Archive for August, 2010

Franklin Brito’s death: A more humane society in Venezuela without compassion?

August 31, 2010

When I heard about Franklin Brito’s death last night, I decided to follow one of my basic rules: Don’t blog on your emotions. Thus, I just sort of reported it, without much commentary and detail, I had written about Mr. Brito’s story before, his death was a surprising and incredible end to a truly horrific tale of the misery of politicians and how they place their personal ambition above all, even in the face of human tragedy.

Franklin Brito’s  death is a failure not only of Venezuela’s Government, but also of the multilateral organizations which are funded and financed to protect human rights across the region, but are incredibly incompetent and inefficient in achieving these goals. From Orlando Contreras Zapata to Franklin Brito, they are just a simple failure. Money ill spent on paying the salaries of ambitious politicians or beaurocratic bon vivants in the name of the people of the Americas.

There is little to be said that has not been said beyond the internal outrage we all feel inside. But throughout the day, I have been utterly amazed at a single fact: How a revolution that claims to want to create a better, more humane society, has shown no compassion for Mr. Brito.

There is no humanity in the Government or a political system that has spent the day blaming Mr. Brito for his own death. There is no compassion in saying Mr. Brito was not in his right mind and this led to his death, without looking at how he got to the point that he got. There is no compassion in trying to use legalese to say why Mr. Brito was right or wrong in his claims against the Venezuelan State.

And it is totally despicable to suggest that Mr. Brito’s death was planned to occur before the election, some writers in Aporrea even giving it the name the “Britazo” or Government officials suggesting that Mr. Brito was used by the opposition.

Because in the end it was the Government that kidnapped Mr. Brito against his own will and that of his family and held him in a military hospital until he passed away. Supposedly this kidnapping was done to protect his life, a claim that now sounds absolutely empty given his tragic death under the watch and supervision of this heartless Government. It would have been more dignified for him to die when and where he wanted.

What does this Government mean when they talk about a more humane society? Is that a society that allows 20,000 homicides a year, a three fold jump in this crime during Chavez’ Government? Or is that a society where the police and National Guard can attack and violate the human rights of the opposition just because they oppose Hugo Chavez? Or where it is better to lie than to accept that health and nutrition indices have deteriorated because the beaurocrats don’t want to tell Chavez about it?

Compassion is caring about all this, as well as caring for all of the citizens of Venezuela, whether pro or against Chavez. Compassion is caring for the man in the picture below and his dead kid, two more nameless Venezuelans caught in the indolence of this Government in the face of a human tragedy that they seem to care very little for:

No society can be called humane, without compassion. No society can be thought of being more humane, when politics and Chavez’ whims are placed above the most basic rights of Venezuelan citizens.

The Chavocracy has Fun by Teodoro Petkoff

August 31, 2010

Scene: Last Thursday, supposedly a working day.

Total Time: three hours plus. A very expensive restaurant in Las Mercedes. Outside several 4×4 luxury station wagons, two dozen drivers and bodyguards. Inside, seven leaders of the chavocracia, it is unclear whether only scammers alone or true front men. Two bottles of Johny Walker blue label on the table, talking to each other about yachts and airplanes. Ostentation and Showing off. The story comes to me via an engineer friend to whom one of the chavócratas, a lawyer and old friend from the days when they both had nothing, asked him to be there to help him out with something he needed. After an hour and a half of having to listen to the shouts, the lawyer called my friend aside, to take care of him. During the conversation, a waiter comes and reports to the chavócrata that another participant in the banquet insists on paying the bill. The lawyer raises his voice and making sure everyone can hear him  says that the bills is his and does not accept that anyone else pay. A brief verbal tussle,some shouting and finally my friend’s friend paid the account of 18 000 strong bolivars.

Eighteen million of the old bolivars. This is the way they govern. Who are these guys? The New Class.

The new bourgeoisie, the chavoburguesía. Those who have become millionaires from bond issuest, with food imports, with imports of luxury cars, charging fees for moving a straw, or the black market for dollars, putting their hands on all misplaced Bolívars that they see around themselves. The denial of all the ideals and dreams of a few idiots who still believe that this shit is a socialist revolution.

Franklin Brito dies

August 30, 2010

Franklin Brito, who went on a hunger strike to defend his property, was later kidnapped by the Government to hide his truth and never received an answer, died today of a heart attack at the Military Hospital where he had been held against his will.

The revolution that claims to be “humane” now has a tragic victim of its lack of scruples and humanity.

Will anyone ever be held accountable for his death?

May he rest in peace.

Government corruption in three different Venezuelan styles

August 29, 2010

(Comptroller: I feel very comfortable in my position)

Criminal Corruption: There is an interesting interview with Carlos Machado Allison in today’s El Universal. But what caught my attention was the side note on the milk that was imported by Pudreval with melamine from China.

The milk contaminated with melamine was a scandal in 2008 of contaminated milk found in many countries. What is interesting is that Machado Allison, a food expert, says that Venezuela was not among the recipient countries of the tainted milk exported from China.

What this appears to imply is that the milk was purchased in the secondary market at a cheap price, after the scandal broke. Thus, there was not only an act of corruption, the milk was imported as if it was good quality milk, but lower prices were paid for it, but high prices were charged to PDVSA. But the biggest and most criminal act of corruption is that this milk endangered Venezuelan citizens, particularly children. This is simply unacceptable and should be looked into and investigated, but where is the People’s Defender when this things happen?

Truly criminal corruption

The lucky winner style corruption: When  a big infrastructure project comes up for bids, companies make a special effort to bid low, simply because once a subway system project or training gets built by a company, the technology is so locked in that if you win the initial bid, you will have recurrent revenues from the project in the future. Such was the case of Caracas’s Metro where the French locked in the original contract and have continude to receive the contracts for new lines and maintenance.

Until now…

Because this time, the French submitted a bid for US$ 1.86 billion for the overhaul of Line 1 of the Caracas subway (Page A6 El Nacional) for US$ 1.86 billion.

And watch the dates now, Chavez approved US$ 1.86 billion on February 13 2008.

June 13 2008: A Spanish “consortium” presents its bid for US$ 1.856 billion

August 4th. 2008. The “consortium” is approved as the “winner”

September 25th 2008: The “consortium is legally registered for the first time

October 3d. 2008: Contract is signed!!!

There you have it, the Government negotiates with a non-existent consortium for months and only after it has been “approved” is the consortium legalized and registered.

This violates everything single bidding law, regulation in Venezuela and then some…

It was all “pre-arranged” , they were just the “lucky winners”, even if they did not exist. Let’s hope the French subway cars learn to speak Spanish technology…

And the missing funds type of corruption: The head of the union of CVG (fomerly a member of Chavez’ PSUV party) wrote a letter to Minister Giordani asking about the now famous or infamous US$ 500 million sold against future shipments of Aluminum. It is a strange story. Russia’s Gazprombank paid the money into its Lebanese affiliate

Supposedly the money would be used to improve the infrastructure of the Aluminum plant.

But the money is nowhere to be found. It was transferred to the Ministry of Finance. However, the Minister for Basic Industries says it was used to pay suppliers. Even an Argentinian-Venezuelan that is involved in the 15% commissions says the money was used to solve the electricity problem.

The problem is that 4 years of aluminum exports were sold and without the money, the plants will not be able to produce it. It’s robolutionary Catch-22…

Money was obtained for one purpose, but in the mismanagement of the revolution, it is used somewhere else. Under Venezuela corruptions laws, this is illegal and punishable with jail. Except that nobody is going to go after Giordani, Sanz or any of those involved.

That’s the way it is, if you are with Chavez you have a magic shield, if not, you are screwed, even if you did nothing…

But it is corruption, nevertheless.

How the poor in Venezuela are the largest victims of homicides

August 29, 2010

After writing this post about how homicides affects the poor most, with only one figure, I added another one showing absolute levels for the incidence of homicides across all social strata at the request of some readers. I had made a mistake, so I reposted the corrected figure. But sine not everyone caught that figure and because the fuiure is so important I thought I would show it again.

This is the absolute rate of homicides derived from the INE report per 100,000 people in each of the social strata, where 1 is the top and 5 is the bottom:

This data has been derived from the INE report, which is a poll, not precise crime statistics. INE derives the data from the poll and reaches the conclusion that in Venezuela there were 21,132 homicides in 2009, which somehow gets adjusted down to 19,113 homicides.

In order to calculate what is the rate of homicides per 100,000 people, we need to know how many people there are in Venezuela. Since I can’t find that number in the INE report, I look elsewhere in the INE website and find that for 2009 the projection was 28.8 million inhabitants, which gives 66 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009.

The chart above was obtained from a Table on page 70, where INE calculates the number of homicides per social strata based on its poll. However, the number of people is based on the sample size of the poll which is 1.8 million, not 28.8 million, so I had to correct for this factor to obtain the chart above.

The numbers are clearly horrific for the poor, the bottom strata of the population, as defined by INE, is the victim of 239 homicides per 100,000 people, almost four times larger than the national average. Those in the next lowest level have 110 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, almost twice the national average. Curiously, the rich have more homicides per 100,000 inhabitants than the national average at 77. It seems you want to live in the middle class and lower middle class areas where in strata 2 and 3, the rates of homicides are a developed-country-like 9 and 19 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants respectively.

Even more surprising, according to the INE report (page 68) not all homicides get reported, despite the legal requirement that a person dying a violent death has to be autopsied. Clearly, people know the implications of their relatives having to go to the morgue and simply avoid it, likely by asking or bribing the medical doctor that certifies the death, not to specify that it was a violent one. For homicides, INE concludes, 15.% of homicides don’t get reported, which goes up to 36% for sexual abuse, 68% for robbery and 38% for kidnapping. Which shows the lack of trust and confidence Venezuelans have for the police.

Not a pretty picture…

Chavez flips-flop on Hospital funding, but will it help him?

August 28, 2010

(The opposition once again in the Assembly? That would be terrible! Discussions, disagreements, no more “Amen” to what the President says. There would be DEMOCRACY!)

When Hugo Chavez said three days ago that he was withdrawing funding from a Hospital in an opposition municipality, because it would be a “strategic error” and he would not approve funding “so that half the money could be stolen”, it was typical Chavez speaking from his gut.

What was atypical, is that Chavez has always been very careful about such gaffes near elections. Moreover, the statement showed multiple errors, not only was the hospital not run by the municipality led by Primero Justicia’s Carlos Ocariz, but Petare, where the hospital is located may be run by an opposition Mayor, but is a poor barrio, full of Chavistas who voted for Ocariz because of the incompetence of the previous Chavista Mayor and the poor candidate fielded by Chavismo.

In some sense Petare is a microcosm of the choices Chavistas face in the upcoming parliamentary election: Do you follow voting for Chavez, despite the fact that things seem to be getting worse, or do you give a chance to the opposition to show whether they can do a better job?

But the amazing thing is that Chavez seems to have lost the propaganda magic touch he has always exhibited and the hospital gaffe is one more example of Chavez spending all his time being defensive, rather than setting the agenda for the headlines.

Tonight Chavez flip-flopped on the hospital issue approving the funding, saying he had a “small doubt”, but after three days in the headlines, it was clear that this was not just a matter of checking some fact, but a clear act of discrimination and disdain towards the opposition and the poor people of Petare.

And once again Chavez had to back track and try to deflect criticism in a manner which is unusual for him. And the opposition once again took advantage of the issue, grabbing headlines because of the sheer stupidity of the action, as well as holding a clean up day for the hospital today, that sent a clear counter message to the neighbors of Petare.

The question is what has changed in Chavez’ propaganda machine? With 28 days to go to the election, it was only today that Chavez began campaigning, as he was in Cuba on the first day electoral activities were allowed, despite the fact that numbers do not favor him and the opposition, with some luck, has been able to dominate the headlines for the last two months.

And in each case, from Pudreval to crime and now the hospital, Chavez’ reaction has been weak and quite insufficient for an electorate that is still waiting for results after eleven years with little progress in their personal lives.

This flip-flop will not help Chavez, as the blatant lie given by him for the change will also dominate the news for a couple of more days, until another issue takes over. It would have been better for the Vice-President or someone else to say the funding had been approved without explanation. As it stands, he only made it worse.

The Venezuelan Poor Are the Overwhelming Victims of Homicides

August 27, 2010

In Spanish here

When Alek Boyd sent me the link for the INE report on crime this morning, I wished that I did not have to work, so I could read it and analyze it. It raises a number of questions about definitions, some of which are difficult to understand. For example, I am not sure how they define the number of total homicides, there seems to be two definitions.

But it is very clear from the report, who in Venezuela suffers the most from the rampant crime that Chavismo has refused to fight. You guessed it: The poor!

This is shown in the graph above. The purple line is the percentage of the population that is in each social strata according to the INE (National Institute for Statistics) report. The reddish line indicates the percentage of homicides that occurs in each strata. As you can see, the lowest strata of the population (5) represent 7.52% of the population, but nevertheless are the victims of 27.12% of all homicides. Similarly, those in the next lowest (4) strata, represent 34.02 of the population, but are the victims of 56.52% of all homicides.

In contrast those in levels 2 and 3 are best off, they are 43.04% and 13.7% of the population respectively, but only suffer from 12.4% and 1.91% of the homicides in the country. Those at the top don’t have it so good, they are 1.72% of the population, but are victims of 2.02% of  all homicides. This may indicate that those in what INE classifies as the top strata, either are victims of their own geography or victims of their life style, maybe showing off too much, driving fancy cars and the like.

But clearly, you don’t want to be in strata 4 or 5, which comprise 41.54% of the population, but are victims of 83.64% of all homicides in the country.

You definitely don’t want to be poor in Venezuela, but that is precisely where Chavez’ supporters are.

And who defends them from this?

For those that want to see it per  inhabitants in each strata, of course it is worse for the poorest (However, I think there is an additional normalization factor, the number of homicides is absolute, the population in each strata is not, the conversion factor seems to be 28.8 million/1.82 million (INE population in study)~52 times smaller, that is each number has to be divided by 52, :

Venezuela Official Numbers: 21,132 homicides, 26,873 kidnappings and 1.9 million robberies in 2009

August 27, 2010

This table is taken from an official document  from the National Institute for Statistics (page 67). As you can see, INE estimates there were 21,132 homicides in Venezuela in 2009, a horrifying figure, larger than the estimates that Andres Izarra laughed at in CNN, where he questioned the studies, the methodology and the seriousness of the numbers that were being given.

But beyond the homicides, note there were also 26,873 kidnappings, 9,205 cases of sexual abuse and between robbery and theft there were 1,916,625 crimes of those two types in Venezuela. Given that INE projects the population to be today 28,833,845, the last number implies that in the last year alone, one out of every fifteen Venezuelans was robbed.

These are appaling numbers, but we are sure Izarrita is still laughing, that is what he gets paid to do.

Thanks AB!

You can run for the National Assembly, but just don’t campaign near the Capitol

August 25, 2010

It was the first day of campaigning and some candidates for the opposition decided to symbolically go to the Capitol building where the National Assembly meets, to present their proposals if they are elected. The National Guard and Chavista groups not only barred them from getting close to the building, but very quickly began throwing tear gas at them.

Wonder what the Guards will do when these same people show up to take their elected seats?

(Note added: In the Chavista version, published on the webpage of the National Assembly, the opposition candidates were trying to kidnap 600 children of the workers of the Assembly. Interesting, ten guys with no weapons, kidnapping 600 children. Hard to imagine human rights activist Carlos Correa trying to kidnapp a cat, let alone 600 kids)

The Venezuelan opposition should stick to talking about crime: It’s Working!

August 24, 2010

(I voted for HIM, precisely so that this would not happen to me)

If there was ever a subject that Chavismo has trouble dealing with, its crime, also known by now as Pudremorgue. Clearly, Chavismo has not been able to BS its way out of this problem, seems to have problems dealing with it and it sounds infantile in its excuses for the magnitude of the problem.

From Chavez, to Jaua, to Navarro, the discussion is simply Bizantine. Crime is, after all, the number one concern of every Venezuelan, each and everyone one of us is touched weekly about it, more so if you are poor or live in a barrio, but during the last two weeks, someone close to a coworkers was killed and a coworker managed to weasel out of being kidnapped last Friday, when his car was hit by another one and three armed thugs came out ready to take him, his friend and the car. Some quick reflexes and luck and he is telling us about t. This, by the way, happened not a mile from my home.

And that is why Chavista excuses are so lame. The crime problem has been there for all of Chavez’ eleven years and he has never acknowledged it and as his popularity drops, I am glad he is addressing the problem, because there is no way to address it.

Thus, it was fun to watch Ambassador to Washington Alvarez, trying to sweep the problem using arguments like ” it is a difficult reality” or “the Venezuelan Government has been making efforts” or “the drastic expansion of social services …has played an important role to attack the fundamental causes of criminality”

Hello! Where have you been the last eleven years? Oh! Yes! Washinton D.C., it shows. Because it has always been a difficult reality and homicides and crime have soared under Chavez and the revolution, leaving no trace, proof or evidence that either the Chavez Government is doing anything or the social programs have helped reduced criminality. In fact, if anything, it may be that the Chavista giveaways provide free time for the criminals to spend doing their thing rather than being dutifully employed and thus busy.

And the Director of Communications and Propaganda (!) of Chavez’ PSUV party was simply laughable today, when she criticized the New York Times for its factual article saying “where he dares to compare in immoral and criminal fashion, Venezuela with Iraq”

I wonder what Iraq’s Ambassador to Venezuela thinks about that pearl of a  statement. I guess PSUV is not too concerned about diplomacy right ow, with its life at stake.

And if this was not enough, Ms. Eekhout then talks about the “extraordinary efforts” the Government has made to confront violence, which is, of course, a capitalist problem.

According to Eekhout, violence in Venezuela arises from the 80’s when “young people were capable of killing for a pair of shoes, due to to extreme poverty and the lack of opportunities.

Funny, these same kids kill today for a beer or a cheap cellphone and with informal unemployment at 50% plus and crime having tripled, it is not clear what has changed.

The thing is Ms. Director of Propaganda for PSUV, on this issue, you can’t fool people into blaming capitalism, the Empire or the New York Times. This is about a reality that you used to care about (or so you say) but are so far removed to it and so powerless to fight, that you and your boss resort to convoluted arguments that may work with Pudreval, military spending or people trying to kill Hugo, but the “people” know all about crime and how things have deteriorated since you guys took over.

Which is why the Opposition, the MUD and everyone that wants the Dictator out of power should keep hammering the issue, talk about crimes, there is no defense, there is “yo no fui”, there is no excuse, there is no explanation.

And it is killing us all.