Saturday, May 14, 2005

Article on TeleSur 

There was an interesting article on TeleSur - the new continental TV channel being set up by Venezuela and some other Latin American countries. While it is unfortunate that the article repeats some common misconceptions about Venezuela and its laws it is still a worthwhile read. The last paragraph is the most important - if it isn't well run and doesn't draw and audience then it won't accomplish anything.

Latin strongman rebels against US-centric news
By Danna Harman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
CARACAS, VENEZUELA - Television is a window on the world. But if you're sitting in Latin America, that window is more likely to be facing Baghdad than Buenos Aires. Or show Michael Jackson instead of Mexico City. Or offer a clearer view of Ukraine's Orange Revolution than the one in Ecuador last month.

Those networks that do cover regional news, like CNN Español, based in Atlanta, or Spain's TVE, are often considered US- or Eurocentric, with pundits sitting in Washington or Madrid. International news from the Latin American perspective is almost nonexistent, critics say.

"But," says journalist Aram Aharonian, "not for long."

On May 24, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will launch a 24-hour hemispheric TV news network, with Mr. Aharonian at the helm. The idea, Mr. Chávez has explained on several occasions, is to offer a "Southern" perspective, and combat what he calls "the conspiracy" by networks to ignore or "distort" information from and about this region.

But critics worry that Televisora del Sur (Telesur), or TV of the South, will be used by Chávez to drown out the free press at home and spread his populist, socialist, and anti-US message and abroad.

"We get enough of him already," says Ana Cristina Nuñez, legal counsel at Globovision, a 24-hour local news station that is critical of Chávez. Globovision, like all channels in Venezuela, functions under a so-called "chain" system, which means it is obligated by law to drop everything and cover Chávez speeches whenever instructed by the government. Those speeches are often hour-long rants about the US or afternoon chats with "the people," during which he has been known to describe President Bush as a "jerk" who wants to invade Venezuela or sing praises of Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Latin America's Al Jazeera?
Comparisons of the new TV venture are being made to Al Jazeera, the Arabic- language network funded by the government of Qatar that has been criticized frequently by US officials for what they call "inflammatory" or "biased" reporting.

Still, "bias" for one person can simply be a well-rounded view for another.

"I am in favor of initiatives that create additional voices in the news," says John Dinges, an associate professor of Journalism at Columbia University in New York. "Al Jazeera, for example, has made an important impact on journalism in the Middle East.... Alternative looks at the facts can be positive."

Problems do arise, he warns, when news becomes too political. "Look at Fox TV in the US," he says. "If you create a medium to fill a political need - that's politics, not journalism." If Telesur is going to be a state-sponsored vehicle for Chávez, it will be bad journalism, says Mr. Dinges. "But if it's being done in order to spread an alternative journalistic voice, it will be good journalism and a contribution," he says.

Telesur's programming, which will be available free over the airwaves, will be split between news and "Latin America interest" documentaries, reaching viewers across South and North America, with expansion planned to Western Europe and North Africa for later this year. Promos begin this month with shows starting in July.

Telesur is being described as a regional endeavor: Argentina owns 20 percent, Cuba 19 percent, and Uruguay 10 percent. But Venezuela, with 51 percent, is the main player: The government has provided $2.5 million in start-up capital. The total cost and source of the money have not been disclosed, but some funding will come from corporate sponsors, not advertising, Aharonian says.

Information Minister Andrés Izarra is the company's president, and headquarters are being constructed here in Caracas. Some 35 staffers are already in the cubicles of the makeshift second-floor office, beepers and cellphones clasped to their jeans. Other offices are being set up in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Cuba, and in Washington. There is even a news anchor standing by: Ati Kiwa, an indigenous Colombian woman who wears traditional dress.

"We have been trained to see ourselves through foreign eyes," says Aharonian. "Europeans and Americans see us in black and white, and yet this is a technicolor continent."

Navigating Venezuela's media laws
For some, such talk rings hollow. "We all like the idea of a Latin American perspective of news, but not a one-sided view," replies Ms. Nuñez of Globovision. "I am very suspicious that Telesur will represent the voice only of leftist governments in Latin America - and will be an instrument of propaganda for them."

Globovision is not the only private media station in Venezuela hostile to Chávez. During the April 2002 coup that briefly ousted the president, most outlets openly sided with the opposition, providing round-the-clock coverage of anti-Chávez protests while refusing to air footage of massive demonstrations held in support of him. Since then, says Ms. Nuñez, "It has been payback time."

Globovision hired Nuñez four months ago in response to Chávez's new press laws, under which whoever "offends," or "shows disrespect for," or "defames" the president or his top officials, will face fines and punishment of six to 30 months in prison.

Nuñez spends her days now, she says, trying to interpret those terms for the journalists and editors she works with.

"There is no jurisprudence to go by, and people don't know what is allowed and what's a crime," she says. The new laws have already led to widespread self- censorship across the country's half-dozen private channels, she says. Late-night TV jokes about Chávez are out, risqué political talk shows are being canceled, and news reports are being finely combed before airing. "Telesur is introducing a super-well-funded official voice, just as free-press voices are being fined and intimidated," she says. "Coincidence?"

The French media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders and the New York-based Committee to Protect journalists are already worried. Both have expressed concerns over the increased regulation of media content. And Human Rights Watch, the international monitor, insists that governments can only restrict certain content if "there is a clear relation between the speech in question and a specific criminal act."

No plans to muzzle media
Aharonian dismisses any suggestion that Telesur is part of some bigger plan to muzzle the media or give Chávez an open microphone. The programming is not "against or instead of any other," but simply an option, he maintains. "That is what the remote control is for," he says, "so people can pick and choose between different perspectives."

Larry Birns, director of the left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington is not quite as diplomatic. "Chávez found himself yielding an important battlefield to anti-Chavista perspective, both from within and from outside the county," he says. "Uruguay and Argentina found a similar lack of ability to communicate - and this is their combined response."

Ultimately, slanted or straight, Telesur's success will depend on whether it's watchable, says Richard Siklos, adjunct professor at New York University's department of culture and communication. "[Chávez] will learn what every media executive in New York has learned: You can put stuff out there, but if people don't watch, you are wasting your money."

There are a couple of points that need to be made with respect to this article.

First, she definitely lets the Venezuelan private mass media off too easy. The Venezuelan mass media is so politicized that it has long since given up any pretense of objectivity or accuracy. Quite frankly it hardly qualifies as "media" and those who work for it are hardly "journalists". Slander, lies, distortions, gross ommision are the order of the day. For an interesting account of this check out this article.

The second point is that this article repeats the false allegations that the Venezuelan government has created laws against insulting the president or other public officials. Venezuela DOES have such laws - called "desacato" laws in Spanish meaning disrepect laws - as do most Latin American countries. The thing is, the present Venezuelan government had nothing to do with them - they were written decades ago bebore Chavez was even born!!! See article 148 of this 1964 version of the Venezuela penal code. And of course, even though these laws have been on the books all along (through all of Venezuela's democracy) Chavez has never used them against anyone even though he is often attacked in the most vile and insulting ways. See for example:

This poster at an opposition rally says "Chavez, murderer, excrement of Fidel". This is obviously an obscene insult - even though it is mild compared to many other anti-Chavez posters. But Venezuela is a free country so people can freely display such posters without any concern of action being taken against them. In the future the Christian Science Monitor should really do its homework better - this is just too sloppy for such a good paper.


Posada in the news 

Well slowly but surely the main stream media seems to be waking up to the fact that the Bush administration is letting a known terrorist freely roam south Florida. The Christian Science Monitor had a summary of coverage up to this point.

In particular I liked the little gem they started out with:

US President George W. Bush has said on more than one occasion during the war on terrorism that "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves."

Yes, indeed. And some people are looking very, very guilty right now.

There were some other interesting points:

But as ABCNews also points out, the case is complicated by Posada's ties to political figures in the US, including his "pre-9/11 ties to Washington" and his allies in Florida's "powerful Cuban-American" community.

The privately run, George Washington University based National Security Archives details Posada's extensive career as a CIA- and FBI-trained operative. The Archives reports that Posada had been imprisoned in Venezuela for the '76 bombing, but escaped in '85, when he went to El Salvador "where he worked, using the alias 'Ramon Medina,' on the illegal contra resupply program being run by Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Reagan National Security Council."

Why should the fact that he has historical ties to the US government, political figures and intelligence agencies have anything to do with it? After all, the U.S. trained, armed, and financed Osama Bin Laden and we didn't let that stand in the way of our hunt for him. Nor did the fact that the U.S. armed and aided Saddam Hussien for much of the 1980s get in the way of his being overthrown by the U.S. And lets not even talk about Manuel Noriega. So why should Posada be an exception? Sure, he was "our" terrorist but he is a terrorist and as Bush said "those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves."


More and more people are starting to catch on. Check out this excellent Op-Ed piece:

Time for U.S. to live up to its anti-terror rhetoric

• Cuban exile and terrorist Luis Posada Carriles should be extradited to Venezuela or be tried by an international court for his crimes.

By Martha Hill

The Bush administration has a golden opportunity to gain credibility around the world in its war on terror.

Last month, Luis Posada Carriles, 77, a Cuban exile and former CIA operative whose name is linked with violence, terror and death throughout Latin America, applied for political asylum.

In August, under pressure by a Bush administration eager to please Miami Cuban voters on the eve of the election, outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso pardoned four Cuban exiles, including Posada. They were serving time after being convicted of endangering public safety in Panama City in 2000, in connection with a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro at a summit of Latin American leaders.

Posada and the other three men had been found in a Panama hotel using Salvadoran passports with aliases. The Panamanian government seized explosives and a detailed map of the University of Panama, where Castro was to speak.

After Moscoso's pardon, three of the men, who had U.S. passports, immediately moved to Miami. It is said that Luis Posada Carriles, who is not a U.S. citizen, entered the United States illegally. But his presence has hardly been a secret. He is reportedly hiding in Miami.

The State Department will not acknowledge his presence in this country; however, Posada applied for political asylum in April, arguing that his life would be endangered if he were removed from the United States.

On May 5, challenging the United States to make good on its pledge to hunt down terrorists, Venezuela requested Posada's extradition. He is wanted in that country in connection with the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner en route to Caracas; 73 people were killed.

Acquitted twice in the case, Posada escaped prison in Caracas in 1985 while an appeal was pending.


For years, Posada has been trained in explosives and sabotage by the CIA at the notorious School of the Americas; he was part of the CIA's "Operation 40" for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Over the years, he has collaborated with the CIA on several attempts to kill Castro. He is wanted in Cuba in connection with a series of hotel bombings in 1998 in which an Italian tourist was killed and a dozen other foreigners injured.

He was also implicated in one of the worst acts of terrorism in the United States, the 1976 Washington, D.C., car bombing that killed former Chilean government minister Orlando Letelier.

In the 1980s, Posada commanded the supply of munitions to the Nicaraguan Contras from the CIA's air base in El Salvador.

President Bush has said that any government that harbors terrorists is complicit in murder and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. Yet thousands of Cuban people have died by violent attacks perpetrated on the island by anti-Cuban paramilitary groups that operate freely in Miami.

Following Bush's reasoning, allowing Posada into the United States and entertaining an asylum request from a confessed terrorist is an open acknowledgement of complicity in terrorist acts. (And Cuban exiles would do well not to start calling Posada Carriles a "freedom fighter.")

The United States must deny Posada's political asylum request, and should arrest and deport him to Venezuela, honoring that country's extradition treaty with the United States. Or, as Cuba has suggested, Posada should be tried by a competent international tribunal.

— Martha Hill is Mailbag editor of The News-Press. She lives in Cape Coral. E-mail her at mhill@news-press.com.


Friday, May 13, 2005

Alianza Popular 

Well, I think Chavez finally has a serious political rival. A new party called the "Alianza Popular" was just established. Based on what I've seen its looks like a formidable force. Have a look:

The spiffy new party kicks off. By the way, whats up with all the red, white, and blue balloons? Could they be trying to kiss up to a potential funding source?

It is clear that although new, this party has already established deep roots in the Venezuelan working and popular classes. These rather scruffy looking women are obviously from one of Caracas's rougher areas, maybe Catia or Petare.

The Alianza Popular has a very detailed program. So detailed in fact that this reporter fell asleep while listening to it.

Here are some of the grassroots militants of the party. After this meeting they went straight to the "cerros" to do door to door campeigning for the Alianza Popular. Against people like this I'm afraid Chavez has no chance.


What if they had a demonstation and nobody came? 

In the past the opposition liked to brag about its "huge" rallies. Truthfully they were never that large - the opposition is quite good at exaggerating. In any event the opposition has fallen on hard times and now has great difficulty organizing any rallies at all. Witness their most recent rally in Plaza Francia of Altamira (an extremely wealthy area and the oppositions main stronghold). They couldn't even fill up a small portion of the plaza:

I guess the days when these people could at least fill up a plaza or part of a highway are gone.


Its official - Posada's extradition requested 

TodayVenezuela formally requested extradition of the international terrorist - Cuban exile Luis Posada.

So, anyone know how to start a ticker? We need one to see out long it takes the U.S. to arrest and extradite this criminal.

Lets just remember, until Posada is extradited the U.S. "war on terror" is just a bunch of hypocritical B.S.


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A thought on Syria 

The past few months a very big deal has been made about Syria withdrawing its troops from Lebonan. This has been portrayed as a big victory for freedom and US foriegn policy. Maybe it is that. But reading this headline today - Troops battle way toward Syria - I realized that maybe something else was in play with Syria's troop movements.

Maybe with 150,000 US troops within striking distance and at least some noises being made about invading Syria maybe the Syrian government realized it needs those troops at home more than in Lebonan. If so, a very prudent action.


A couple notes on Venezuela's economy 

Panorama had a couple very noteworthy articles on the Venezuelan economy:

En 10% creció economía
Texto: ABN


El director del Banco Central de Venezuela, Domingo Maza Zavala, reiteró ayer su apreciación de que la economía creció este trimestre en no menos de 10% del Producto Interno Bruto.

Esta reactivación se produjo porque hay ventas comerciales y empresarios nuevos que se incorporan a la producción.

Asimismo, dijo que se ha producido una circulación de dinero y el gasto público reactiva los medios de circulación, lo cual, a su juicio, se cumple satisfactoriamente con el ajuste cambiario.


The Director of the Venezuelan Central Bank, Domingo Maza Zavala, reiterated his estimation that the eonomy grew this quarter at least 10%.

This reactivation occured because of increased sales and the startup of new production companies.

At the same time, there has been an increase of money in circulation and public spending.

The second article was as follows:

Crecen inversiones extranjeras en Venezuela
Texto: AP


Las inversiones extranjeras se ubicaron entre enero y abril de este año en 546 millones de dólares, lo que representó un incremento de 220% respecto al mismo período del año pasado, según estimaciones de la Superintendencia de Inversiones Extranjeras (Siex).

El 66% de las inversiones foráneas (361 millones de dólares) correspondió al área de comunicaciones, 32% (177 millones de dólares) a la industria manufacturera, y el resto al sector comercio. Al cierre de 2004 las inversiones extranjeras alcanzaron cerca de 400 millones de dólares, lo que constituyó un aumento de 35,6% en comparación con 2003.

El 79% de las inversiones correspondió al área de manufactura, 15,21% al sector inmobiliario y 3,99% al comercio.

Los países que más invirtieron fueron Suiza con 155 millones de dólares; Estados Unidos con 62,5 millones de dólares; Francia con 45,9 millones de dólares; Colombia con 20,1 millones de dólares; Bermudas con 15 millones de dólares, y Alemania con 10 millones de dólares.


Foriegn investment between January and April of this year was $546 million dollars which represents and increase of 220% with respect to the same period of last year according to the Superintendent of Foreign Investement (Siex).

66% of the foriegn investment ($361 million) was in the communications sector, 32% ($177 million) in manufacturing, and the rest in the commercial sector. At the close of 2004 foriegn investment totalled $400 million which in turn was an increase of 35.6% in comparison to 2003.

79% of that investment was in manufacturing, 15.21% in real estate, and 3.99% in commerce.

The countries that invested the most were Switzerland with $155 million, the United States with $62.5 million, France at $45.9 million, Colombia with $20.1 million, Bermuda with $15 million and Germany with $10 million.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Posada update 

An update on the ongoing saga of the U.S. sheltered terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. According to a note published in Panorama no formal request for extradition has been made by the United States. Morover the U.S. claims it doesn’t know where he is:

"Estados Unidos insistió ayer en que desconoce el paradero del cubano anticastrista Luis Posada Carriles, acusado de cometer varios atentados terroristas, y aseguró que ningún gobierno le ha pedido su extradición.

“No sabemos dónde está”, dijo el portavoz del Departamento de Estado Tom Casey a la prensa, consultado sobre el asunto.

“Ciertamente Estados Unidos no tiene interés en permitir que nadie con pasado criminal entre a Estados Unidos", afirmó.

"Hasta la fecha, no hemos recibido ningún pedido de extradición de Luis Posada Carriles de Venezuela o de ningún otro gobierno", añadió.

La Cancillería venezolana afirmó el viernes pasado que pediría a Estados Unidos "en las próximas horas" la extradición de Posada Carriles."


"The United States insisted yesterday that it doesn’t know the whereabouts of the anti-Castro Cuban Luis Posada Carriles, accused of commiting various terrorist acts, and said that no government has requested his extradition.

“We don’t know where he is”, said State Deparment Spokesman Tom Casey when asked about the case.

“Certainly the United States isn’t interested in permiting people with criminal backgrounds enter the United States”, he affirmed.

Up to now, we haven’t received a request for extradition for Luis Posada Carriles from Venezuela or any other government.

The Venezuelan Chancelor said last Friday that they would ask for Posada Carriles extradition in “the next few hours”."

Well it turns out at least part of what the US spokesperson said was true – Venezuela handn’t yet made a formal request for Posada’s extradition. Not that the U.S. should need one to move against a known terrorist. Here is what Panorama said in a later article:

“El Gobierno venezolano informó hoy que en las "próximas horas" pedirá a EEUU la extradición del anticastrista Luis Posada Carriles, acusado de participar en la voladura de un avión civil cubano en 1976 en la que murieron 73 personas.

"Sólo faltan algunos detalles de traducción y otros formalismos para oficializar el pedido de extradición de Posada", dijo el embajador de Venezuela en Washington, Bernardo Alvarez, en una entrevista con el canal estatal "Venezolana de Televisión".

El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia venezolano entregó la semana pasada la solicitud de extradición al Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Venezuela para que la tramitase ante el Gobierno estadounidense.

“El titular de ese despacho, Alí Rodríguez, explicó el viernes pasado que ya se emitió la orden internacional de captura de Posada Carriles, un requisito previo a la oficialización del pedido de extradición.

El embajador Alvarez expresó hoy su preocupación por el "silencio" de las autoridades estadounidenses sobre la presencia de Posada Carriles en ese país y aseguró que esa preocupación la comparten amplios sectores de la sociedad de EEUU.

Ayer, lunes, el vicepresidente de Venezuela, José Vicente Rangel, se quejó de la ambigüedad del Gobierno de EEUU a la hora de enfrentar el terrorismo.

"Así no podemos. O se lucha contra el terrorismo o se cae en la ambigüedad en que ha caído Estados Unidos con Posada y la agresión a países del mundo", expresó.”


The Venezuelan government said today that in the next few hours it will ask the U.S. for the extradition of the Luis Posada Carriles who is accused of participating in the downing of a civilian Cuban airliner in 1976 in which 73 people died.

“There only remain some translations and other details to finalize the request for extradition of Posada” said the Venezuelan Ambassador to Washington, Benardo Alvarez, in an interview with Venezuelan state TV.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court last week gave a request for extradition to the Foreign Relations Ministry to forward it to the U.S. government.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Ali Rodriguez, explained last Friday that they had released a international warrant for capture of Posada Carriles, a pre-requisite to making a formal request for extradition.

Ambassador Alvarez expressed today his concern over the silence of U.S. authorities regarding the presence of Posada Carriles in their country and said that concern was shared by many Americans as well.

Yesterday Venezuelan Vice-President, Jose Vicente Rangel complained about the mixed signals from the U.S. government when the time comes to confront terrorism.

“We cannot accept things like this. Either we fight against terrorism or we fall into the ambiguity that the U.S. has fallen into with Posada and with its agression against other countries.””

So again, Venezueal is making a very straight foward and simply request that a known terrorist be extradited. The U.S. is in no moral position do deny this request and to not make every effort to see this terrorist brought to justice. But I have to say I share the Venezuelan Ambassador's concern regarding the silence of the U.S. government on this matter. Further, it is very interesting to see how quiet are right wing bloggers are on this matter.


Monday, May 09, 2005

What to do with all the money - that is the question 

Also in Panorama today there was an article about it being proposed that some of Venezuela's large amount of foriegn reserves be used to pay down the foriegn debt and/or fund capital projects.

A little background. Venezuela, like most all countries, especially developing countries, maintains reservers of foreign currencies. The purpose of these reservers are essentially to cover the country in case of emergency and allow it to still import items and pay foriegn debt even if there is an economic crises.

Venezuela currently has very large foriegn reserves - almost $28 billion dollars. At one point during the opposition led strike they fell as low as $14 billion but with the recovery in oil production and the high oil prices they have grown significantly. To the point that the country has more reserves than it really needs. So it is now being proposed that a portion of these monies be used to pay down the foriegn debt or fund capital projects.

Here is a portion of the article:

“El BCV tiene un gran patrimonio, producto de la capitalización de las utilidades cambiarias que no ha entregado al Fisco”, aseguró Tobías Nóbrega. Dijo que los ahorros excedentarios deben usarse en el pago de la Deuda Pública Externa. Rodrigo Cabezas aseguró que para 2006 las acreencias foráneas bajarían.

Una de las nuevas rutas que se propone para la utilización de las reservas excedentarias es que la estatal Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) ingrese un monto determinado a un Fondo Nacional de Desarrollo antes de vender sus dólares al Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), afirmó el presidente de la Comisión de Finanzas, Rodrigo Cabezas.

“Este fondo contaría con unos 4 o 6 millardos de dólares al año, que se dedicarían al pago de la deuda externa y a la promoción de inversiones de corto y largo plazo. Pero para solucionar el problema ya, es decir este año, lo más probable es que se apruebe una norma o se modifique el artículo 113 de la Ley del BCV, de manera que la estatal petrolera pueda destinar, en el lapso de julio-octubre un monto cercano a los 5 millardos de dólares”.

This policy is very good an logical because foriegn reserves don't really bring any additional value to the country. On the other hand if the foriegn debt is paid down the country has that much less debt to pay and realizes significant savings by avoiding having to pay the high interest that goes with the debt. So in my view this is another very intelligent policy being pursued by the Chavez administration. And that Venezuela is even in a position to do something like this is attributable to the excellent economic stewardship by the government since the opposition strike/sabotage of 02/03.


Some people have faith in Venezuela's future 

A few posts back I mentioned how auto sales are booming in Venezuela and that companies like Ford and GM should be happy. Well appearently they are. Check out this little article from Panorama today:


GM invierte $ 20 millones en el país

Texto: AP


La ensambladora estadounidense de vehículos General Motors invertirá 20 millones de dólares hasta diciembre de este año para ampliar la capacidad de producción de su planta y el número de nuevos modelos en el mercado venezolano, dijo el director ejecutivo de la empresa, José Favarin.

El directivo señaló que la meta de General Motors en Venezuela es incrementar su capacidad de producción para lograr 33,3% del mercado local.

Favarin explicó que General Motors tiene planteado producir 300 vehículos diarios en la línea de ensamblaje.

Precisó que en la actualidad la empresa tiene una participación de 31% en el mercado local.
Durante el 2004 el sector automotriz creció el doble en comparación con el 2003"


GM Invests $20 million in the country

The US automobile manufacturer General Motors will invest $20 million dollars before December of this year to increase is production capacity in its plan and increase the number of models in Venezuela, according to the executive director of the company, Jose Favarin.

The executive explained that General Motos plans to produce 300 vehicles daily in its assembly line.

He also indicated that currently the company has 31% of the local market.
During 2004 the the automobile market doubled in comparison with 2003.


C'mon Bush, are you at war with terror or not? 

A couple of days ago the LA Times reported that Luis Posada, a Cuban exile terrorist, was back in the United States and that Venezuela was seeking his extradition. The Venezuelans want to put him on trail for having blown up an airliner with more than 70 people on it when it was flying from Venezuela to Cuba. The LA Times article indicated that the U.S. didn’t seem to intent on getting this terrorist off the streets and having him face justice. In fact they indicated the U.S. government was just trying to get him to leave the country before they had to respond to the extradition request.

This story isn’t going away. Today the New York Times ran an article about it on its front page which provided some interesting new detials:

“Mr. Posada, a Cuban exile, has long been a symbol for the armed anti-Castro movement in the United States. He remains a prime suspect in the bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner that killed 73 people in 1976. He has admitted to plotting attacks that damaged tourist spots in Havana and killed an Italian visitor there in 1997. He was convicted in Panama in a 2000 bomb plot against Mr. Castro. He is no longer welcome in his old Latin America haunts.

Mr. Posada, 77, sneaked back into Florida six weeks ago in an effort to seek political asylum for having served as a cold war soldier on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1960's, his lawyer, Eduardo Soto, said at a news conference last month.

But the government of Venezuela wants to extradite and retry him for the Cuban airline bombing. Mr. Posada was involved "up to his eyeballs" in planning the attack, said Carter Cornick, a retired counterterrorism specialist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who investigated Mr. Posada's role in that case. A newly declassified 1976 F.B.I. document places Mr. Posada, who had been a senior Venezuelan intelligence officer, at two meetings where the bombing was planned.
Mr. Posada's case could create tension between the politics of the global war on terrorism and the ghosts of the cold war on communism. If Mr. Posada has indeed illegally entered the United States, the Bush administration has three choices: granting him asylum; jailing him for illegal entry; or granting Venezuela's request for extradition.

A grant of asylum could invite charges that the Bush administration is compromising its principle that no nation should harbor suspected terrorists. But to turn Mr. Posada away could provoke political wrath in the conservative Cuban-American communities of South Florida, deep sources of support and campaign money for President Bush and his brother Jeb, the state's governor.”

These facts were already largely known. But there are some very important new details. For example, up to now U.S. authorities have claimed they didn’t really know whether or not Posada was in the U.S. Yet in todays report by the Times we have:

“Orlando Bosch, the most prominent face of the violent anti-Castro wing in Florida, said in an interview broadcast on Tuesday in Miami that he had spoken by telephone with Mr. Posada, who, "as everybody knows, is here."”

So there we have it straight from the horses mouth. And if Cuban exile leaders know he is here then clearly U.S. authorities, in spite of there ineptness, must know he is here too. So that is not up for debate.

Then we have this:

“Mr. Posada served with the C.I.A. from 1961 to 1967, according to declassified United States government records. He was scheduled to land at the Bay of Pigs, the attack on Cuba ordered by the Kennedy administration, but his mission was canceled when the invasion collapsed. He kept in close touch with the agency after leaving it and joining Venezuela's intelligence service, known by its initials as Disip, where he served as a senior officer from 1969 to 1974, according to the declassified records and retired American officials who served in Venezuela.

In 1974, after a change in government, Mr. Posada set up a detective agency in the capital, Caracas, an office through which many anti-Castro Cubans passed, according to F.B.I. records. He retained his links to Disip, a militantly anti-Castro agency in those cold war days.”

Now that the CIA employs terrorists is not news. But the Venezuelan intelligence police, DISIP? Maybe some of the opposition folks would like to explain that one. But it gets worse:

“On Sept. 21, 1976, in the heart of Washington, a car bomb killed a former foreign minister of Chile, Orlando Letelier, and an American aide, Ronni Moffitt; at the time, it was one of the worst acts of foreign terrorism on American soil. Fifteen days later, a Cubana Airlines flight with 73 people on board was blown out of the sky off the coast of Barbados in the worst terrorist attack in Cuban history.

Mr. Cornick, the F.B.I. counterterrorism specialist who worked on the Letelier case, said in an interview that both bombings were planned at a June 1976 meeting in Santo Domingo attended by, among others, Mr. Posada.

"The Cubana bomb went off, the people were killed, and there were tracks leading right back to Disip," said Mr. Cornick, who is now retired.”"

So here we have clear evidence that the pre-Chavez Venezuelan intelligence service was involved in terrorist acts. Not good!!

So here are what seem to be the incontravertable facts. Luis Posada is a terrorist guilty of carrying out various terroristic acts resulting in the deaths of scores of people. He is now in the United States. And Venezuela has requested his extradition.

Maybe I’m missing something here but I thought I heard George Bush say that we are at war with terrorism. And if we are at war with terrorism shouldn’t we be arresting terrorist and making sure they are brought to justice?

So c’mon Bush, you’re not getting off that easy. Are you against terrorism or not?


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Interview with Venezuelan Foriegn Minister Ali Rodriguez 

In today’s edition of Panorama in Maracaibo Venezuela an interview with Venezuela’s foriegn minister, Ali Rodriguez, was published. Prior to becoming foriegn minister Mr. Rodriguez was the President of the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, leading it through the opposition strike of 02/03. He was also the head of OPEC at the beginning of the Chavez administration. Trained as a laywer he was a leftist guerilla in the 1960s and later became a member of the Venezuelan congress.

Q: Why is the reaproachment between the governments of Venezuela and the U.S. so difficult?

A: There they have a conception of democracy that isn’t exactly the same as ours. They are firm and very dogmatic defendors of representative democracy, but their problems are very distinct from what we confront here. We comply with the biggest demand of representative democracy, free elections, but that that is not sufficient, to be sufficient it must be based on the correct distribution of wealth. Last year, PDVSA gave $3.7 billion to combat illiteracy, provide health care, provide food, and for infrastructure projects.

Q: The ties between Venezuelan government and Fidel Castro are questioned

A: Why after more than 45 years of attacks on Cuba have they not been able to defeat Fidel Castro? We have to look at things objectively. Who are the victims of the U.S. blockade? Fidel? On the contrary, it has streanghend him. The Cuban people suffer from the blockade. And what do they think? That all the bad things they suffer from result from the U.S. embargo and that does nothing to make the Cuban people sympathetic towards U.S. policy.

We are not in agreement with the embargo, and we are excercising our soveirgn right to trade and have economic relations and that is what our relationship with Cuba is based on. It goes beyond whatever personal relationship Chavez and Fidel Castro may have.

Q: Because of that they have said that Chavez’s position is one of defiance.

A: One cannot view as defiant positions that are soveirgn. The U.S. also has relations with whomever it pleases, and why would we criticize or get involved in policies of a legitimate american government.

Q: How do you respond to people who say that Chavez is giving away oil to Cuba?

A: This country is so democratic that one has the freedom to say even the most ridiculous things. We are selling oil to Cuba with the same conditions that we sell it to the rest of the Carribean countries based on the Caracas Energy agreement. The oil is sold at market rates but when the price of oil goes over $30 per barril, more or less, as it is right now, we finance up to 25% of the price with a payment plan and a payment grace period so that the high price does not impact people too harshly, but the oil income to Venezuela is the same as it would otherwise be.

Q: Why did PDVSA open an office in Venezuela?

A: Cuba has a good position in the Carribean and some day the embargo will be over. Also they have a large storage capacity and deep water ports for super tankers plus pipelines to move the oil into the interior of the country.

Cuba also has a refinery that was constructed with Russian technology but wasn’t completed due to the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cubans would like to finish the refinery and find ways to make it profitable….

Q: Who would make the first step in starting a dialogue between Venezuela and the U.S.

A: Those steps have to be taken by both. Our ambassador has requested a meeting with Condoleezza Rice and we haven’t even recieved a response to our request. But the U.S. ambassador here is always well recieved and we communicate with him almost daily.

Q: Did you have the oppertunity to speak with Condoleezza Rice in Chile.

A: No. We didn’t exchange even one word. But after the trip of the Secretary of State spokespeople such as Roger Noriega toned down the rhetoric against Venezuela.

Q: What do you attribute that to?:

A: The trip of Condoleezza Rice confronted her with a reality that was very different from what they thought existed in South America. I hope that things improve. But we have to wait a while and see, it could be they are just biding time. But we do hope that they correct their policies and lay the foundations for a fruitfull relationship with us based on respect and not intervening in others internal affairs.

Q: How do you view the corruption within the government.

A: A revolutionary has to repudiate, with disgust, corruption and has to fight to the death against it. We are in a transition period and we still have with us much from the old culture. Corruption is a grave danger, it destroys from within and ultimately causes collapse. In the Fifth Republic [the current government] we still have institutions that are from the Fourth Republic [the administrations from 1958 to 1998] that are worthless, inefficient, very costly, and with low productivity.

Q: When you were president of PDVSA did you think there could be a “silent sabotage” as General Melvin Lopez Hidalgo has warned of?

A: I didn’t see that because I was there during the heroic phase of the confrontation where the workers rejected a criminal attack against the country. One saw an enormous change in the workers but that does not mean that the culture of PDVSA was changed entirely. There are still problems within PDVSA and in an industry as sophisticated as the oil industry that generates negative effects.

Q: Among the causes of the fall in production they mention the inaction of some managers. Do you see it that way?

A: One has to be careful with this, especially as in the west there was a complete disaster, especially in Maraciabo Lake and one has to differentiate between what was fixed back then, what couldn’t be fixed, and what has happened since.

Q: Some are saying that the inexperience of the replacement workers is now making itself felt.

A: That arguement is made to cover up the tremendous damage that the strikers did to the company and I would advise those managers who went on strike to take a good look at the damage that they did to the oil fields simply by shutting down the wells, thousands and thousands of wells, because that is where the error resides, in ignoring everthing that those people did and attributing everything to the new administration of PDVSA.

Q: How much was lost?

A: The losses, combining those from the coup attempt and the sabotage of the oil industry were more than $20 billion dollars. Venezuela can’t forget that and we can’t let recent problems distract us from that.


More Datanalisis numbers 

More numbers were given in todays edition of Ultimas Noticias regarding Datanalisis's latest polling numbers.

On Chavez's approval rating, which stands at 70.5% (George Bush, eat your heart out) they gave the groupings that made up this favorable rating - they are; very good, good, regular to good. By contrast 27% of the population rated Chavez's tenure very bad, bad, regular to bad. All in all excellent numbers. The article reminded readers that in July 2003 Chavez's support reached its lowest point with only 30.8% approving of his perfomance and 67% disapproving. A pretty big reversal of fortune.

More spefically the poll showed that 71% of the population approved of the governments work in education and 62% in health. The governments performance was viewed negatively by 82% regarding crime and by 68.2% regarding corruption.

The poll also asked about peoples views of Cuba. The opposition to Chavez often claims that he is trying to follow the Cuban model and wants to implement a Castro type dictatorship in Venezuela. Well if he did try to do that he would have a tough time. The poll showed 77% of Venezuelans do NOT want Venezuela to follow the Cuban model while only 7% do. Further, only 33.5% of the population believes that Chavez is trying to make Venezuela like Cuba whereas most Venezuelans, 56.6%, do not believe that he is. So to those who would argue that Venezuela is somehow going to become a second Cuba, fear not. It simply is not going to happen.


Plan B 

Here was an interesting lead to an open thread on Daily Kos that I some how missed before:

"Plan B - Take Back Venezuela
by LondonYank
Sat Feb 19th, 2005 at 03:46:58 PDT

Okay, so Iraq didn't work out as planned.  Now for Plan B - Venezuela.  Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world.  Chavez is playing footsie with the Russians, Chinese and Iranians, and hardball with US oil companies.  

Companies in Houston that used to pay 1 percent of oil revenues to Venezuela now have to pay almost 17 percent.  That money is then wasted on healthcare, education and housing for poor people - and weapons to defend Venezuela from American attack.

The Bushco drums of war are heating up in the US media machine.  The pseudo-think tank article quoted below is the first I have noticed to explicitly call Chavez a threat to US national security.  Expect more as the WaPo, NYT and other organs of Bushco take up the echo.  

We can know exactly how the revolution/invasion/coup will play out by reading the helpful article published by Pentagon analysts on a US military website on 12 April, 2002, the date of the last failed Bushco coup in Venezuela.  The piece says that with Chavez in handcuffs the oil industry will be getting back to normal under US production."

This provoked and interesting discussion that can be read here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/2/19/64658/3980

And of course, while this comment may have been meant tongue in cheek we now know how serious this idea is being taken by the same people who brought us the Iraq war. Stay tuned.


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