Friday, June 22, 2007

It is an English language blog after all 

Here is the first Oil Wars sub-titled video. It is student Cesar Trompiz speaking in the National Assembly after the opposition students left with nothing to say:


Now, there are plenty of other speeches and videos to sub-title. Don't everyone volunteer at once.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Look what a nice bridge the Martians built. 

As we know from the video in the previous post Venezuelans are lazy, don't want to work, spend lots of time drinking and partying, and use what little time they have left over to beat their wives. Needless to say, they are completely incapable of working around the clock for months on end to build a new bridge between the coast and Caracas.

Fortunately for them, they didn't have to lift a finger. The Venezuelan government may have paid for it but the Martians that were beamed down from outerspace each night did all the work.

Regardless, the new bridge was inaugurated today and it sure is something to behold:

Please note, they even built in roadway reflectors to make the lanes easier to see during nighttime driving. A very nice touch by the little green men - Venezuelans would never have thought to do that.

And to think just a short time ago it looked like this:

Gosh those Martians work fast. If the lazy Venezuelans had tried to build it themselves I bet it would have taken decades finish.


Thank god for small favors 

Venezuela might have a lot of poverty, it might have political conflict, it may be afflicted with a high crime rate, and it may even be too dependent on oil.

But it can at least be thankfull that, as the opposition never tires of telling us, their is NO racism in Venezuela:

Racismo de señora italiana en Televen
Uploaded by lbracci


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Impetus for protest: Of Grants and Student led Organization 

Pulpo says: University student led protests during the past several weeks over the non-renewal of RCTV’s license to broadcast over public airwaves has gained a significant amount of airtime both nationally and to a much lesser extent internationally. The students aim was initially to raise awareness over the perception of a loss of freedom of speech and expression. The student led protests were preceeded by a general opposition led protest. As the general protest waned the embers of the fire were rekindled by the student led movement. Flying the flag of freedom of expression the students gained some momentum, a momentum that had hitherto been seen by student groups during the current administrations tenure. Interestingly it was not their own freedom of expression which was being sought, it was the perceived right of a corporation to openly oppose the government on public airwaves and which aided in the coup that briefly deposed President Chavez.

The student led protests however, have taken a more generalized tone of late. No longer do they raise the flag for RCTV, they aim to change civil society as a whole. To protect the rights of the population from other perceived losses to society. The shift in focus perhaps is due to the fact that any opposition towards the government is good. Its focus need not be RCTV or a bridge collapsing or acts of nature - all of which have been cause for opposition. The interest is in keeping alive the fervor, whatever its name may be. The student protest differentiates itself from other protests, in that the participants are viewed as apolitical, or somewhat heterogenous, incorporating what are to be believed as former Chavez advocates.

If one is to beleive that the RCTV debacle was the catalyst, and the student movment a continuence thereof, then some questions arise that should be investigated:

What was the impetus for the student mobilization and how did it organize so quickly and efficiently?

Why after gaining support for the cause of RCTV did the movmement shift gears to be more generalized?

On August 26th 2006 a report was published by the Associated Press (AP) which highlighted their acquisition of documents obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act, a subject which had been addressed on this blogwhen the issue was current. The documents contained information regarding grants given to Venezuelan agencies by US government sponsered agencies, and displayed in a spreadsheet database detailing recipients and the awards granted to them. On many occasions the recipients names were withheld and in some instances the names of entire programs were withheld. The article is no longer available on the internet but can be purchased from the AP archives (although the link to the database cannot be verified to be available). An internet search, given the information provided, will result in several positive hits certifying its veracity.

Below is a list, derived from the database, demonstrating only the recipients of grants whose names were withheld by the US government:

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Perusing the information one can take note of the interests the US government is concerned with, regarding the shaping of a “democratic society” with special attention given to where funding is allotted.

Below is a list of the most questionable grants with relation to the current student movement:

Grant G-3822-101-166 Project name is withheld. The purpose of the grant reads as follows: to develop a promotional campaign, meetings and workshops for university students in order to promote social responsibility and community service in poor areas (includes costs for surveys and focus groups). A grant in the amount of $40,474.

Grant G-3822-101-168: Project: Effectiveness of the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 after five years in effect: Project: to evaluate the effectiveness of the 1999 constitution through a workshop and promote with political leaders and experts in constitutional law (also will support publication of a magazine and teaching material for the public on ideas about democracy)

G-3822-101- 177: Description; To hold three workshops aimed at promoting a dialogue among reporters, academics and journalism students “in the midst of the current Venezuelan political crisis” on the subject of “Equilibrium of information: modern journalism’s new goal”

G-3822-101-211: to conduct a series of training sessions for 20 local NGO’s to strengthen their administration and improve their self-sufficiency.

G-3822-101-224: to hold training workshops for 160 students in the field of communication, student activists and recent graduates in the humanities in Bolivar state on topics relating to human rights.

G-3822-101 -099: to advance toward shared political action though meetings with representatives of diverse sectors, including governors and mayors, academic groups and unions.

G-3822-101 -124: to build a common agenda that reflects students’ role in national reconciliation (by holding several university forums).

G-3822-101 -140: to provide training to 150 youths ages 18 and up in the Caracas areas to help them present proposals before local planning councils.

G-3822-101 -144: to strengthen communication and support networks among universities for the promotion of democracy and coexistence. Interestingly the project name of this program reads as follows: Gathering on Universities’ Responsibility in Strengthening Democracy

Certainly there is an interest on the part of US sponsered Aid agencies in providing guidance to Veneuelan student groups. What sort of guidance do US Aid agencies provide and are they benign and altruistic as they seem to be? One need look no further than the US governments rich track record on Latin American Foreign Policy to gain some understanding of how these funds are used.

Questions have been raised over whether this movement is endogenous or the product of some sort of destabilization program. From the information provided by the AP's FOIA request one can make strong assumptions to the latter. One way to dispel these assumptions is to release the names of the recipient organizations and/or the program names to which these monies are donated. Until such time, the entire student movement remains questionable as to who or what is the driving force behind thier goals. More questionable is any funding received by any group opposing the government, student, apolitical, or otherwise.


Who's counting? 

Over the past few months we've heard all sorts of non-sense about supposed "shortages" of food in Venezuela. Of course, as we've seen before these "shortages" don't reflect lower levels of consumption, which is what most people would assume, but rather result from demand increasing so much production can't keep up.

That is why we've also heard that food consumption in Venezuela has been up anywhere between 10% and 18%.

Turns out that those numbers may be a tad on the low side though for today we hear in Ultimas Noticias that food consumption is up 19% over last year.

Of course, some are skeptical of these government statistics. Thing is, they don't come from the government, they come from someone named Lorenzo Mendoza. Who is he? Oh, just the president of Venezuela's largest food and beverage company, Polar, which just also happens to have a very rocky relationship with the government.

Despite all the oppositions non-sense about Venezuela's economy being in trouble the people who actually are right in the middle of that economy can't help but notice that it is in fact booming. As the saying goes, you can't cover the sun with a finger. And right now the booming standard of living of average Venezuelan's is not something that is going to be easily hidden by a finger or anything else for that matter.


Monday, June 18, 2007

While others talk, Chavez builds 

With all the hot air coming from debating students and talking heads that don't know how to shut up one would think not much else is happening in Venezuela.

To the contrary - the current Venezuelan government is continueing to work fast and furious on numerous public works. In the past two days two more of them have been inaugurated.

The first was a new phase of the TermoZulia plant in the state of Zulia:

This was an existing electric generating plant. What was just added was new turbines that don't use any new fuel at all but rather use steam that was not previously fully utilized. By fully utilizing this existing steam the plant generates 170 more Megawatts without using any additional fossil fuels. Another very nice green inovation by the Venezuelan government.

Next, the Venezuelan government put on line the first phase of the Trolley Merida.

This electric rapid transit system is a welcome and needed addition to Merida's public transit system. The first phase is 10.4 kilometers long and has 15 stations (more on Venezuelan trolly systems can be found here.

And this isn't the end of it - tomorrow comes a very nice, and long awaited, public work goes into service. Stay tuned...


Sunday, June 17, 2007

When the going gets tough, the students go to the Sambil 

Just when you thought the opposition students couldn’t make themselves look any more ridiculous than they already did by walking out of a televised debate in front of the whole country, they did. Since the National Assembly debate fiasco the opposition student protests have been watching wind go out of their sails.

So with their little rock throwing, street blocking protest movement fizzling what do they do? They take their protests to the upscale eastern Caracas shopping mall called the Sambil. That’s right, they took their signs, painted hands, and duck tape covered mouths to the glittering escalators of the Sambil.

I swear, I’m not making this up. Here are some pictures to prove it:

I suppose this does have its virtues. After a hard day of protesting in front of Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, and Tommy Hilfger to demand their rights they could go right up to the fourth floor food court and relax as they munched on some sushi.

Anyways, leave it to the Venezuelan opposition to come up with innovative protest venues. If only Cindy Sheehan had thought of this – instead of getting all hot and sweaty protesting in front of Bush’s ranch maybe she should have camped out in the local Neiman-Marcus store.


Again, an open microphone but nothing to say. 

Despite their favorite coup mongering and soft porn TV station no longer broadcasting over the airwaves the Venezuelan opposition still has freedom of expression and the ability to make themselves heard - on the rare occasion where they actually have something to say:

In this advertisement published in Venezuela's largest circulation newspaper today Primero Justicia, an opposition political party, points out the irony of the governments new political slogan - Fatherland, Socialism or Death - by pointing out that an aweful lot of Venezuelans are getting death already.

Out of control crime was one of the few issues with which the opposition found some resonance during last years presidential camaign. Probably because crime in Venezuela truly is out of control. So it should be no surprise they return to that issue in their current propoganda offensive.

Thing is, while they rightly point out that the government is doing nothing about it, what do they propose? According to the ad they propose "Mission Life" without saying what that would be. In other words, in one of the few instances where the opposition can accurately diagnose one of the failures of the Chavez government they again have nothing to propose as an alternative.

Clearly, the opposition doesn't offer Venezuela an alternative to Chavismo because they can't come up with any concrete actions or policies of their own. Rather they simply come across as a bunch of people desperate to regain the power and privalege they once had. And that is probably what they are.

Too bad for Venezuela - because while niether the government nor the opposition seems to have any idea how to solve some very basic problems thousands of Venezuelans are dying.


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