Archive for June, 2010

First Margarita non-expert Venezuelan CPI. Make your own!

June 30, 2010

Reader Island Canuck has been keeping tabs on prices on that island for the first six months of the year and comes today to report an increase of 35.6%, you may agree or not with his choices, but he did the work.

Let me tell you what impresses me the most about the increases: The fact that so many local products have gone up the most. Look at the Avocados, onions tomatoes, lettuce and green peppers. Spaghetti? For God’s sake, it’s all made here. I can understand the apples, but water? Or Orange Juice.

The puzzle: How come imported microwave popcorn is flat?

In any case, make up yourown index using the data and tell us how it fared. Simply pick a basket, your taste, then calculate the increase in the first six months and tell us the result.

Kudos Island Canuck.

More news from Bizarro VenWorld

June 30, 2010

(Syrian President makes a face when Chavez tells him his refinery will be built after he finishes the other 16 promised)

Too much to digest at once, so here are just the headlines, with comments:

Chavez offers the President of Syria that he will build a refinery in his country.

Does Al-Assad know that there is a huge line? Just off the top, he has to wait until Chavez builds one with Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Jamaica, Nicaragua, China, and abut ten others, none of which have even been started, but were announced at least three or four years ago. The lone exception: The Cuban refinery, the only one that Venezuela has devoted the time and the money to work on it.

–To get a job in Government denounced Andres Velasquez, you have to get a “Patriotic Certification” saying that you are loyal to the revolution.

This is an improvement, no? This is the Chavez/Tascon list but backwards, you want a job, you register as being part of the faithful, don’t bother if you are not. You can even lie if you want to. In the old Chavez/Tascon list, it was taken from a recall referendum list if you signed against the Dictator.

–According to the Rector of Universidad Jose Maria Baralt, a Bolivarian that supports the process, they are “immersed in forming a new and different educational model in which the professional does not sell himself or buys his degree. Thus, they are thinking of doing away with undergraduate thesis, research and projects as part of degree requirements”. (Bolivarian students marched today rallying, among other things against university internal entrance exams)

I agree, what a bothersome bunch of useless stuff, thesis, research, projects, while they are at it, maybe they should do away with exams, courses and, hell, teachers…bring back the honor system, Bolivarian in this case.

National Assembly refuses to discuss the spoiled food case.

Of course it should. Imagine if all the corruption surrounding the case came up in the discussion. We are talking about 122,000 tons of rotten food, but we know the corruption involved most of the imported food, the containers (you pay rent for them did you know that?), the storage time, the fees, the permits. The guys involved in this are millionaries. Ask Andorra. But it’s bad timing, no corruption fighting until October, at the least.

–Chavez’ PSUB party asks for an investigation into where the opposition is getting money.

You got to be kidding me! PSUV spends 100 times more than the opposition and everyone knows where the money is coming from: From the Government and you want to ask where the puny amount of money the oppo has is coming from? That’s like asking if the US is advising the opposition, when Chavez only does what Fidel suggests and Cuban advisers have invaded Venezuela. Why is this asymmetrical?

–Chavez has given Cuba a billion US$ for cooperaton in science and research between Cuba and Venezuela according to Jaime Requena in Tal Cual.

This has generated a total of 16 publications at an average cost of US$ 62.5 million per paper. I guess we should have quite a few Nobel Prizes coming our way. Or am I an optimist?

Bizarro indeed…

Venezuelan Government regulates street vendors and their prices. Next: The Buhonero Police?

June 29, 2010

The ability of the robolution to amaze and awe is truly remarkable. Bizarre has now become a normal word in Venezuela as the Chavez Government does nothing that could be construed as being normal.

Take the term “informal” workers. They represent the more than half of the Venezuelan population who have casual jobs, selling stuff in the streets and trying to make a living. Nothing organized or regulated about them. Periodically, the Government tries to move them from one place to the other, they are banned from certain places, but somehow they survive, resurfacing somewhere else. Informal workers, called “buhoneros’ in Venezuela, used to be pro-Chavez, but they seem to support him less and less. I tried to depict some of their activities and smarts in the reappearance of Oligarco Burguesito, who met Nero Buho the street vendor to talk about the end of the swap market.

But Nero’s life, if he existed will become rougher starting today, as the Government issued a decree, essentially forbidding that street vendors sell foodstuffs at a price different than the regulated price and as long as they maintain the required hygiene and health standards necessary.

Moreover, these “informal” workers will have 30 days to comply with the decree and those found to be in violation of the decree will have their merchandise confiscated.

Where do I start on this? It has so many weird edges that it is actually quite hard to know the beginning. I have a thousand questions. For example, who the hell is going to supervise this? Will Chavez create the “Buhonero Police” to check it all out?

But even before that, where do you find the street vendors? I mean, these are street vendors, they are all over the place, do they have to register now? Doesn’t that turn them into some sort of “formal” workers? What if they move from one place to the other?

But what happens, for example, if one of these street vendors barters rather than sell one kilo of merchandise for another? Does this apply to fair pricing in barter too?  Didn’t the Government want to promote barter? How do you regulate barter in the end? Isn’t that an essential part of the communal law recently passed by the National Assembly? What differentiates a communal vendor or barterer form an informal worker? Is he regulated by this? Who has to register? Where? How does this all work?

And once you get beyond these nitpicking details, everyone is legit, everyone has registered, do they all become “formal” workers? Does the unemployment rate become negative then? Because if informal employment is more than 50% and unemployment is 7 or 8%, like INE says, then we would have -40% unemployment or something like that.

And in the end, when the poor now formalized, “informal” worker has his stuff confiscated by the buhonero police, can he appeal? Can he get his stuff back? Can the buhonero cops become street vendors too? How many buhonero cops do you need to supervise this? Who will train them? Is this an massive employment program in the end?

Does it apply to trucks that come from the interior to sell their goods in the cities too?

Will buhoneros have to have prices marked on all items? Do they need to get cash registers? Do they have to print official tax office receipts? Collect Value Added Tax? Pay it? Pay income taxes?

In the end, this sounds as bizarre and harebrained as so many other things the robolution has ever created or improvised.

But hey, eleven years running and they are still running things…

Looking at the volumes at the “new”, “new” Venezuelan Central Bank exchange market

June 29, 2010

Well, we were told that the now banned swap market was mostly speculation and the President of the Central Bank said US$ 26 million a day should be sufficient. Well, the graph below shows volume so far:

Thus, with corporations limited to US$ 50,000 a day, individuals with US$ 5,000 a year, banks still putting the system together, volume is already up to US$ 44 million.

Not pretty.

Another look at how Chavismo tries to “manage” food imports and distribution

June 27, 2010

(Milk packages with expired dates on them)

Both El Nacional (page A-6 by subscription) and El Universal have articles today about the failure of the Government’s food import policy. The amazing thing is that some of the data used by both newspapers  is taken right our of reports by the Government, and in the case of PDVAL it is from a recent PDVAl report.

According to the PDVAL report, in 2008 PDVAL imported 597,000 Tons of food, which triples its distribution capacity. Thus, the 120,000 Tons of spoiled food represents about 20% of what was imported in 2008, not an insignificant amount as the Dictator would like you to believe.

According to the report, the amount of food purchased was not decided by PDVAL, but was an order by Cenbal, the National Center For Feeding Balance, an organization I have never heard of, but which reports to the Vice-Presidency of the country. Cenbal is composed of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Commerce, and you guessed it, Cuban advisors, who now seem to have shifted from advising on how to produce food on how to import it.

Cenbal itself imported, via various mechanisms a total of 1.7 million Tons of food. The idea, was to import the food to guarantee supply and even sell it to the private sector, something that was never done. The report also says that it was the Cubans that advised PDVAL on how much to buy, the scheduling and the permissions needed for items. Most of the food imported via PDVSA’s Bariven import company was bought via competitive bidding, except when it was purchased using Government to Government agreements. (Think Argentina and China)

The report says that the bottleneck for all these imports was simply the ports which were unprepared for this magnitude of imports .Similarly, it blames the tax office, the lack of storage facilities and the delays in obtaining permits for the problems. So much for trying to blame the private sector!

Clearly the Government’s strategy was to import so much food to guarantee that there would be no shortages, but nobody was taking into account how much could actually be brought in into the country within a time period and the Government’s buerocracy was itself to blame for the problems.

The article in El Universal looks at the evolution of food imports and food production in the last few years. It concludes we have gone from importing 70 dollars per inhabitant a year to US$ 392 per inhabitant per year, which represents the need of importing US$ 14.3 billion per year in food. Thus, all of the BS about sovereignty, endogenous development and the like was Mr. Chavez BS.

Then the article gives examples, such as the fact that the country imports 90% of the black beans we eat, half the meat and  70% of the rice. Up to 2003, Venezuela was self-sufficient in meat, importing about 1% of its needs, but then the Chavez administration began regulating prices and local producers could not compete with the cheap Government imports.In 1998, Venezuela produced 407,000 Tons of meat, which is now down to 269,000 Tons with imports reaching 395,000 Tons.

In milk, the story is not too different. In 1998, 67% was local production, today 67% is imported. In 2008 and 2009, imports were over 100% of consumption, which also explains some of the problems with the putrid food.

While all this happens, report El Nacional, the Comptroller, contradicts himself day after day. First he said that he was investigating the food imports for the last two years. Then he said he was doing t, but did not know that some of the food was going bad, but it turns out that in his own report t the National Assembly, the Comptroller reports the containers of spoiled or expired food. It turns out that it is  cheaper to buy food about to expire and that may be part of the problem. The Comptroller reports even food packages with two expiration dates in the same package, suggesting tampering.

There you have it, Chavez knows how incompetent and inefficient his Government is that he manages the country trying to import too much, distributing too much and spening too much in the hope that there wll not be shortages and his popularity does not decline.

But in the end we have the same story: waste, corruption and inefficiency dominate and we Venezuelans pay for the Dictator’s follies.

New PDVAL Head as clueless as his predecessors

June 26, 2010

(I think that food is not the only thing that is going bad in Venezuela)

With over 120,000 Tons of food found either in a putrid state or expired over the last month, you would think that the new head of PDVAL, locally called Putreval, Colonel Carlos Osorio, would spend at least his first month in office looking at the logistics of how the food is brought into the country and how is distributed, to understand why so much food was left in storage and allowed to go bad.

Instead, the Colonel spends the day visiting a Polar facility and meeting the press to denounce that, lo and behold, they found all of 79 Tons of margarine at a Polar storage building. Imagine that! 79 Tons of a product, when the company he presides has allowed four orders of magnitude more of food to go bad over a few months!

I guess they don’t teach orders of magnitude in military school in Venezuela or the Colonel was transferred just when the subject was going to be covered in class.

But this simple example shows why this Government is so incompetent and ineffective. A guy on his first day on a job which requires managerial experience, that he clearly does not have, (otherwise he would not be a Colonel) rather than attempting to tackle the overwhelming task in front of him, chooses to devote his time attacking the private sector, using a miniscule amount of food as an excuse to accuse them of hoarding.

Miniscule, because Polar provides a large fraction of the margarine in the country under a variety of names, in a country of 26 million people, where 160,000 tubs of margarine are probably sold every week of the year and as the Polar representative explained, since Thursday was holiday, there was more material in storage than usual.

But the problem is clear, the Government spends all the time on propaganda, avoiding responsibility and trying to distract attention from the myriad of problems it has created with its incompetence.

And this simply indicates that Colonel Osorio will be another failure in his new position, as he will not have the support either of funding or logistics that PDVSA used to have PDVAL. He probably thinks the military will do a better job than PDVSA, but this example clearly shows this is unlikely to be the case. He is as clueless as his predecessors and throwing money and soldiers at the problem will not solve anything. You just need organization, management and hard work!

But that is too much to ask from anyone in this Government, which always finds time to spend on the less important things.

Meanwhile the Legislative Council of Monagas State decides to investigate Polar for the firing of one worker, the same week that Chavez freezes all collective bargaining agreements in the country, forbids salary increases and bonuses for any worker in the Venezuelan civil service. But all these workers do not appear to have any labor rights, but the Polar worker needs to be protected.

It is all smoke and mirrors, trying to hide the reality of the failure of the robolution in all fields of Government.But after eleven years, people are no longer fooled as easily, no jobs, inflation and shortages have become the main concerns of the population which is tired of a robolution that has failed to deliver.

A radical shift to the radical left in Venezuela

June 25, 2010

Believe it or not, within the robolution some people think there is a “right” and a “left”, the “right” belonging to those that want a little more pragmatism and less ideology for the sake of the survival of the robolution (with an “o”), while the left is composed by the more Pol Potian leaders, whose idea of socialism is averaging down everyone, until we are all as poor and as obedient to the “process” as can be.

It is not a very well-defined line. The more radical wing is actually more honest or should I say less corrupt, less touched by scandals, while the “right wingers” are also pragmatic when it comes to their life styles and allowing others to stick their hands in the till. They have discovered the good life and heck, they enjoy it.

The leader of the Pol-Potians is of course, Jorge Giordani, “The Monk”, who has been Planning Minister forever, where he has accomplished failure after failure in his planning and economic policies. But his honesty and chemistry with the All Mighty leader has allowed Giordani’s incompetence to flourish. Giordani took a gigantic leap forward when he was finally upgraded to Ministry of Finance, a position in which his decisions can directly and immediately screw up the Venezuelan economy and lead to the type of destruction on which XXIst. Century Socialism, whatever that may mean, can be built upon.

But a new powerful leader has emerged in the midst of all this, current Vice President Elias Jaua, the Ph.D. in Sociology who has presided over the not so successful land and agricultural policies of the Chavez era. After two million hectares under his control Jaua seems to have realized that he could not get more than 5% of them to produce and the real power is not in the land like Pol Pot and Mao dreamed of, but in the robolution the power is with the imports, that’s where the money is, so let’s go after it.

Some claim it was actually Jaua who started leaking all of the information about the food going bad all around the country as a means to get a strong hold on PDVSA’s subsidiary PDVAL, as well as the companies nationalized by Chavez in the last two years in the food production sector. If true, the plan worked out perfect as PDVAL is now directly under the umbrella of the Vice-Presidency and the food companies are part of the Minister for Feeding, another Jaua subsidiary.

In a perverse sense, this is good news for Venezuela. The food import and distribution is completely removed from PDVSA’s daily activities, which will allow its management to concentrate in the most important business in the land: Oil. PDVSA should have never been involved with PDVAL, but Chavez’ belief that PDVSA’s weakened management and almost infinite resources would solve the problem and Ramirez’ thinking that being in charge of the biggest exporter and the biggest importer in the land would make him untouchable, forced PDVSA into an undesirable and unwanted business.

But this is also bad news, as Jaua and his cohorts are full of ideology and have little managerial expertise to undertake the task that they have brought upon themselves. They may think that by being honest (less corrupt?) they can manage the food import and distribution business more efficiently, but they also belong to the Chavista strain that believes that anyone can do anything, even if eleven years of failures proves otherwise.

And besides the lack of management, there will be the lack of the ample resources (read cash) that PDVSA had and which can move mountains whenever it is necessary. No secret budget can even approach the levels of funds and agility available to PDVSA, something that Ramirez is certainly going to shield now from Jaua’s desires.

And it is a bad moment for this to happen. With the private sector now strangled, if the new PDVAL runs into troubles with the flow of imports, the shortages will be even more dramatic, completing the circle of good news/bad news for our dear country.

In some sense, Ramirez has to go now for Jaua to be successful in his new enterprise, but somehow the Minister of Energy and Oil is a true survivor, a man of many secrets and many suitcases, which so far have averted his demise.

But there is only one survivor, for now, in the robolution, and his name is Hugo Chavez. Ask Diosdado Cabello and his cohorts, six of which were swiftly removed from the Cabinet simultaneously with the PDVAL grab in the name of the Parliamentary elections. Or ask former Vice-President Carrizales who stood up for the military in the face of a Cuban invasion in key military positions and was quickly replaced by the quiet sociologist with the name that always seems short a consonant.

They are all gone for now, but they may return like comets, much like Diosdado has reappeared whenever things were not working well. Ideology imports little food and feeds few mouths and every time Chavez has shifted to the Pol-Potians he has eventually found the need to bring back the “right” to straighten out the mess.

For now, you can assume the worst case scenario, think Banks, think Globo, think Pol Pot, the total destruction of a system in the name of a nebulous idea which is still a work in progress eleven years after Chavez’ ascension to power. Only a quick deterioration could shift the balance of power at this time.

And Chavez needs a magician to stop the unraveling of the Venezuelan economy, which may lead to the resurgence of the radical “right” and the cycle would begin once again.

Not much news in the Teflon robolution in Venezuela

June 23, 2010

(They want to shut our mouths off, bit all they have managed is to shut our noses off)

Yes, not much stuff to blog about. The way things are going in Venezuela the word “news” requires something beyond imagination, because the “routine” just does not cut it here in Venezuela anymore. Chavez used to be a Teflon President, but we now seem to have a Teflon Government. Nothing sticks to it, nothing scandalizes, everything in the end is the opposition’s fault and/or absolutely irrelevant.

Take the by now 120,000 Tons of putrid food imported by the government. It turns out that the word “putrid” is just an exaggeration. It is just “expired” food, or some socialist concept like that. And by the way, it is mostly the private sectors fault, according to the Chief Mismanager, the President of PDVSA Rafael Ramirez According to this genius, who will go into history as the destroyer of PDVSA. the private sector is responsible for their putrid food, because they were in charge of the ships and the storage companies. Funny, the storage companies were nationalized long ago and in any case, if this were the problem, the Government would be finding lots of private sector spoiled food. Instead, every time they raid the private sector companies, they take the food away for hoarding, but somehow it is never spoiled, bad or whatever euphemism you want to find for a large fraction of what happens to the food brought in by the Government.

Oh, how come the Cubans who run the ports are exempt from fault? Oh, yes they are Cubans…

And then you wonder when the Comptroller surfaces and says that he started looking into the rotten food two years ago. Are you kidding me Clodosvaldo? That was 120,000 Tons ago! What have you done since then? Of course, Leopoldo Lopez used money for one purpose to pay a Chavez’ ordered salary increase, it only took you six months to ban him from running for office. I guess the PDVAL or PUTRIVAL guys can be elected for the next National Assembly, at least they will know where to look for the corruption.

Which brings me then to the “People’s Ombudswoman”, who always comes to the defense of the Teflon guys, but seems rather quiet on the subject of the possible poisoning of the population. She should be concerned, after all, the spoiled food was not meant for the oligarchs, but for those that vote for Hugo, or at least used to. What morals does this woman have? As Diego Arria told Chavez, I tell her: “See you in The Hague” and I include Clodosvaldo and his double pension in this too.

And speaking of those pensioned off, how about funny man Norman Puerta, the former and retired anti-drug czar of Venezuela, he was caught with a million dollars in that idyllic country, but it has nothing to do with drugs or anything illegal, it was just “a misunderstanding over the money he saved”, just  a million bucks of savings for a guy who made made maybe US$ 1,000-$2,000  a month. But you know, the people who work for the Chavez teflonic Government, particularly in the anti-drug sector, they lead spartan lives, after 11 years in power they can save a million bucks. I’s just discipline, even if you don’t believe the math. It would only take him 500 months to make that million, and that is only 41.6 years, Chavez should last that much if things keep rolling along the way they are.

And in the middle of all these irrelevant news, Chavez issues a decree saying that nobody, absolutely nobody, can negotiate a collective contract agreement without his authorization. Never mind that this has been the silent “rule of law” for the last five years. It is an intrinsic part of XXIst. Century Socialism, that unions are out and Chavez’s party PSUV is in. Thus, no negotiations, no salary increases, no unions. And some people still think this is a left wing revolution.Neither the workers, nor the people can revolt in Venezuela.

It is all about Hugo.

But thanks God these are quiet times, not much happening, not much to write. When something does happen, you can be sure I will report back to you beyond the banalities of the robolution like those described above.

In the meantime, I will do like the opposition leaders, work on my stuff, even if I don’t want to get elected.

A look at the foreign currency that the Venezuelan Government may have in 2010t

June 20, 2010

One of the mysteries this year is why the Government has been so stingy with the exchange control office CADIVI as well as its decision not to supply more foreign currency to any alternative market, despite higher oil prices.

That is why I was mesmerized by the following Barclays graph which was published this week. In this graph Barclays plots for each of the last six years, how much CADIVI gave out to importers, how much the parallel market traded and how much the Government issued in bonds.

The first surprise, because I had not looked at the totals for a while, was that the swap market was larger than CADIVI last year. What this means is simply that PDVSA preferred to change at the highers swap market rate than at the Bs. 2.15 per $ rate which prevailed last year. This is because in the end the Government via the Treasury, Fonden or whatever  other mechanism was the main provider of foreign currency to the swap market. Thus, in the end it is the Government that provides both markets.

Thus, in some sense, it is better to look at the total CADIVI+SWAP market+Bonds and subtract the bonds to get an idea of what the last few years were like. I plot that in the next graph together with the price of Venezuela’s oil basket (sort of assuming production is constant, which it is not)

In the above graph, the green line is the average price for the Venezuelan oil basket for the year in US dollars, while the blue line is the total amount of US$ dollars (in billions) given to importers by CADIVI and/or purchased in the swap market plus bonds issued, which in the end measures the number of dollars to which the Government had access on any given year. The red line simply subtracts the issuance of bonds from that total, it is a measure of the deficit of foreign currency the Government had, which forced it to resort to issue bonds.

Let’s look at this graph historically. In 2004, the oil basket was US$ 31.85 and the Government “had” some US$ 25 billion of which it had to issue US$ 5 billion in bonds. The total amount for 2004,2005 and 2006, scaled reasonably with the oil price, in all three years the Government issued US$ 5 billion in bonds to complement its needs, “using” US$ 25 billion, 37 (up 50% from 2004) billion and US$ 40 billion (up 8% from 2005), as oil went from US$ 31.85, to US$ 48.36 (up 51.8% from 2004)  and US$ 52.31 (up 8% from 2005) per barrel in the same years.Basically the increases were almost identical from year to year.

Then, in 2007, oil prices jumped by 64%, but the Government needed US$ 83 billion, a 107.5% increase in foreign currency in 2007 over the previous year, including US$ 19 billion in financing.

And here is where things get murky. In 2008, with oil dropping 62.5%, the Government used up US$ 75 billion, barely 9.6% below 2007, despite the dramatic drop in oil prices. How could this be?

Well, the only possibility is that the Government used funds from the development funds Fonden, taken from international reserves, and other savings in foreign currency to fund part of the needs for 2008.

And it did the same thing in 2009!

Thus, from 2007-2009, the Government “used” 75% more foreign currency than in 2006, but the average oil price in those three years was only up 29%.

And then we come to 2010, this year the average price of the oil basket is running roughly at the level of last year, in 2009 it was 67.7 dollars on average, so far this year it has been US$ 70.26, less than a 3% increase. Except that it is going to be quite difficult to issue new bonds, subtract US$ 11 billion from last year and there will not be as much in Fonden as there was in 2009.  In fact, Fonden began 2009 with US$ 19 billion and this year at no point has it had more than US$ 9 or 10 billion. Thus, the “Total” in the graph for 2010 will have to be around US$ 50 billion, once you subtract no new issues, half the money (likely more) in Fonden.

Finally, PDVSA has higher cash flow needs, thus the number may be even smaller, as international reserves have been dropping, even with lower CADIVI outflows, which implies PDVSA is handing out less money to the Central Bank.

What this all means is that there will much less money for imports, which will only be complicated by the banning of the swap market, which used to provide an alternative to the official market for importers needing items to complete their manufacturing and/or buying spare parts.This will translate into shortages which I am surprised has not intensified as of yet. Most manufacturers/importers say that they typically have about six weeks of inventory. which means we should start seeing the impact of these foreign currency problems in less than a month.

(Note: Some of the money from the bond offerings flowed back into the swap market, thus I may be double counting somewhat, but this changes little the conclusions)

When an opinion becomes “close to a crime” and the real crimes go unpunished in Venezuela

June 17, 2010

(I don’t think and anyone that thinks differently than me is screwed!)

In another displayed of intolerance, Hugo Chavez reacted violently to the statements by the President of the Medical Federation, Douglas Leon Natera, who was extremely critical of the graduates of the Integral Medical Community program, to whom Chavez went personally to give them their diplomas.

Natera says that this program does not create the replacement to medical doctors as Chavez and the Government would like you to believe. According to Natera and others, these graduates are part of an improvised program with Cuban teachers who are not even doctors and little practical experience. The training is apparently done with movies and pictures an the trainees don’t see real patients and practice as doctors usually are trained. The Government plans to now insert these improvised medical trainees into hospitals as if they were fully trained Doctors. Of course, Chavez told them never to treat an oligarch in a new twist to the hippocratic oath that these graduates lack anyway.

Chavez reaction? Oh, very simple, he qualified Natera’s well founded opinion, based on technical elements as “close to a crime” as Natera’s statements, according to the all powerful Dictator, are close to a crime, because they “create alarm in the population”.

Of course, the deaths from mistreatment and improvisation in the country’s Government hospitals do not “create alarm” and nobody is responsible because no one in this Government assumes any responsibility for its errors, starting with the autocrat himself.

But Mr. Natera should watch out for himself, you can be sure the Prosecutor already opened an investigation into his “almost crime”, while those crimes committed by these fake doctors, while illegally practicing medicine will go unnoticed and unpunished.

What else is new!