Archive for August, 2007

Revisiting Art. 344: Hard to believe the interpretation by Chavismo is what the legislators intended

August 23, 2007

Yesterday I discussed Art. 344 of the Venezuelan Constitution and suggested the opposition should concentrate on activating the vote in the upcoming referendum on having people vote on some individual articles (The Constitution allows this only in one third of the articles proposed for the reform). I also suggested that Chavismo would find a way of stopping this since the main objective of the reform is Chavez’ indefinite reelection and polls suggest 65% of the people reject this particular aspect, but this does not mean they would necessarily vote against the whole reform.

Well, no sooner had I said this, when today Deputy Carlos Escarra, said that Art. 344 of the Constitution does not say, as interpreted by many, that 5% of the people can sign a petition to ask for the article by article vote, but the proponent of the reform has to include it in the proposal. Since Chavez did not propose it, then, according to Escarra, the only recourse the opposition has is to propose an alternate project to modify the Constitution.

I am no lawyer, but I don’t buy it. There are too many inconsistencies with that interpretation. Let’s review the issue. Below is the article literally translated by me (minus some fluff such as both genders being included and the definition of registered voters):

344. The project for Constitutional Reform approved by the National
Assembly will be submitted to a referendum within thirty days following its
approval. The referendum will pronounce itself as a whole over the reform, but up
to a third could be voted separately, if it thus approved by a
number no less than one third of the National Assembly or if in the
initiative of the reform it had been requested by the President or
by a number of no less than five percent of registered votes.

Let’s concentrate on the second sentence. It says that the…”referendum will pronounce itself as a whole over the reform, but up to a third could be voted separately, if

it is thus approved by a number of no less than one third of the National Assembly….

or if if in the initiative of the reform it had been requested by the President…

or by a number of no less than five per cent of registered voters.

Now, in legalese, the subject of all that above is the referendum, which will be voted as a whole, unless one of three conditions occur.

The Assembly has not agreed to it, Chavez did not request, but…

a number of no less than 5% of registered voters can request it.

It does not say in my mind, that as Escarra suggests, when the initiative had been made by popular request…5% of the people can request an article by article vote.

Why? because it would appear to me that the two are unrelated. Art. 342 of the Constitution is the one that establishes that 15% (not 5%!) of the people can request a Constitutional reform. Escarra’s interpretation would say that Chavez can request it as part of his proposal that it be voted article by article, but the people can not include it in their proposal but instead have to do another petition, which requires only one third of the original 15%. Does not seem logical to me

This would thus appear to be inconsistent.

But it does reveal how bad the 2000 Constitution is due to the fact that it was rushed. For example, it establishes that one third of the article can be voted on individually. What happens if more than one group of 5% of the population asks for “their” one third of the article to be voted on individually? You can have three or four petitions like that. What do you do then?

One of the members of the Board of the Electoral Board agrees with this interpretation and will propose the CNE that it be allowed.

Thus, I reiterate that the opposition should concentrate in formulating and gathering a petition that should include a small number of articles to vote on individually. I would include only the one about the indefinite reelection, the one on private property and any other article that can be explained to people in very simple terms.


Minister of Information accuses NYT of working for Bush and interferring with Venezuela’s affairs

August 23, 2007

The Venezuelan Government called the New York Times  “one of the mediatic arms of George Bush’s Government” and called its Editorial “Mr. Chavez’ Power Grab” on the Chavez Government part of “an attack against democratic Governments, who in their feeling, attempts against its hegemonic interests”.

In the opinion of Minister William Lara, the Editorial which criticized the Constitutional reforms because they “undermine Venezuelan democracy”, are evidence that the attacks by that newspaper against the Chavez Government imply that the State Department is moving its pieces to attempt against Venezuela’s democracy.

Lara went even further saying this editorial was part of the US’s policy of getting involved in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

There you have it, the almighty NYT may be violating Venezuela’s laws. What next? Blocking it’s IP? Banning its reporter from the country? Fining the paper? Forcing it to register?

I think that at least Simon should avoid visiting any of the country’s creeks…you never know…

(Has Lara seen the picture above? They guy that took it should be jailed, no? We should have a caption contest, my choice :”The people’s revenge (Thanks M.))

The opposition should concentrate on activating Art. 344 of the Constitution for the referendum

August 22, 2007

Today, members of Primero Justicia went to the Electoral Board to request that the vote on the referendum to approve Constitutional change be a vote on each article of the reform, using Art. 344 of the current Constitution which says:

Art­culo 344. El proyecto de reforma constitucional aprobado por la Asamblea Nacional se sometera a referendo dentro de los treinta di­as siguientes a su sancion. El referendo se pronunciara en conjunto sobre la reforma, pero podra votarse separadamente hasta una tercera parte de ella, si asi­ lo aprobara un numero no menor de una tercera parte de la Asamblea Nacional o si en la iniciativa de reforma asi­ lo hubiere solicitado el Presidente o Presidenta de la Republica o un numero no menor del cinco por ciento de los electores inscritos o electoras inscritas en el registro civil y electoral.


Article 344. The project for Constitutional Reform approved by the National Assembly will be submitted to a referendum within thirty days of its approval. The referendum will pronounce itself over the reform, but up to a third of it could be voted separately, if it were approved by a number no less than one third of the National Assembly or if in the initiative of the reform it had been requested by the President or requested by a number of no less than five percent of registered votes.

(The one third above means that only up to one third of the article can be voted individually)

As cleverly noted by Virginia in the comments a few days ago, five percent is less than the number of dollars in the suitcase of the Maletagate, some 790,000 voters. This seems quite easy to achieve, those blacklisted by the Government already, like yours truly, could care less about being blacklisted a second time.

Since the Chavismo only cares about Chavez’s indefinite reelection in the proposed reform, they would fight this issue to death, proving their undemocratic colors. Thus, it is my opinion that the opposition should concentrate for now on this issue: Formally creating the petition required to obtain the signatures from the CNE and gathering the signatures. The CNE has to approve both what question is asked and how the signatures would be gathered, I would initiate this request now, even before the National Assembly had conducted its second and third approvals of the proposed reform. Since the proposal has 33 articles, I would just pick the two or three most important to the autocrat/Dictator and keep it very simple for the people to decide.

If this were to be done, Chavismo would panic. They know that 65% of the population opposes the indefinite reelection and they need the new Constitution approved fast so that Chavez can intervene the economy using the Enabling Bill before the middle of July of next year. Thus, this strategy puts them on the spot and God only knows what legal and undemocratic trick they will pull out of their sleeve to stop the possibility of an article by article vote.

Chavismo and the Constitutional coup have to be stopped, the only strategy at this time should be the steps required for gathering this petition.

Let Emperor Hugo show how naked he is!

Another step in the fraudulent change of the Venezuelan Constitution as Chavez’ Constutional coup moves forward.

August 21, 2007

The Constitutional coup that is being perpetrated on Venezuela’s democracy by Hugo Chavez and his cohorts continued in earnest today, as the farcical and fraudulent change of the country’s magna carta reached absurd levels.

Just as a remainder here are the steps followed by the autocracy so far in this process, including today’s developments:

1) Naming of a Constitutional Reform Commission with no legal basis to draft the changes without any discussion with anyone outside.

2) Chavez received the draft and still in secret worked on the document to remove and add his whims and desires without any consultation.

3) Chavez announced his proposed reform without discussing it with the commission desribeed on point 1). This happened one week ago.

4) The changes include modifications of the fundamental principles of the Constitution, which would require a Constituent Assembly composed of members directly elected by the people. Instead, Chavez proposes the National Assembly, 100% pro-Chavez modify the Constitution, which is only valid if the fundamental principles are not affected.

5) Today the National Assembly continued the fraudulent process, approving all of the proposed changes on their first discussion without any debate. Not one comma was changed. Even the basic principles of modifying laws were not followed. Yes, there were speeches, but none of the discussed the reasons for the changes, their contradictions or even their meaning. This despite the poor quality of the text handed out by the President.

6) A time limit of two months was imposed for the approval of the Constitution, despite the protest of pro-Chavez groups. There can be no time limit imposed on such an important change.

This is fraudulent, illegal and represents the completion of Chavez’ coup d’etat on the country and its laws under the guise of following some “democratic” steps. What Hugo Chavez did not achieve in 1992 with weapons and blood, he has now accomplished by deceit and treachery.

Watch now how Chavismo stops any possibility of voting on each new article of the Constitution at the upcoming referendum to approve the Constitution. If it were done this way, the only change that really matters to Chavismo, the perpetuation of Dictator Hugo Chavez in power with his indefinite reelection would never be approved by the Venezuelan people.

Not as bad as I thought

August 21, 2007

67%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2Dating Site

Political tuna for Peruvian tragedy

August 20, 2007

Jeez, I can’t believe I may be about to defend Hugo Chavez. You see, Peruvian newspaper El Expreso accused Chavez today of taking advantage of the Peruvian earthquake tragedy to distribute cans of tuna like the shown below, with a picture of Peruvian opposition leader Ollanta Humala and one of Hugo Chavez, with the text:

“In the face of looting, blockades, desperation and chaos. Solidarity with our countrymen”

“In the face of the natural disaster that shook Peru and particularly our region Ica, the Nationalist Peruvian Party with our leader Ollanta is present among you, together with our sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whose President is our brother Hugo Chavez, because the Peruvian Government acts in an inefficient, slow and heartless manner, without caring for the pain of the victims and leaving them at the will of hunger, thirst and hoodlums”

To me the language sounds very local, maybe it was financed by Hugo and that is why he is mentioned, but this sounds too specific and provincial to make me believe this came and originated from Venezuela.

Wonderful Species from Santos

August 20, 2007

Only had a couple of my own plants this weekend, but I have such a backlog of Santos’ pictures to show that mine can wait. Here only species, some incredibly nice ones.

Above left Cattleya Loddigessi from Brazil. On the right above a very rare Cattleya Lawrenceana concolor “Diana” from Venezuela.

Above left Cattleya Gaskelliana semi-alba. On the right Microphila Brysiana from Cayman Islands and Jamaica.

above left, Gongora Nigropunctata from Colombia and Ecuador. On the right Laelia Purpurata Werkhauseri from Brazil.

Thanks again Santos!

When Guaraira Repano, artificial islands and Chavez’ immortal autocracy take precedence over the people’s needs

August 20, 2007

Looking through the proposed Constitutional Reform, one of the most remarkable things is how irrelevant what is being proposed is for the average Venezuelan. How little the proposals have to do with the most important problems facing Venezuelans today. How irrelevant the whole exercise is going to be.

When Venezuelans are asked what their main problems are, they mention crime, employment and inflation in that particular order. Neither of these is tackled even indirectly, in the new proposed Constitution. If anything, one could say that inflation may be endangered by removing the independence of the Venezuelan Central Bank as it gives Chavez direct control over the country’s money supply and international reserves.

People always talk about how Chavez talks to the people and communicates with them. But does the average Venezuelan really care about the our sovereignty over the Caribbean Sea? Unless Chavez has plans to walk on water between his artificial islands, it would appear basically irrelevant.

Or do they really care about “the geo-human cells of the territory”, which will define a new vaporous concept labeled by Chavez as the “commune”? As Chavez’ old Miniser of the Interior would say about ONG’s, what do you eat those things with?

Or how about taking so much time and space in the proposal for the capital city of Caracas, which they are supposed to refer from now on as Bolivar’s crib or the more arcane “Queen of the Guaraira Repano” the name given to the Avila mountain by the Indians? In fact, my own personal poll shows that among educated Venezuelans, less than half admitted knowing what the term referred to before Chavez’ speech.

Or can the average Venezuelan really give a damn about the fact that the proposal will return Government financing for political parties, something Chavez himself removed from his 2000 Constitution and is now magnanimously returning because he now controls everything and can thus give this morsel away.? But wait, Chavistas know Chavez’ new political party PSUV is the only game in town and there will be plenty of money for its activities, so only opposition voters could believe this is a positive, But the latter just cringe at the idea of Chavez forever, so forget their votes!

And then of course is that proposed beauty of reducing the work day to six hours, as if the country was immersed in a productivity binge rather than the other way around. Or the fact that there is now a law forbidding the firing of anyone. So there is no chance the private sector will go on a hiring spree to compensate for the six hour day. More likely, those employed will now benefit from the overtime pay, costs will go up and only in the public sector will more people be hired to compensate for it. Thus, we can expect the number of public workers to increase from three to four million short trem, making a full sixth of the country’s population under the employment of an already inefficient Government. This is a sure recipe for failure and bankruptcy of our beloved country as the unproductive sector of the economy, i.e. the public sector, will draw most of the resources guaranteeing that when the price of oil comes down, there will be no money left for anything else.

And then what does the average Venezuelan, who owns very little personal property, care about the new and improved multiple definitions of property from public to social, from mixed to collective or the more sophisticated refinements of direct social property and indirect social property? And yes, there will be “private” property restricted to legitimately obtained goods, which can be easily be expropriated by the Government just to make sure you behave.

How does all this really affect the average Venezuelan who is more concerned with where the next meal is going to come from, that he or she may be mugged when he/she gets to the barrio and where the money will come to pay for the medicine the doctor ordered be taken?

But as prices go up daily, food shortages become the rule of the day and the much promised house/job/land is always given to your activist relative and not to you, you come to the end of the proposal and see that Chavez may be reelected indefinitely under the proposed Constitutional changes.

At least one thing guarantees that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change: The autocrat will be around forever, mismanaging, lying and promising the world to everyone.

After all, things could change for the worse, so more of the same may even give the average Venezuelan a sense of relief.

And who knows, Chavez may even promise that he will walk on the water between his artificial islands, in which case there will actually be two things in the Constitutional proposal that will at least keep the people entertained in the next few years.

A normal/bizarro day in Chavez’ Sunday variety shows in fours acts

August 19, 2007

Today President Hugo Chavez was his usual self in his Sunday variety show, always coming up with surprises to entertain the audience, threaten them and make everyone wonder about his sanity:

Act I: On the subject of why he needed so many new weapons, he said they are need for the guerrilla war against the US, including the recently acquired sniper guns with nightvision. Said Chavez: “Any American that goes up a creek, pum, pum, we shoot him”. I guess Eva has been warned! But more importantly, I wished he had explained to us the use of submarines or jet fighters in a guerrilla war, since he recently acquired so many of them.

Act II: On the subject of Maletagate, Chavez said that neither he, nor President Kirchner had to give any explanation on the matter of the US$ 800,000 brought by the now missing Guido Antonini. He blamed the whole scandal on the US once again, but in Argentina, the file on the case being investigated in Buenos Aires says that the order to send the money in the Enarsa plane with Antonini came from Chavez himself and was given at a lunch the day before!

Act III: Chavez let his imagination run. Since he can’t solve the basic problems of the country, like poverty, malnutrition, crime, the homeless and the like, he then escaped into his own Harry Potter fantasy world. He said he was going to build artificial islands all over the Caribbean sea to protect the 760,000 squared meters Venezuela had to the North and that nobody had ever cared about. He said these cities would eventually grow and be inhabited by thousands. (Gulags?)

Act IV: As his very special guest he had soccer player Maradona on the variety show. Maradona, a one time Argentinean soccer star and more recent drug addict, was greeted by Chavez as a great man. What a disgraceful example to Venezuela’s youth this man represents!

And thus another week of the bizarro/normal Chavez show went by leaving all Venezuelans eager to see what the autocrat may come up with for his next variety show.

From conucos to failed bond issues the Venezuelan Government shows its ignorance and lack of scruples

August 18, 2007

One of the most amazing things about Chavismo, is the total disregard for knowledge, studies and experience. In the handbook of Chavismo, anyone can do a job, even if they have bsolutely no qualification in the field or related fields. Even worse, they dare give “expert” opinions and make plans without having much idea of what they are talking about, sometimes either ignoring available knowledge or evidence, or going against what is known.

This somehow originates in Chavez’ need to have only loyal subordinates in key positions, which has led to a mathematician with no financial background being named Minister of Finance, an Urban Planner Minister of Planning and the use of active or retired military officers in a myriad positions for which they have no qualifications and the rotation of non-experts with no managerial experience from one position to another in very dissimilar areas.

In time, some of these same Government officials get so cocky, that they begin giving opinions as if they were experts and concocting explanations that are either outright lies or go against what is known, whether facts or studies, about a particular subject. It is linked somehow to the lack of scruples of Chavismo, as well as the feeling of power that they feel at being part of the robolution. They parrot what the autocrat says, lie in order to please him or to simply to justify their mistakes.

This all comes to mind because of a two events that took place this week that have left me simply speechless in this respect:

The Supreme Court President and the conuco: The President of the Venezuelan Supreme Court was not precisely named to her position because of her track record as a jurist. But she supports the “process” and the President and thus “earned” her position. However, this is not enough as other member of the High Court are always jockeying for position and conspiring to be named to that position. Thus, besides being loyal, he has to show it. Yesterday, as an example, she automatically gave her legal opinion on a case that may come in front of her Court, that anyone with any legal and ethical knowledge knows should not be done. But we are so used to that anyway, that it does not even shock anyone; I don’t think I have seen anyone criticize her for saying that if the proposal for a new Constitution is approved, Chavez’ Presidential term would automatically be extended by one year.

But yesterday, at a seminar on “A framework for sustainable development for agricultural food supply” Justice Morales went beyond belief when she irresponsibly stated “The conuco is the most perfect form of (agricultural) production and the only free model to insure the feeding of the people”.

There is so much ignorance in that compact phrase that Justice Morales should be ashamed of even thinking it. A conuco is the name given in Venezuela traditionally to the family plot of land. Originally, it referred to the fact that large landowners would give peasants the land surrounding their house to grow crops. Now, there are dozens of studies which show that the conuco is insufficient to provide for a typical rural family. It does not provide enough food or the variety of food needed and represents a fairly unstable unit. In fact, el conuco historically was used as a complement to the payment made by large landowners to the workers.

In fact, that is why people migrated to the cities, as technology became available, the conuco became even less competitive driving families to the cities. Thus, Venezuela today is 90% urban, the rural population barely represents 10% of its population and there is no turning back for this. Within this framework, how can anyone even begin to believe that the unit that is not sustainable for a single family will have the capability to feed ten of them?

But this is all part of the lore of Chavismo, promoted by the autocrat himself: Talk about land reform and giving land to the people, a very emotional issue in a country where the issue in reality only affects a tenth of the population. It is an example of populism at its best, take an issue which people relate to strongly even if it is irrelevant to their lives.

And the Head of the Supreme Court parrots the official line, but goes beyond it just to please the autocrat and protect her position. Does she know how wrong she was? Was she being cynical or ignorant? My feeling is that she knows little about the subject and improvised on this, going beyond the official line.

Who cares? It sounded good, sells the “process” and earns her brownie points with the autocrat which is all that counts.

The Minister of Finance and the failed Bono del Sur 3: Analysts had warned that the timing was wrong for the Bono del Sur 3. But the Minister of Finance is under pressure in particular because he had promised Chavez he could control inflation and the parallel rate and has not been able to do so. Thus, the Ministry rushed the issue to market on Monday and had to withdraw it. The decision was obviously wrong, it is hard to defend, so you might as well leave it at that.

Instead, Minister Cabezas holds a press conference to blame it all on the international markets and using lies to defend the point:

“There would have been no problem if it were only a Venezuelan issue, Venezuelan markets have not suffered, the Caracas Stock Market has not been part of the volatility. We had orders for US$ 1.5 billion already”

Once again, how can someone include so many lies and deception (ignorance?) in a single sentence? Let’s see:

-Venezuelan markets have been an intrinsic part of the volatility. The Venezuelan Global ’27 bond has gyrated even more than all emerging market bonds in the last two weeks, save for Argentina. But Argentina’s larger volatility was reduced to only the issue included in the Bono del Sur, precisely because it was part of it.

-The Caracas Stock Market is already down 22% for the year and 30% from its high. Moreover, because the Government forcibly took over two of its most important components in the first quarter of the year, it removed the only Venezuelan stock listed in the NYSE, isolating the local market to world jitters. More importantly, since Chavez took over daily volume in the Caracas Stock Exchange dropped from the US$ 10 million level to less than US$ 700,000 per day. Just as an example, in the month of June a single stock generated 70% of the traded volume.

-If the Bono had only been a Venezuelan issue, it would have required that it have a dollar denominated and traded component, since this is what investors are really interested in: Obtaining foreign currency. This would have required the cancellation of the issue also, since Venezuela’s sovereign bonds that trade abroad also dropped sharply on Thursday.

-The Minister refused to admit any criticism about the way the bond issue was handled, but there were many mistakes made, some out of ignorance: 1) There was bad timing, both seasonal and due to market jitters, and the Government had been warned about it.  (This blog said it before it was canceled and had said it before it was announced and can prove it!) 2) The Government increased the planed size of the offering by US$ 500 million, which made no sense if the issue could have faced problems. 3) The Ministry of Finance simply ignored the fact that the so called TICC indexed bonds counted as part of the quota that banks may have in foreign currency. This is sheer incompetence!

-The Government did not have US$ 1.5 billion in orders. Broker offices were empty and most of them were recommending their clients not to buy it, the numbers were just too clear. Moreover, no broker or bank had yet placed an order with the Venezuelan Central Bank.

Even worse, the Minister of Finance, rather than showing some humili
ty because of the errors made, replied to the criticism by being cocky and using language more in line with that of street bullies.

But we have become accustomed to Chavismo lying and bullying us around!