Archive for August, 2010

NYTimes: Venezuela’s Murder Challenge

August 23, 2010

And Simón Romero of the NY Times makes a video about the murder rate in Venezuela and includes the picture from El Nacional in it. There is also an article associated to it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Venezuela’s Murder Challenge, posted with vodpod
(If  it takes time to download, clikc in the link above or here)

How the Chavez robolution spent $155 million on housing and got nothing in return

August 22, 2010

Remember Maletagate? When the case was being discussed, we all learned that Antonini (the guy with the suitcase with $800,000), Duran and Kauffman were involved, among other things, in a housing project, whereby an Uruguayan company would sell prefab houses to Venezuela, as part of their aid to the revolution to solve the housing crisis.

Well, in the Comptroller’s report to the National Assembly, there is mention to one such contract, but the specific name of the company in Uruguay is not specified. But the coincidence of countries (The Comptroller does say it was a Uruguayan company) is simply uncanny.

The Comptroller’s report says that the Ministry of Housing paid US$ 155.47 million to this Uruguayan concern to provide 12,000 prefab housing kits and the corresponding technical assistance. That comes to about $13,000 per prefab house, or Bs. 27.855 at the rate of exchange at that time, not extremely cheap for a prefab house then, but no outrageously expensive either.

Guess how many houses were built?


Not 11,000, just eleven, like in 6+5, or 7+4. That’s it. ELEVEN.

That’s about US$ 14 million per prefab house. Even worse, the same report by the Comptroller says that even the eleven houses built had to be finished with local construction material, because not a single one of the prefab kits was sent complete.

Fortunately (I guess), only 45.47% of the contract was paid, adding to it some US$ 13.17 in “operating expenses which the Comptroller says: “there is insufficient documentation to determine the exactitude, sincerity and legality of these operations”.

Where is the Prosecutor on all this? Who was in charge of the Ministry? The Project? who were the intermediaries? Were they the same individuals involved in Maletagate? Will they go after anyone?

These are all silly questions. Clearly there is no intention of going after anyone. This is, like Pudreval and others, a project set up to rob and steal, not to get anything done. And those involved are high level Chavistas that nobody wants to go after. Why doesn’t the Comptroller say which Uruguayan company was involved?  Which Minister approved payment? Come on! These guys could even be running for office in September, but Chavismo has no interest in barring them from running.

Such are the ways of the robolution, spend 155 million dollars to solve a problem and not even begin doing it. For all intents and purposes, 11 out of 12,000 is as good as saying no houses were built. But a few Chavista millionaires were certainly created.

And that the robolution is very good at!

Hugo Chavez’ own “Mediatic Pornography”, history comes back to bite him

August 21, 2010

One of the nice things about having a blog is the remarkable memory one has. Not so much because I have a good memory, but because the blog is a an eight year database (Forgot the anniversary earlier this month!) of what has happened in Venezuela and many times when I have to go back and look something up, I look in the blog and not in Google if I know I wrote about the subject. On top of that this “memory” is complemented by that of the readers who are always quick to remind me of things from the past. It is truly amazing how many posts originate from readers or material is provided by them (Keep it coming!)

I write this preamble, because a reader sent me a note, reminding me of things Hugo Chavez has done on TV, which would qualify under his “Mediatic “Pornography” label and are no different, in fact they are worse, he did it on TV, which is watched by more children and adolescents than those that read El Nacional.

The first case took place on October 29th. 2001 during his variety show Alo Presidente. In it, Chavez showed pictures of bodies of dead kids from Afganistán, describing how these were today dead bodies, but were the day before live kids who were not at fault and a bomb was dropped on them. This was not even one minute, but several minutes and several pictures that Chavez showed in his program, as shown below:

Chavez was not only quite graphic, but the pictures were of the same gruesome nature as those published by El Nacional. He showed no qualms or scruples about doing this on TV, the outrage was against the US, for that he could use those pictures. Kids were watching, and of course, no Children Judge said the next day that he could not do this.

A nice double standard, but we know that.

It was very similar in 2004, Chavez then showed pictures of tortured Iraqis, I will not show them here you can look in the link. He went on and on talking about human rights, as if he would recognize one if he saw it. He once again showed no scruples about this “Meadiatic Pornography” that kids and adolescents were seeing on TV. He actually seem to relish it.

Such are the double standards of Hugo Chavez, having no morals, he will use whatever is needed to attack his enemies, he will shift criteria, allow himself and his buddies license when it fits their purpose, but attack when others do it. He can use fake pictures to try to make a point, even if he knows it is all a lie.

The problem is that he is such a great charlatan, that he has said and done everything and history comes back to bite him.

(Thanks MRB for the info)

Drink good coffee, support your FARC guerrillas

August 21, 2010

And nothing like the anniversary of Venezuela’s Communist Party (PCV) for a little revolutionary capitalism. At the celebration in Maracay a scant 133 Kms. from Caracas, there was a stand selling Farc coffee (No signs of a trade mark) as you can see in the picture below:

The communist party has been a staunch supporter of the robolution, its only saving grace being that it has refused to be absorbed onto Chavez’ PSUV party.

Just think, you are not only contributing to the “cause” of terrorism, kidnaps, bombs and the like, but you are buying the best organic coffee from the FARC’s own farms in Santa Marta or stolen at random from Colombia’s best farms, bypassing Chavez’ boycott of Colombian products and without paying value added tax. What a deal!

And all of this happens under the watchful eyes of a revolution that is everywhere in Venezuela and is always ready to stop anything it does not like, from violent pictures to sensationalist music videos and who (wink, wink) does not support the FARC, as Chavez has told us repeatedly. Yeah! Sure!

What’s next? Al Qaeda fireworks for Chirstmas?

Will the Government take a shot at onechot for his Rotten Town?

August 20, 2010

By now, nothing can surprise us, even if the Government backtracked on the prohibition of violent or bloody pictures, according to VTV presenter Tania Diaz, the Government plans to take a shot at singer onechot for the video Rotten Town which he released three days ago.

The funny thing is that even onechot’s nationality is being put into question because he lives in Spain. As usual, attempting to disqualify the messenger and not the message.

Another day, another stupid, repressive act by the Chavez Government. Thus, to make sure that everyone sees the video and to help it go around the world like El-Nacional’s morgue picture, here is my small contribution, Caracas is indeed Rotten Town:

Another one bites the dust: Nationalized Cemex Venezuela loses money in first semester

August 19, 2010

Continuing with the Terminator policies of destroying the country’s infrastructure, Cemex Venezuela, nationalized by Hugo Chávez two years ago, announced that the company had lost Bs. 78 million in the first half of 2010.

Way to go Hugo!

To give this some perspective the last time that Cemex reported financials was in 2007 (It was taken over in 2008) and that year the company made Bs. 277 million. In fact these are the profits the last four years of operations under private management:

2004 223 million Bs.

2005 370 million Bs.

2006 336 million Bs.

2007 277 million Bs.

The explanation for this negative result?

Everything really, from lower cement production, to lower cement sales, to higher costs, to distribution problems, you name it.

In only two years, the revolution has taken a well managed cement operation with unique competitive advantages into an operation with loses.

Cemex México has taken the Venezuelan Government to arbitration over the nationalization of its affiliate.

The “in your face” gruesome picture seen around the world

August 19, 2010

(Reality is unpublishable)

When El Nacional published the very gruesome picture of the Caracas morgue in response to the cynical and hysterical laughs of Andres Izarra, President of Chavez’ pet international propaganda TV station Telesur, reactions were mixed. The comments section of this blog flared up with disparate positions. Curiously, my concern when I thought about whether to publish it or not in my blog, was that some may find it offensive. But this seemed to be the minority position. A larger fraction seemed more concerned with the publication of the picture backfiring against those that oppose Hugo Chavez (I am trying to differentiate them from the “opposition”)

But El Nacional’s picture, through the missteps of the Government, some cooperation from other media, and yes, some luck, has become the “in your face” picture seen around the world, that has revealed the lack of respect of Chavez and his cohorts for the right to life and freedom of the press. In fact, even VTV reporters have already spoken against the very clear act of censorship by the Judge who banned printed media from publishing violent pictures.

Things got complicated right off the bat, when, while you could still hear Izarra’s hyenic hysterics, a woman from Hong Kong’s team got shot by a stray bullet in the World Women’s Baseball tournament being played of all places at a Caracas military fort. As even the Vice-President tried to explain away this event as unusual, most Venezuelans who live in the barrios likely stared at their TV screens wondering where does Mr. Jaua live, as both specific purpose and stray bullets are part of the daily life of poor Venezuelans, where the strength of Chavismo happens to live.

On that same day, a bus filled with 69 campers was hijacked and all of their possessions stolen, as the 20 adults accompanying and protecting them also were forced to hand out their valuables.

The Government was caught off guard by theeffects of the “in your face” picture. As the picture went around the world, newspapers reported on the injunction on El Nacional not to publish similar pictures. The whole thing may have died there, but then Tal Cual also published the picture in its front page, accompanying its Editorial. The Government then also issued an injunction against Tal Cual, using the sensitivity of children as an excuse, but it began stumbling when a Judge then prohibited all printed media from printing violent, bloody or gruesome pictures.

It is unclear who or why the Judge ordered this, but his decision is so transparently political and cynical, that his order of censorship is only temporary, it expires in four weeks, as if the sensitivity of kids will harden a week before the upcoming National Assembly elections, just when campaigning ends.

And the significant impact of the “in your face” picture was such, that it forced Hugo Chavez to speak on the problem of crime and homicides for the first time, a subject he has consistently avoided and has always failed to address.

And the improvised response has been absolutely terrible and uninspired, for a Government well known for selling any explanation for its missteps, no matter how absurd they may be.

Because once again those living in the barrios will not buy the excuse that the criminals were raised during the IVth. Republic and that it is capitalistic desires that drive crime. Because each and everyone of the inhabitants of the barrios has been in contact with the crime, the deaths and the abuses, in the absence of a Government that has now been in power for eleven years. And it is precisely their desires to lead a better life that have been hampered by crime. Thus, blaming the messenger or calling the picture mediatic pornography, is very unlikely to sell well in the areas Catia or Caricuao, or in the mountains of Mérida.

140,000 people have been murdered in Venezuela since Chavez took power in 1999. Where have you been all these years Hugo? Its clear the Dictator no longer has the magic touch or is in touch with the people.

And meanwhile the cries of “Censorship” have also been heard around the world, as Oliver Stone and Sean Penn are probably wondering why the hell they had to make a defense of free speech being present in Venezuela. Being a Hollywood star makes no one an expert on democracy in far off lands.

And even the Investigative police and the Prosecutor act harshly, showing up at El Nacional at peak time, just as the newspaper is being composed, pretending to have 100 reporters and photographers leave the newspaper, so they can retrieve the memory card with the infamous picture to determine when it was taken. In the face of that crowd, already predisposed against them, and not ready to even consider obeying the order, the cops and the prosecutors decided not to create another show and simply left. Sans card!

Thus, thanks to Izarrita’s sordid and fake laugh and the picture, the Government, for once, has not been setting the agenda for the last few days, attempting to contain the effects of the picture. This distraction follows that of Pudreval, which has been forgotten only because of the “picture”, except that crime is more important an issue than food, more so among the poor.

And when Chavez says that in 20 years there will be no crime, it brings people back to the old promise of no kids in the streets in five years, a promise made 12 long years ago, as well as the promise of eliminating corruption, as the inhabitants of the barrios see their Chavista leadership move around with expensive cars and body guards, making them immune to the crime problem.

Which goes back to a post I wrote recently. I noted that Diego Arria and Alvarez Paz, had been more effective at challenging and making the Government react than the opposition, by confronting the Government with new issues or responding directly to the absurd arguments of the Chavistas.

The picture has been a wonderful example of that. It may have been unintended, but a Government with no scruples, used to winning every argument, has trapped itself in explaining away the problem that it has never cared about. And it was not ready for it.

In your face Hugo!

El Nacional goes into censorship mode

August 18, 2010

Using tactics not seen since the dictatorship of Marco Perez Jimenez in the 50’s, today’s El Nacional shows the word “Censored” in each of the pages where it had to remove material because of yesterday’s order by the Judge banning pictures of violent events in order to protect children.

The noose tightens around Freedom of the Press in Venezuela

August 18, 2010

It is a very simple story:

One month and eight days before the the National Assembly elections, the number one concern of the electorate is:


And as the press notes and emphasizes the fact that crime has tripled in the eleven years of Chavismo, a Judge issues the following prohibition:

“For the next four weeks, no newspaper, magazine or weekly of the country can publish images that are violent, bloody, grotesque, whether about crime or not”

This is done to protect the “psychic and moral integrity of children and adolescents”. The four weeks “temporary” protection alone should tell you how electoral this decision is.

Of course, these people have been nowhere to be seen as kids and adolescents get murdered day after day by the uncontrollable crime that Chavez and his cohorts refuse to admit as a problem, but only as plot by the opposition.

Another noose has sadly tightened around Freedom of Speech in Venezuela and in  clear violation of Art. 57 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which says:

Article 57:Everyone has the right to express freely his thoughts, his ideas and opinions either spoken, in writing or through any other form of expression and be able to use to that end any media of communication and diffusion, without the possibility of establishing censorship…

Can it be any clearer than this, it is simply another act of censorship and a violation of Freedom of Speech in Venezuela?

Stray bullet was “isolated” incident. How about this one?

August 17, 2010

Last weekend the Minister for Sports Hector Rodriguez (There is such a Ministry?) said with respect to the stray bullet that hit Hong Kong’s player during a game of the Womens Baseball Tournament taking place in Caracas. The touranment is being played within a military facility, the safest” of them all, Fuerte Tiuna:

“It was an isolated incident, so says the technical report”

Well, I live in one of Caracas less dangerous areas. There is a barrio next door, but it is relatively safer than most of the city. Despite this, the picture below shows another “isolated” incident which fortunately ended well a couple of years ago.

As you can see, a bullet hit my glass window. This isolated incident was such that obviously the bullet had lost momentum and was not even able to penetrate the glass. But I would not mind Minister Rodriguez sending his technical team to determine whether my incident was also isolated or not.

I imagine the technical report that the Minister is referring for the incident of the baseball player, goes something like this:

“We use the Drake Equation as applied to the number of possible civilizations in the Universe with whom we may communicate, but applied to stray bullets (CICPC Report # 3.1415)

N = R^{\ast} \times f_p \times n_e \times f_{\ell} \times f_i \times f_c \times L \!

Where N is the number of bullets that hit someone, R* is the average number of bullets in the air at any given time, fp is the fraction of those bullets flying at or below eye level, ne is the number of people out in the streets at that time, fl is a coefficient which depends on the  the time of day, fi is the fraction of bullets that reach the target at a speed capable of killing someone, fc is the safety of the area of Caracas and L is whether you are in a military facility or not.

Using CICPC Handbook of Data Tables # 2.718288 for all of the parameters, we conclude that this is an isolated incident”

There you have it, for all of you skeptics. It’s a formula, it’s mathematical, it’s isolated.

As simple as that.