Saturday, May 08, 2004

Restrictive oil policies continue to pay off for Venezuela 

In another sign of the outstanding success of Venezuela policy of defending oil prices Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez stated that Venezuela has run a budget surplus of $2.7 billion over the first four months of the year. Due to OPECs policy of restricting production, along with ongoing instability in the Middle East, oil prices are now over $40 per barril. Venezuelan oil ,which sells at a discount to other lighter crudes, is currently selling at $33.40 per barrel. Over the first 4 months of the year it had an average price of $29/barrel while the governments budget assumed it would only average $20/barrel. The higher prices are leading to a windfall for the government which needs the funding for its extensive social programs.

Ironically, Minister Ramirez attempted to lay the blame for the higher prices at the doorstep of President Bush. He claimed that it was the current fighting in Iraq that was creating the higher prices and the OPEC had nothing to do with the price increase. This is obviously not the case and Minister Ramirez said it to deflect blame from OPEC and thereby lesson pressure on it to increase production.


Another slip of the tongue 

In an Op-Ed piece entitled “The Oil Crunch” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gives a revealing quote by Rupert Murdoch, the media magnate who owns Fox TV network, referring to the war in Iraq:

"The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy, if you could put it that way, would be $20 a barrel for oil."

You might want to remember that the next time moronic commentator on Fox goes on and on about how we are in Iraq to fight terrorism and build a democratic and free country.

Body counts make a come back 

In a new sign of desperation the U.S. military is now giving "body counts" of insurgents killed after engagements. These body counts became quite notorious during the Vietnam war when it turned out that they were highly inaccurate and inflated. Because they were discredited the military stopped giving them.

In the first Gulf War the military assiduously refused to give body counts. And during the first phase of this war they also did not give them. When you are winning and you can show progress by gaining territory then there is no need for body counts. Tearing down statues of Saddam Hussien in Baghdad is proof enough of your victories.

However, now there is a full blown insurgency and it is clear that the U.S. is not doing well. U.S. casualties are way up and there are no tangible signs of progress that can be pointed to - no new captured territory or captured leaders. So, being desperate to be able to proclaim some sort of progress in the war the U.S. has resorted to releasing body counts again.

Of course they are almost certainly as fictitious this time as they were the last time they were used.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Another poll shows solid support for Chavez 

In poll results published today in Ultimas Noticias (by subscription only) President Chavez's party, the MVR, is far and away the most popular political party in the state of Lara which is one of Venezuela's most populus states. Lara is an agricultural center of Venezuela as well as home of one of its main manufacturing centers, Barquisimeto.

According to a poll by the polling firm North American Opinion Research the current pro-Chavez governor of Lara, Luis Reyes Reyes, will recieve 57% of the vote in upcoming elections. Further, the MVR is far and away the most popular politcal party in Lara with the support of 36% of those polled while the most popular opposition politcal party is only supported by 12% of Larenses. According to the poll results the pro-Chavez mayor of Barqisimeto, Henry Falcon, is practically guarenteed to be re-elected as support for him is overwhelming. It is expected that in most municipalities in the state pro-Chavez candidates will win.

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