Almost thirty years ago, I joined a group of brilliant and wonderful Venezuelan engineers and scientists (and friends!) to start an engineering research institute. We had a budget of maybe US$ 10 million per year ($20 million at the top!, sometimes zero on January 1st), but somehow we were ambitious (and naive?) enough to think we could do so much.
And we did.
We not only did the “classical” areas, electronics, systems, control, metallurgy, but we also created, because it was needed, a digital image processing center. This center became a showcase for what we could do, remote sensing, image processing, agriculture, soils, the works. This all resonated with the Government and the projects began to flow. The institution still exists, it even sports as its symbol the Panare basked weaved by indians (shown above) which we chose at the time as a symbol of “local” technology. They no longer pay the international domain name (fii.org), you can only access it via the .ve link, probably to save ten bucks a year in a country with exchange controls.
The center for digital image processing still exists, you can read about it here, you can read all of the applications. Since the mid-eighties this has been available in Venezuela for anyone to use, contract, whatever. The knowledge is there. In fact, one of the Presidents of the Institute came from that project. These are projects that required high power computing and computer techniques to process and understand images. The cost is in the brains and the computers. The images? They are accessible, you can buy them from the French (At the time we used to buy them from the Spot satellite in France, I am not sure how that has evolved) or the Americans, but I guess that’s verboten for the revolution.
But today I learn that this work was for naught. Because the Minister of Science and Technology tells us that Venezuela is buying a second satellite from the Chinese for US$ 405 million. And wow! Imagine! We will be able to tell how much soil we have that can be planted, something we could tell in the 80’s with no satellite, just Venezuelans working very hard on a shoestring.
I guess the Chinese are now selling trinkets to the Chavista “intellingentsia”.
Imagine the dialogue:
Ok, you have now borrowed US$ Y billion from us (Y as in Yuan!). Here is a list, what do you need.
Satellite, says Menendez, who happens to be a geographer, which in Venezuela is not necessarily a very scientific profession, least of all him. Because he is an expert on “The Geometry of Power” and has few, if any, scientific accomplishments or credntials. So, he says, having no monetary scale to compare with:
“I’ll take it”
and Venezuela has bought itself a remote sensing satellite with C and Ku and Ka band capabilities for “only” US$ 405 million, from the same people (colonizers?) that sold it the crappy telecom satellite that is still faulty.
But for a million a year, you could buy all of the images you want and use the other US$ 404 million in training people and buying the real tools of remote sensing.
But much like Cristopohorus Colombus, the Chinese have found their ignorant Bolivarian crowd to sell their worthless trinkets to, they have money, they have no clue, a great deal…
…if you are Chinese.
I think the satellite should be called Chiguire Bipolar!
Or better, Ignorant Chavista! They deserve it!