Archive for March 26th, 2008

Colombian authorities recover depleted Uranium in the hands of the FARC as described in Reyes’ computer

March 26, 2008

Well, the most far fetched and explosive revelation of the Reyez computer was apparently confirmed today when it was revealed that the FARC did indeed have 30 Kilos of Uranium. While this will create a lot of scary headlines, the truth is that this was a commercial transaction, not an attempt by the FARC to build any type of nuclear device or dirty bomb.

You see, the Uranium found apparently is not enriched, i.e. it is mostly Uranium-238, rather than the enriched version Uranium-235 which would be required for a device. The Colombian authorities keep using the word “empobrecido” (impoverished) a term I had never heard, but which must mean depleted Uranium, what is left after Uranium is enriched and the enriched part is separated.

Thus, this may have actually have been a scam by the FARC to make someone naively believe that they could enrich this stuff. The possible buyer had to be fairly naive and/or stupid (Jeez, I can’t help having an obvious suspect, given this description!) given that depleted Uranium 238 is much less radioactive than even the Uranium found in nature.

One has to wonder where the FARC got this stuff, that should be a really interesting part of the never ending story of the stuff coming out of Reyes computer. I must say when I first read about it, I thought this was a far fetched plan by the FARC to obtain the stuff, but if confirmed, this proves the veracity of the material found in these computers.

Annoying details of the use of technology by the Exchange control office CADIVI

March 26, 2008

You have to wonder how the Government chooses technological suppliers. The case of CADIVI, the foreign exchange control office comes into mind, because from day one it has been a cumbersome system and it seems to get worse, rather than better with time.

First of all, while I commend the use of the Internet for all tasks, there is no way of having access to CADIVI dollars unless you have an email and Internet access. In a country like Venezuela, this is a discriminatory tool, because there is no alternative. While people who live in Caracas may find no problem finding a connection to the Internet, when 12% of the population is rural and only a fraction has direct Internet access, you may want to create more democratic paths to the whol thing. For example, you could have a paper mechanism whereby people supply forms to banks directly.

But I digress, the first point is that anyone requesting CADIVI dollars has to provide an email and register.

It used to be that you would try to enter the CADIVI page and you would have to wait a while, companies actually pay people to do it during the night and on weekend. But rather than spend some money in servers or hosting the CADIVI page in a hst with good bandwidth like banks do, the problems has never been resolved. A while back, CADIVI then decided to create days for access. Weekends are a free for all, but then depending on which number your ID card ends in, you can only try it on a certain day of the week. It still takes a long time to get in and I know people that have spent two or three weeks trying to get in to fill a form.

Ironically, this system is a lot like the “Pico y Pala” day that some Caracas municipalities tried to implement to reduce traffic, whereby if your license plate ended in a certain number you could not drive during the morning and afternoon rush hours. The Chavez Government opposed this strongly, as this was implemented in municipalities in the hands of opposition mayors. The Government opposed it on the grounds that it restricted the people’s right to move around and judges immediately and not surprisingly issued injunctions banning these days. Funny, that nobody has applied the same concept to ban CADIVI from limiting people’s rights to information, which is in the Constitution. But I digress again.

CADIVI has been abysmal about calling people to prove how they spent their CADIVI dollars. As business sprouted around requesting CADIVI dollars to take advantage of the arbitrage, it took a long time for CADIVI to wise up to it. Finally, they issued a list calling those in it to go to CADIVI and prove how they had spent their subsidy.

The first list was a violation of people’s privacy, it was public and it contained people’s names and ID number (Cedula). This is not only a violation of people’s privacy, but it provides information to crooks which now know your cedula number and could use it illegally.

In later lists, they removed the names to protect people’s privacy.

But what is truly annoying and absurd is the latest list of 60,000 people that have to provide receipts. Given that CADIVI has everyone’s email, you would think they would simply send everyone in the list an email telling them to provide the information. Instead, a 9 MB Adobe Acrobat file with 60,000 ID numbers and request number is placed on the already overloaded CADIVI website to make everyone’s life miserable. As hundred of thousands people attempt to download the list to see if they are in it, other trying to get in to request their money can’t do it and they lose their weekly chance to do it.

I don’t know who are the geniuses that run the CADIVI systems, but if after five years of exchange controls they are so bad, they should be fired. Unless of course, they got the contract because they had a buddy in CADIVI or they paid a bribe, God forbid!

Fortunately, this morning I got up to watch the Major League baseball game in Japan early and I managed to get the download going (It was still not done when I left for work almost wto hours later). I now have the list and can email it to all my friends who want to know whether they are in it. You see, the penalty if you don’t provide the receipts is one year in which you don’t get your quotas for Internet or travel and in a country where people are now obsessed from taking advantage of the Oligarco Burguesito arbitrage, that is much worse and uncool than having your rights violated by being in the Tascon Facist list.