Archive for January, 2009

Thick atmosphere of repression and lies, as protests continue in Venezuela

January 23, 2009

The whole week has been a remarkable show of what this Government is capable of. After Hugo Chavez gave his order to give the students the “good” gas if they began to protest, the police and the National Guard went overboard managing to gas students even before they began protesting and remarkably, even within their own campuses, as they prepared to go out, as was the case at Universidad Simon Bolivar.

If this was not enough, armed urban guerrilla groups which support the Government roamed free around the city, threatening protesters with their weapons and Government-produced tear gas canisters, while taking over the Metropolitan Mayors headquarters, without the Chavez Government moving a finger to stop it. Curiously, pro-Chavez students were allowed to march without any police blocking their way, in a clear demonstrations that for Chavez and his Government there are two different types of citizens.

But as Human Rights ONG COFAVIC reported, the police and the National Guard have been making use of inordinate amounts of force, including:

  • Massive use of high concentration and highly residual tear gas as well as the use of pellets from short range, which is expressly prohibited by international legislation on human rights.
  • Violent actions by armed civilian groups which affected workers of the Ateneo de Caracas and created security problems for the march by opposition students to the Supreme Court.
  • Arbitrary detentions which seek to criminalize actions of protest. 45 students have been arrested but the Courts ordered 40 freed and four were charged with resisting arrest and have to report regularly to the authorities.
  • Civilians are being accused in military Courts as was the case of two students charged with assaulting the country’s symbols. This is expressly prohibited by the Venezuelan Constitution, which defines the natural judges of the civilian population, as well as international human rights agreements.

Perhaps no episode best represents the abuses and lies of the Chavez administration that the case of the video shown by pro-opposition students yesterday. In the video, a uniformed man is shown, in a Government-made video, filling up bottles with a liquid and arranging them in very orderly fashion in a box in the back of a truck seized from the students. The man is then shown to get off the truck to give an interview to the Government’s TV station and it happens to be none other than the head of the Metropolitan police.

Once the video was shown, the Government began claiming that the Head of the police was simply showing the media the Molotov cocktails the students were carrying in the truck. This fails to explain why the man had to show how to use the bucket and funnel to fill the bottles or stick pieces of cloth into the bottles. Moreover, Molotov cocktails are seldom prepared in such orderly and pretty fashion as those shown by the official caught red-handed.(And the students are not that stupid to bring boxes of ready made cocktails in this tense atmosphere)

Yesterday, the Minister of the Interior said that he challenged the students to give the Government their “manipulated” copy of the video, suggesting they should be jailed if the manipulation was proven, but failing to say what would be his punishment if the video were shown to be authentic.

But the students were not intimidated and as the Head of the Police gave a press conference to ask that the Prosecutors’ office should open an investigation on the “manipulated video”, the students actually showed up at the Prosecutors office to hand over a copy of the video to prove their point.

But the Pinochian award of the day goes to former Metropolitan Mayor candidate Aristobulo Isturiz, who not only denied that Chavez had ordered anyone be gassed (despite videos), but actually seemed to get mad at the accusation. I guess just like Aristobulo said once that Chavez must be smoking something funny (Se fumo una lumpia, he smoked an eggroll),  he must be inhaling some really weird stuff these days.

Tomorrow is the 50th. anniversary of the overthrow of our previous dictatorial regime and the students will march to Plaza Venezuela, all permits have been approved and the CNE will send representatives to meet them there. However, with the short fuse the Government has had in the last few days, I can’t help but be concerned about what may happen tomorrow.


Alea Jacta Est: Hugo Chavez transfers US$ 12 billion from international reserves

January 22, 2009

Today, the fate of inflation and future devaluations was sealed when the Government formally announced that it had transfered US$ 12 billion from the Venezuelan Central Bank to the development fund Fonden. Quico has two excellent posts on why this is a huge negative here and here, thus I will not go into the details. It suffices to say that Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves are already at US$ 29.47 billion, while monetary liquidity (M2) at the official rate of Exchange stands at US$ 88.6 billion making the ratio M2/Reserves~3.

I looked at this ratio since 1994 and note that the only time it ever reached 2 before the Hugo Chavez Government was during the worst inflationary period Venezuela has ever enjoyed, which led to a huge devaluation and a very negative period for the Venezuelan economy. The fact that this ratio stands today at 3 is a predictor of another jump in inflation, already above 30%, for 2008 and the need for a devaluation sometime in our near future.

Alea Jacta Est for the Venezuelan economy and its citizens.

When Hugo Chavez was running for President…

January 21, 2009

From an article in Tal Cual, a gem of a quote:

“You see a demonstration of 30 people and they throw at them the whale*, the rhinoceros*, the police, and the National Guard goes out. A demonstration of nurses waving a flag starts, the police goes out with shielded helmets and they take the flag away from them and step on it, that is, the State, after February 4th. and November 27th., has established a dictatorial Government, ready to repress and the country is militarized and has been taken over by the police with weapons of war”.

Hugo Chavez in 1998 when he was a Presidential candidate.

* Nicknames of vehicles used to contain demonstrations.

Obama sends a message…

January 20, 2009

Pitiyanki in the comments notes this very clear message from the new President of the US:

“To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Can it be any clearer than that? I love the the build versus destroy part.

After Chavez gives the green light to repression, wholesale attacks on the opposition begin

January 20, 2009

After Hugo Chavez gave the green light to repress on Saturday using his “best” tear gas to repress students, violence against students and the opposition escalated sharply both yesterday and today, including attacks on the Vatican’s representation. It has been a wholesale attack on opposition symbols and the students, led by the police, outlaw groups that Chavez lets roam Caracas with weapons. Among the violent events:

  • Outlaw groups from the Tupamaro groups threw tear gas canisters (manufactured by the Venezuelan Government) and roamed outside in motorcycles, threatening them. The La Piedrita group, an armed urban terrorist group, the same one that attacked the home of Marta Colomina, claimed credit.
  • The car of a student leader from Central University was burned.
  • Explosive devices were thrown at Central University today when a student was giving statements.
  • Tear gas devices were thrown at the home of Marcel Granier, President of the group of companies which includes RCTV, whose local broadcasting license e was canceled by Chavez two years ago.
  • Armed Tupamaro groups entered teaching university UPEL, threatening to break doors and damage cars “looking for evidence”
  • As students were leaving the Prosecutors office, where they handed in a document on the escalation of the violence, they were attacked by pro-Chavez groups with home made explosive devices (niples)
  • At the school of Medicine of the University of Los Andes, police and students were clashing as I wrote this post.
  • Despite the clear leadership of Chavez and outlaw armed groups in the attacks, on official TV, the former (impartial?) President of the Electoral Board, former Vice-President and current Mayor of the Libertador district Jorge Rodriguez (accompanied by none other than Lina Ron) appears on TV saying it is the opposition that is causing the violence and inviting Globovision to tape it.
  • Armed Groups broke into the Metropolitan Mayor’s headquarters, using rifles and kidnapping employees of the incoming Ledezma administration. They are still holding the building, but we hear no threat against them. That is Chavista democracy at work, Ledezma won, but Chavez’ supporters don’t even allow him to get get into the building from where to run the city.

and the Government is already using Governmnet controlled media to call for a protest against Globovision tomorrow at 10 AM.

Remember my post about provocation? Get used to it!

The Riddle by Laureano Marquez

January 19, 2009

As usual, Laureano Marquez in Tal Cual writes a humor piece that is not that funny as it tries to explain the infamous question of the upcoming referendum and in the process shows how absurd the whole thing is with his fine humor.

The Riddle by Laureano Marquez in Tal Cual

Do you approve the amendment of Articles 160, 162, 174,192 and 230 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, processed by the National Assembly, which widens the political rights of the people in order to allow any citizen, exercising an elected position, that he can be subject to be nominated as a candidate for the constitutionally established time depending only his possible election on the popular vote?

I don’t know what it is you don’t understand. Everything is extremely clear. The question says:”Do you approve the amendment (…) which widens…” Who is not going to want to approve this widening, if it happens to be everybody’s dream? More so, if it deals with political rights. Which, one must say, is not the same “political right” than a “right politician”. Of the latter you find fewer of them each day. It deals with, the question adds, with the political rights of Venezuelans. Very concretely and very specially that of one citizen: Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, who has the right -all of the rights- to be not only lifetime President, but also absolute monarch, if the people so decide it. The only disadvantage which handing over absolute power to one man has, using the democratic process, is that there does not exist afterwards the democratic possibility of reverting his mandate, but those are small legalistic things of Constitutional Law, which have nothing to do with the case, because we have the certainty that he happens to be a good man.

Now, the question points out that the widening of those rights is made in the terms contemplated in the amendment. It is not necessary to explain if it is a small amendment, as the President says, or a huge one. An amendment is an amendment and the word itself tells you what it is, thus there is nothing to add on that point. What is it that we want to amend? Well, articles 230,160, 174, 192 and 162. Then, what is the need to say that the referendum seeks to the indefinite reelection of the President if it is extremely clear that it deal with just five tiny articles? Are we asking anyone if they want Chavez to stay forever? Never. Then, don’t say what it happens not be said. You can reach your own conclusion with that hateful word “indefinite”, which sounds absolutely horrible.

A little before it says: “processed by the initiative of the National Assembly”. There you may have the dilemma of what it is that is being “processed”, if it is the amendment, the Constitution or the Bolivarian Republic itself. If you still have any doubts just say it is all of them.

If you are reading the question, when it comes to: “widening the rights of the people,,”, take a breath so that you can happily reach and have some oxygen left at the end, which says:” in order to allow any citizen, exercizing an elected position, that he can be subject to be nominated as a candidate for the constitutionally established time depending only his possible election on the popular vote?

What this part means is that it will be allowed for any citizen, exercising an elected position, that he can be subject to be nominated as a candidate for the constitutionally established time depending only his possible election on the popular vote. That is exactly what it means, you don’t have to look for a malicious angle to it, nor add anything to it. What part don’t you understand? The proposal is clear and transparent. Perhaps the only thing your humble writer would propose at the end of the question, as a way of inviting people to the deep reflection that a participative process of this nature should have,  is that at the end we add a timid, but firm: Uhh?

That is my criteria with respect to this, unless my commander says something different and considers that is not well written. Which I would be in agreement with him, if that were to be his point of view. And I say it with all my responsibility and autonomy of criteria.

P.S. Mi heartfelt congratulation to the comrades of the National assembly for the show of courage during Chavez’ address to the Assembly. The self-control on bodily needs is another achievement of this process that has, as in everything else, the maximum leader as its main exponent. I will only criticize the Deputy that after the slogan “Fatherland, Socialism or Death” with which the President closed his speech, answered: We shall piss! I assume his subconscious gave him away.

Another proof of institutional control as Chavez shows his intolerance

January 18, 2009

While we all know that Hugo Chavez and his Government control all independent powers, they no longer even seem to care about appearances. While we know that the CNE is absolutely controlled by Hugo Chavez and they do whatever he pleases even if it in violation of the law and the Constitution, the recent actions of the CNE are absolutely ridiculous.


Yesterday El Nacional revealed that in December (Image above), the CNE ordered the printing of 295,000 instructional pamphlets for polling tables, and another 60,000 for the the members of electoral boards at a cost of Bs. 720,000 (US$ 334,000) and even if the National Assembly had not even yet considered the question or requested the upcoming illegal referendum, those pamphlets already included the date of the referendum as February 15th.

This shows that elections are no longer fair and the political rights of Venezuelans who do not support Hugo Chavez are routinely violated by the Venezuelan Government and its autocrat. Recall that it took the opposition eleven months between requesting the recall vote against Hugo Chavez in 2004 and the CNE found repeated excuses to delay and boycott the democratic rights of the opposition as well as the voters, forcing the petitioners to cross every t and dot every i at least twice.

This time around however, they have bent over backwards and satisfied Chavez’ illegal whim in record time, with five weeks between the time he first spoke about the possibility of a vote and the Electoral Board approving it. Moreover, the CNE says that they can hold the vote in four weeks. I am sure they can throw money at the problem and make it work, but there is a clear danger that not everything will be ready on time. (And Chavez will find a way to blame the opposition)

Because in the next for weeks the CNE has to reprogram all the voting machines, distribute them and have them checked. The logistics are not simple.

Chavez is so cynical that as four members of the Board of the CNE follow his every order, he accuses Board member Vicente Diaz of being a political actor of the opposition. All Diaz has done is ask that the law be followed. From not opening the Electoral registry, to allowing the question for the referendum, to not state explicitly what Chavez is asking for, to now violating the Electoral law by approving that polls stay open until 6 PM, the Electoral Board has simply become a joke.

Venezuelans have nobody to appeal to, the Supreme Court rules routinely on Chavez’ side even when the law and the Constitution are blatantly violated. You know something is fishy when the Venezuelan Supreme Court uses jurisprudence from Peruvian Dictator Alberto Fujimori’s Military Supreme Court, in order to argue that a ruling by the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights is not valid. Funny how the military left and the military right always end up looking so much alike, no?

And you have to worry when the autocrat himself orders that student demonstrations be met with the “best” tear gas if they dare block the streets. I don’t know what “best” means in this case, but Chavez certainly sees to have a clear ides. “Best” to him must be the most aggressive and toxic one in another clear sign that Chavez cares little for the rights of others.

What Chavez is afraid of is that the students lead the battle against his illegal referendum, so he wants to intimidate them. He may be surprised.

The next fours weeks will be tricky and whether Chavez wins or loses they will get even trickier after that as the level of conflict in Venezuelan politics and society can only increase whatever the outcome may be.

Reading revolutionary screens in the National Assembly

January 18, 2009

There was a controversy this week, as Globovision began showing during a session of the National Assembly the screens of the laptops of the Deputies as the now infamous and obtuse question was being discussed. Except that ooops, at some point they showed the image of the laptop of one of those Deputies that nobody remembers their name and he appeared to be watching porno in the privacy of his parliamentary seat as shown below on the first picture below, but turned out to be a presentation on breast cancer with rather explicit pictures . The Deputy said he was going to sue  Globovision for violating his privacy.


Then yesterday Tal Cual publsihed some of the images their photographer caught after the incident, including in the first picture below a Deputy (Escarra?) looking at his dream car. He probably put in an order for it to buy with his Xmas bonus, but is wondering whether CADIVI will give any dollars to the car company to import parts or cars this year. In the next row another Deputy (Desiree Santos Amaral?) plays solitaire, while only Iris Varela in the last picture seems to be doing something useful as she seems to be reading the news.




Amnesty International condemns decision by Venezuelan Supreme Court

January 17, 2009

The Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled last month that it would not follow the order from the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights to reinstate the Judges from administrative Court who were fired when the Chavez Government decided to eliminate that Court because the Judges were ruling in an independent fashion. The decision was even worse than that, in which it even used jurisprudence from the Military Courts of Fujimori in Peru in a similar case and called the decision an “intervention” by the Court and asked the Venezuelan Government to denounce the Interamerican Convention on Human Rights, which would simply leave all Venezuelans without the international protection the Treaty gives against Human Rights violations.

Today, Amnesty International (AM) issued a press release criticizing the decision and noting the danger that it implies. Said AM:

“By rejecting a ruling by the Inter American Court of Human Rights and calling on the government to reject the Inter American Convention of Human Rights, the Venezuelan Supreme Court is sending a dangerous message that human rights are optional, said Amnesty International today.”


“The Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision is surprising and disappointing,” said Kerrie Howard, Americas Deputy Director at Amnesty International. “The Court should not see this sentence as a criticism but as an opportunity to consolidate protection and respect for human rights.”

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Venezuela retains an international obligation to abide by the Inter American Convention and the rulings of the Inter American Court.”

The case is clear, an International Court on Human Rights ruled that the Venezuelan Government had violated a convention it subscribed by intervening in the judicial power and firing judges that were independent. This is a threat to the rights of all Venezuelans who are no longer protected by the decisions of local Courts, which are the subject of pressure by The Government and/ or the Human Rights Convention.

Maybe Alek should write a petition supporting Amnesty International’s position and send it to Prof. Chomsky who apparently signs such petitions without regards to their content.

Chavez to swipe US$ 12 billion in international reserves for his personal use

January 16, 2009

Just to make sure the Venezuelan economy has a chance of collapsing, Chief Economist Hugo Chavez announced today that he will take US$ 12 billion from the country´s International Reserves and put them in his petty cash development fund Fonden. This guarantees that if oil prices stay where they are today, the Venezuelan economy will implode later this year as the swap rate soars and a devaluation is sure to follow.

You have to wonder whether the whole thing is on purpose. Now you know why they transferred the US$ 5 billion to the Central Bank at the end of 2008, the autocrat wanted US$ 12 billion and that would have left reserves close to a dangerous level of US$ 25 billion.

Venezuelans are about to find out that Milton Friedman was absolutely right. They already suspect this is the case, as inflation topped 30% this year, they will soon get a higher education on its meaning.