years. In contrast, the Supreme Court Justices had not only been receptive but agreed that there is only one Venezuela and group of Venezuelans and there should be a single Government for all. The students who spoke were quite articulate and forceful and it was nice to hear them calling for a Government for all with respect for civil liberties and no discrimination.

While all of this was going on Foreign Minister Maduro and Secretary of State Rice clashed in Panama at the OAS meeting. Maduro said the closing of RCTV was an internal matter, which conflicted with Chavez on TV last night on an obligatory nationwide broadcast having Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega sign a proclamation backing the shutdown of RCTV.

Meanwhile Chavez was losing friends quickly. Today, the Spanish Government, one of the friendliest towards Chavez, asked the Venezuelan Government to reopen RCTV, saying there is no justification for the measure and this can not be done in a democracy. There has been no response as yet from the Venezuelan Government, which is still bickering with another ally, Brazil, over a declaration by that country’s Senate on the closing of RCTV. While President Ignacio Lula Da Silva of Brazil had avoided the controversy, Chavez insults to the Brazilian Senate have now led him to answer twice to Chavez’ statements. Today Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin said that the Venezuelan Government had still tried to justify Chavez’ statements, suggesting the issue was not cleared up after the Brazilain Government called on Venezuela’s Ambassador to that country. Up to now, Lula Da Silva had been an unconditional supporter of Chavez and had tried to avoid controversy, but the recent spat now endangers Venezuela’s membership in the Mercosur trade group.

Laelia Purpuratas galore

June 4, 2007

When it is Laelia Purpurata season (a species from Brazil), you get daily surprises as the flowers come out really fast and the bulbs are thin, so you miss them sometimes. This happened this week, when I only noticed one of the bunches from the pictures below

Nice bunch of laelia Purpurata Delicata

Top left, Laelia Pupurata Werhauseri, right Laelia Purpurata Striata

Chavez clearly states he does not believe in democracy or his own Constitution.

June 4, 2007

And Quico tells us how Chavez does not believe in his own Constitution, or democracy for that matter, as he stated this weekend:

“They elaborate their system of ideas, their ideology and their ideas are those of bourgeois democracy: the separation of powers, alternation in power – they use that stuff to manipulate – representation as the basis of democracy: big lies!
That’s the ideology of that hegemonic philosophy that exercised
hegemony here in Venezuela for 100 years, and has exercised it in much
of the western world as well for 100 years.”

But we knew that, his acts always spoke clearer than his words. Hugo Chavez never believed in democracy except as a way of gaining his own personal power and becoming the dictator he is. Only fools still believe otherwise.