Case Study: A Rejected Fishing Project For The People or The Destructive Abilities of the Bolivarian Revolution

July 14, 2011

To Guillermo and to so many other dreamers…

Calle Real, Chuspa

In Spanish here

I “met” Guillermo Mantovani (@cplpesca) via Twitter, the same way he “met”the Head of Insopesca, the fishing Institute that has to approve the technical aspects of his project for him to obtain financing from the Government. The Head of Insopesca asked him to resubmit his rejected project, which was rejected again. I just asked him to send me the material on his project. While it is easy to write about macroeconomic numbers and distortions in the economy, it is the micro stuff that really tells the story about what is going on in Chavez’ Bolivarian Revolution. But in the end, both lead to the same conclusion, the revolution destroys in the name of ideology, but it is that same “ideology” that does not allow it to build anything. Everything is stuck in the empty and impractical minds of bureaucrats, who have never managed anything, but live comfortably on their Government salary and perks. Meanwhile, Guillermo and the people who could benefit from his project, wait the eternal promise of a non-existing revolution and the ever evolving and distorted ideology that is behind it.

Mr. Mantovani saw the town of Chuspa in the Coast of Vargas State for the first time in ’99, right before the mudslides that destroyed that State (another failure of reconstruction, even if the destruction can’t be blamed on the revolution). He liked the town and the area and felt moving to Chuspa would provide a good balance, an active retirement in a place that needed everything, a change of pace and a cleansing of the mind, far from what people call civilization. Slowly, he became an accepted resident of Chuspa.

His diagnose of the town was clear: Low levels of education, no healthcare, huge unemployment, sub-employment in fishing and few opportunities for women, which destroys their self-esteem and their lives. Mr. Mantovani got involved. He helped improve telephone services. Helped get some “Info-Centros” set up there to give people Internet access. He talked to hundreds of people, including Chavez who visited Chuspa in 2003. He participated in Mision Sucre and Mision Ribas. The road was improved after Chavez’ visit, but unemployment and under employment in fishing was pervasive. He started organizing the fisherman in the town and those nearby. When the Government invented coops, they already had two, the number reached eight. The interest in the coops on the part of the Government died, it was another Bolivarian fashion, he had to leave for two years, resources never arrived, the coops died. They are no longer there.

Kiosks along the Malecon, Chuspa

He never lost touch and when PDVAL was created, he got PDVAL interested in fishing and its products, they funded a center for stock-piling fish, 100 boats for the fishermen and promised a processing plant. Oil prices dropped, money was spent only in t-shirts, hats and transportation to political rallies. Nothing happened.

Mr. Mantovani decided then to start a company and submitted a proposal entitled: “Recovery and development of the socioeconomic structure of the Litoral central, via the activation of their tourism-fishing towns”. The plan contemplates to start a company that will be in full motion in 120 days, creating jobs, particularly for women, who can only aspire to have cleaning jobs from the regional Government. The goal was to create 700 jobs, between fishermen and the processing plant, including 220 jobs for women.

Juana’s Kiosk, Chuspa

The company would provide fishermen all of the materials, from gas, to bait, to the ice needed. It would set up the stock piling centers to work 24 hours a day and acquire the infrastructure necessary for processing. A turnkey, 5Ton/day plant would be purchased from a Spanish company and the company would set up distribution, including ice making in Chuspa, transportation to markets, a distribution center near Caracas.The company would buy 25 small boats and 15 “palangreros”, the type of boat that carries an array of hooks below it. The proposal details time frames, methods and even a savings plan and independence plans for the fishermen. It looks at the market and all of its possibilities, even the type of fish to be processed and sold, with emphasis in selling to PDVAL, small fish stores and if there is excess production to restaurants and larger markets.

The project requests Bs. 30 million in financing, about US$ 7 million at the official rate of exchange. The company is owned by Mr. Mantovani, but he has agreed to give 20% of the company to the Communal Council of Chuspa, once the financing is obtained. The company will direct 5% of its gross income for social responsibility and 5% to improve the conditions of personnel. The Chuspa communal council backs the project and it has other approvals from Government entities.

The problem?

In order to obtain financing, Insopesca, the National Institute for Fishing and Aquaculture has to give its technical approval of the project. The project was rejected once and Mr. Mantovani resubmitted after the exchange via Twitter with Mr. Gilberto Gimenez, President of Insopesca. Here is an excerpt of the second rejection, denying the “technical” backing necessary for the project to receive financing:

“The project is conceived under the concept of a private company, which leads us to suggest that models aligned with the new economic and productive policies be used. Even if the vision of the project is to administer goods and means of production for the fishermen, it sets up a situation which legally privileges the consortium, which promotes only one Director, as the only shareholder of the consortium (Did they even read the project???), which blurs the current context for the promotion of socio-productive organizations. It also describes a potentially monopolistic model, that is, under this scheme there will be a great power over the market, which will be the only one to own the product, the resources, the service and the goods, with the risk that the fishermen will return to the old scheme of exploitation and dependence on the boss to whom they will have to report”

So much for a technical evaluation of the project. It even sounds like they did not even bother to read it, since 20% of the company would be given to the communal council. The evaluation never even considers any of the parts of the projects proposed, its viability, the fact that it will generate employment in an area that has no sources of employment other than the local Government. It is just ideological “paja” by someone who has no clue as to even start running a project. To hell the inhabitants of Chuspa and the fisherman. Let them continue living a precarious, but ideologically “pure” life. So much for loving “the people”.

I bet those that asked for financing for setting up a red shirt or cap factory, got it. But Mr. Mantovani dared to dream, wanted to help, adapted his structure to the Government’s guidelines, coops then, communal council now. He also adjusted the structure so it would fit the local idiosyncrasies, customs and problems. He tried, but some bureaucrat shot him down in the name of ideology.

But, as Mr. Mantovani more or less said, either in his emails with me or one of the many documents he sent me: “It just seems as when it comes to facts, some of us are more socialist than others”

Drum Square, Chuspa

All pictures courtesy of Guillermo Mantovani

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30 Responses to “Case Study: A Rejected Fishing Project For The People or The Destructive Abilities of the Bolivarian Revolution”

  1. island canuck Says:

    Capriles was leading the polls. It’s only natural they would attack him. Hopefully he’s kept himself clean. He had to know that they would try something.

    See http://www.eluniversal.com/2011/07/15/tsj-tramita-antejuicio-de-merito-contra-capriles-radonski.shtml for more info.

  2. Bloody Mary Says:

    For those who still believe that there are going to be any opportunity to see changes in the coming elections….. Today a court started a criminal action against Capriles…. I was asking myself when it would start. Sad, very sad, but predictable… Even more sad, I’m starting to hope that Diosdado at least won´t be worse than Pérez Jimenez…..

  3. megaescualidus Says:

    This will be off topic:

    Just saw it in Yahoo: “Chavez expected soon at Brazilian hospital”.

    To me this is just but one more indication of how “vende patria” HC is. Someone could say he’s just looking for the best treatment available. The reality is that he could have probably gotten better treatment in “el imperio”. And, the fact he wouldn’t set a foot in a Venezuelan hospital (private, or, God forbid, public, or perhaps even one of his Missions) to me speaks volumes. HC is “vende patria” all the way. If and when he goes down, among many other well deserved “titles”, in my mind he’s going down as the biggest “vende partia” that’s held public office in Venezuela.

  4. POL47 Says:

    Perhaps he should have asked the Castro brothers before he asked the Chevez goverment. At least that way he would have cut out the middle man in getting approval.

  5. Speed Gibson Says:

    why build fishing co-ops when you can build prisons instead? lol so very very socialismo…..good that you got out of Venz when you did

    http://news.yahoo.com/venezuelas-chavez-boost-prison-construction-123254823.html

  6. captainccs Says:

    Miguel might not reach the literary heights of his namesake de Cervantes Saavedra but he jousts windmills just as well as Don Quixote. 😉

  7. firepigette Says:

    Miguel,

    If I may speak from my heart:

    Each blogger has his pluses and minuses.You come across as very authentic.This is something that in the world of Venezuelan politics is invaluable.Venezuelan journalism is a world of paranoia and confusion where many people manipulate through lies,and political motivation while simultaneously demanding ” credibility”.

    What I like about you is when I read your posts, I feel you are speaking your truth without any other intention.This , in the world of Venezuelan journalism is invaluable.It is a quality that trumps style, or sophistication any day of the week.Do not lose it!

    And remember: Your opinion is part of what we can learn from you.Don’t be afraid to speak you mind, ever.I am perfectly capable of being influenced by you, and retaining my own set of criteria at the same time.

  8. moctavio Says:

    I am a great Editor of Physics papers. In those, you remove all extra words until nobody but experts understand what you are saying.

  9. Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

    Miguel,
    Welcome to my world! It sucks, but you get used ot it… 🙂

  10. firepigette Says:

    Miguel,

    I think everyone should develop the style that best suits their purposes and personality.Journalists are often slaves to the prison imposed on them by superficiality and “THE SELL”.What is wrong with the world today can often be summed up in these 2 little words.

    I for one despise journalism, its style, its traditional lack of ability to delve deeply into a subject matter; I usually read magazines or newspapers in a few minutes,speed reading to a finish as I inevitably suffer from an anger that comes from feeling gypped.

    I like pieces that are full of information, analysis and opinion.Gimmicky or politically correct writing, not only bores me, but endlessly irritates me with its manipulative intentions- far better suited to cereal box advertisements- At its best , humorous.

  11. moctavio Says:

    When you have had no Editor for eight years, all sorts of quirks and manias get repeated. I must say, I was more worried about getting the details of the story right, than how I told it, I even asked GM to read it fast after I published it to make sure there were no inaccuracies. At the same time, when I put together a post like this, I rant, because I get so mad at how things are being done.

  12. Francisco Toro Says:

    ps: for a masterclass in how to make a point devastatingly through a story without ever telling the reader what to think, check this out: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann

    Genius.

  13. Francisco Toro Says:

    Hola Miguel,

    So I know it’s probably not my place to write this, and I don’t know that it’ll do any good.

    But you can ask Juan: at heart I’m an editor, it’s hard for me to turn it off. So I’m giving myself license to pick you up on style points because I *know* posts like this could be so so much more effective if you’d take it on.

    It’s just three little words that have been helping three generations of writers: Show don’t tell.

    Don’t tell us that “the revolution destroys in the name of ideology,” show us that it does through the story itself. Don’t tell us that the minds of bureaucrats are “empty and impractical”, let that conclusion emerge on its own from the story you have to tell.

    All the editorializing (especially early on in the post), all the adjectives, they don’t actually add anything to the story: they undermine it. By the time you’re telling us that the evaluation “is just ideological “paja” by someone who has no clue as to even start running a project”, we’ve fully grasped that point – but you don’t strengthen our conviction by dictating your conclusion to us. Doing so just communicates to the casual reader “well this is a guy with an axe to grind who is only using this story to make a political point.”

    That’s the opposite of what you want!

    You have such a good story to tell, but throughout you keep stepping on your own toes by interjecting conclusions, by telling us what to think instead of letting us gradually come to the conclusions you’ve come to at our own pace.

    It’s about treating your readers with respect, Miguel, about letting them know you trust them to think with their own head and you know they won’t need to be told what to think right at the start of the piece. If you want to have a little meditation on what-it-all-means at the end, once you’ve gently guided the reader to certain conclusions, that’s great. But when you do it in the first paragraph you’re badgering the reader, and that’s just not good practice.

    OK, sorry to rant like this. It’s a disease. Like I said, I’m only writing this BECAUSE it’s such a good story – and I hate to see its effectiveness undermined by too many adjectives.

  14. captainccs Says:

    Miguel, were you paying attention to the political electoral debate in 1997? Salas Romer of Carabobo was campaigning on bringing administrative efficiency to the government. His campaign was resonating enough that a TV journalist asked a Communist Party spokesman about it. The reply was memorable. This person asserted that government was not about administration but about politics! This, of course is a circular statement because politics is “the art of governing.” What this person said was that government was about government. What he meant to say was that government was about ideology. “Politics,” in Venezuela, means ideology.

    My upstairs neighbor (who has since moved to more luxurious settings) was a card carrying member of MAS (Petkoff’s Euro-communists). He and his wife both work for the Chavista government — he is some sort of vice minister or something. MAS split with Chavez but my neighbor remains in government. I once accused him of being a stupid Chavez supporter, a fact he denied. “What then,” I asked “are you doing in government?” His reply was: “I believe in the system.” For my neighbor ideology trumps reality. At the time of our conversation he was against Chavez, MAS having quit the government, yet he stayed on believing he could help install the socialist/comunist ideology. Like most government agents, I doubt he ever did a day’s productive work in his life. He was trained to be a communist in our educational system.

    We are getting what we voted for in 1997. Why complain now that it does not work? When will Venezuelans realize that socialism does not work, not the XIXth Century brand, the XXth Century brand nor the XXIth Century brand. Are any of the opposition politicians running on anything besides their own vision of socialism? Not too long ago one of the wannabes was offering free Wi-Fi for Chacao. I’m sure that would solve all our problems.

    Teodoro Petkoff is quite popular these days and he is supposedly an economist. Back when he was running for president his campaign was against “Immoral profits of 300%.” He was interviewed on RCTV by Marcel Granier who asked him “300% of what?” to which Petkoff replied: “What do you mean by 300% of what?” Granier led him on: “300% of invested capital? 300% of revenue?…” “No, no, no, no” was Petkoff’s reply “just 300% immoral profits.” Clueless!

    Now I ask you, how can you expect these ideologues to run any country efficiently? It’s all politics, pork, kickbacks wrapped in ideology.

    I also ask you, when will a politician in Venezuela offer anything other than socialism? Not until we run out of the excrement of the devil. We are simply doomed. Remember when a businessman ran for president? They killed him, they murdered Reny.

    • syd Says:

      300% of immoral profits. LOL. That’s right up there with Garvey’s FDA rating for Argentina’s electoral fairness: “um, so what about 20%?”

  15. Kepler Says:

    Very interesting and very shocking the answer from the so-called ministry of “Environment”…just ideological crap.
    But then I am for less subventions on companies. It would be nice if they did not have to fight with the Kafkaesque redtape and shameless corruption Venezuela is sunk in.

    Apart from that, I am puzzled not to see any mention of what impact those trawlers can have.

    The whole world is really acting in a very idiotic way towards sea resources. I don’t know how these little trawlers would affect the area here, but I am also sad no one in Venezuela seems to care about that.
    Sustainability seems to be Chinese for Venezuelans…by all means.

    • m_astera Says:

      Kepler-

      25 small boats and 15 palangreros do not make the sort of impact that a single large trawler does. Ocean fish are a sustainable and ongoing resource. I would agree that the fishery should be studied and managed, but I doubt that a plant set up for 5 tons per day would have a huge impact on the local fish supply.

      To put things in perspective, the UniSea plants in Dutch Harbor, Alaska process 1200 tons of pollock fish per day and the fishery shows no sign of depletion. Granted the Caribbean is not as productive as the N Pacific, but it can probably handle 5 or 10 tons a day from the Chuspa area sustainably.

      If the waste from the fish processing was turned into fish meal for chicken feed and crop fertilizer that would provide a good boost to the locals as well.

  16. loroferoz Says:

    “When the Government invented coops…”

    Are you being sardonic bordering on caustic?

    Cooperatives have existed and been an important form of organization in Venezuela for decades.

    This Revolution is only original in inventing a lot of propaganda, around “coops” that busy themselves producing “Socialism”, rather than a tangible product. “Paja”, hot air and BS producing cooperatives. Figurative, not real, because real manure, hay and hot air have lots of uses. As figurative as the coops this Revolution has invented.

  17. Roberto N Says:

    It boils down to the bribe, Miguel.

    Somewhere along the way, money was asked for and refused.

    Been there, done that.

  18. José Campot (Uruguay) Says:

    I was one of the technicians who contacted Guillermo at the start of the project to organize the plant and train staff in the processing tasks. Unfortunately, as told in the note, never deigned the Venezuelan government to have the necessary funds for this plan. Not everyone is equally socialists.
    But this experience permitted to know to Guillermo, who still, after more than 10 years of pushing, with their hopes intact and trying to push this idea will only be for the benefit of the people of Chuspa, although their leaders did not willing.

  19. Juan Cristóbal Nagel Says:

    The saddest part of this story, for me, is that, assuming we end this nightmare, and real people with the will to do good things go to Chuspa to help them get off their feet – who will believe them? It’s the loss of hope that kills me.

    • syd Says:

      It’s the loss of hope that kills me. and the loss of incentive. You can try try again. But by the third time, you figure, what’s the point. Which is exactly what the stifling creeps in government are hoping for.

  20. CarlosElio Says:

    It is a sad story, very sad. One device that can help understand why economies driven by ideologies, not by market results, will fail is the engine of Bayesian probability. According to Bayes rules, the decision maker has a set of prior beliefs that spawn a probability distribution about the event being decided. The data offers additional information which is combined with the prior probability according to specific rules to generate the posterior distribution. If you know a bit of Marxist dialectics, it is the same story as thesis, antithesis and synthesis.
    When the prior is too strong, there is no revision of probability estimates. If all of us were bearers of strong priors, we would still be living in caves. Which seems to be the future under the dogmatism of the current regime: a return to the caves.


  21. […] Publicado el 14 julio, 2011 por Juan Cristóbal Nagel Si leen en inglés, por favor no se pierdan esta crónica del Gran Miguel sobre los proyectos de pesca en Chuspa. La crónica es A […]

  22. NicaCat56 Says:

    OT: this is a link to one of our public radio’s programs today about Simon Bolivar and the US. http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/Bolvar_Blvd.mp3/view.

  23. geronl Says:

    I am one of those who never wants to see government fund or own, even partly, enterprises like this. Of course the government of Venezuela has all but made private enterprise impossible.

    The fact is that this was shot down out of ideology, maybe it should have been named for Hugo or something, then it might have a chance.

  24. m_astera Says:

    It’s quite simple: Explain how this project personally benefits the income and influence of the present government parasites. Guillermo failed to do that, so his project was rejected.

    The only other option would be if he had connections at high enough levels to privately assure those who could approve the project that they would get a substantial kickback/payoff of a percentage of the funds.

    Attempting to get government funding based on the merit of the idea? How naive. Parasites care about one thing only: What is in it for them, personally.


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