Friday, October 07, 2005

Intel inside? 

Venezuela has announced that it will soon be manufacturing its own PC clone computers:

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday his government will manufacture "Bolivarian computers" affordable to all Venezuelans -- the latest initiative in honor of a Latin American independence hero that inspires his leftist revolution.

"We will begin producing computers in Venezuela ... the project of the Bolivarian computers," Chavez said in televised remarks.

Chavez says he is leading his country toward a socialist revolution inspired by Simon Bolivar, a 19th-century independence hero who sought to unite South American nations.

The Venezuelan leader, who is a fierce critic of capitalism, said that brand name computers are too expensive and that the project seeks to make computers more accessible to all Venezuelans.

The Bolivarian computers will sell for anywhere between 900,000 bolivars and 1 million bolivars [about $400 – OW], Chavez said.

Under his "Bolivarian Revolution," Chavez has launched a range of socialist-inspired initiatives, including free education promoting leftist ideology at campuses across the country and deals to supply oil on preferential terms to Venezuela's neighbors as part of a "Bolivarian Alternative" trade pact.

A new company will be created, Technological Industries of Venezuela, that will form a joint venture with China's Lang Chao International Ltd. to produce the computers.

Venezuela will provide an initial investment of 17.2 billion bolivars, [about $7.5 million – OW]Chavez said.

The company is expected to begin production before the end of the year and plans to produce as much as 80,000 computers in the first year, said Chavez.

A total of 100,000 should be produced during the second year of operations and as much as 150,000 during the third year, according to the president.

The president said the new computer company will eventually manufacture laptop computers and cell phones as well.

The first thing that should be pointed out is that Venezuela will not really be “manufacturing” computers. The heart of computers such as the processor, memory and hard drive are very sophisticated and beyond Venezuela’s capability to make. Rather they will be taking these components and assembling computers from them. Also, as Venezuela has become a big proponent of “freeware” I expect there won’t be anything made by Bill Gates on these computers.

Now the “value added” by this will be small and there are already lots of very cheap PC clones sold all over the world. So its not clear that Venezuela receives any major benefit by doing this. However, it does point up a very interesting concept.

Note that the partner that is probably supplying the technical expertise for this is China. It is quite possible that China and Venezuela could form numerous such joint ventures that could prove quite advantageous to Venezuela. After all, Venezuela does need to move further into manufacturing, particularly of low to medium tech items, and China could supply Venezuela with the capability to do that. Further, as China is a rapidly growing market Venezuela could insist on getting access to that market for exports of these newly manufactured goods. What would be in it for China? Simple. Access to some of the largest energy reserves in the world.

In exchange for China getting preferential access to Venezuelan oil Venezuela would get the technical know how to start up manufacturing concerns and a market for at least some of their output. That certainly sounds good, at least conceptually. So while this computer assembly start up may not amount to much in its own right if it leads to bigger and better manufacturing projects it could prove to be more than worthwhile.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Economic notes from Venezuela 

I know this blog is “Oil Wars” not “Venezuelan Economics” so I have to resist my urges sometimes to post too much about the Venezuelan economy. But today there was just too much news on it (and good news at that!) so I couldn’t resist. Those who are bored by this can just skip this but for the rest of you here it goes:

Earlier this week the big news was Venezuela shifting billions of dollars in its foreign reserves out of the U.S. The opposition pounced on it as more evidence of Chavez’s lunacy or, at the least, bad policies. Yet in the news today we had this:

The dollar started its trading day lower on word of another central bank's decision to diversify out of dollar holdings.

Venezuela has shifted $20 billion in U.S. Treasurys into funds sent to Europe, the Financial Times reported, citing central bank director Domingo Maza Zavala. The same report quoted other bank sources as saying the amount transferred was only $10 billion.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has an adversarial relationship with the U.S., although the central bank said the transfer was carried out for financial reasons, the FT said.

Russia and other central banks took similar steps earlier this year, developments that worked against an otherwise appreciating dollar since hitting multiyear lows in late 2004.

"We don't think that the [Venezuela] story itself is all that significant, but coming at a time when U.S. stocks were collapsing as well, it did seem to trip the dollar," said Steve Barrow, chief currency strategist at Bear Stearns.

So despite the alleged insanity of Chavez “Russia and other central banks took similar steps earlier this year”. Could it be that Chavez controls those other central banks too? Not likely. Could it be that those other central banks are rational people who understand economics and know that the dollar is at grave risk of a significant devaluation due to fundamental problems with the U.S. economy? Yup, I think that’s it. And, wow, could that mean that Chavez isn’t some wild eyed lunatic but rather an astute observer of the world scene who is taking prudent measures to protect Venezuela’s economic interests? I think so.


Here is another one that has been oft repeated in this blog and might bore some but again I can’t resist:

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct 6 (Reuters) - New car sales in Venezuela rose nearly 40 percent in September compared with a year earlier as the oil producer's economy kept up strong growth, the Venezuelan Automobile Chamber, CAVENEZ, said on Thursday.

A total of 17,587 cars were sold last month, compared with 12,595 cars in September 2004, when Venezuela was pulling out of a two-year slump triggered by a deep political crisis over the government of left-wing President Hugo Chavez.

No wonder the escualidos can’t mount any demonstrations – their middle class supporters are all too busy tooling around in their new cars! Anyways, for someone like Chavez who it is said is destroying private property and capitalism that is one heck of a lot of private property being sold by capitalistic car companies like G.M, Ford, and Toyota. But heck, even the consummate activity of capitalism, advertising, is doing well! All this brought to Venezuela by that “communist-fascist” Chavez. Go figure.


This blogger has warned people many times that you really don’t want to mess with Venezuelan tax authorities. Apparently some people didn’t get the message:

Venezuela's tax authority on Thursday ordered the temporary closure of the local offices of IBM and Microsoft for alleged tax irregularities.

Nokia, Ericsson and Siemens, as well as car part maker Bosch Rexroth and assembler Honda Motor, were also told to close for 24 to 48 hours.

The targeting of top western multinationals as part of a “zero tax evasion” policy is a further sign of an increasingly assertive behaviour by President Hugo Chávez, as bountiful oil revenues strengthen his leftwing government.

Seniat, Venezuela's tax collection agency, said the companies would be fined several hundred dollars for alleged irregularities in book-keeping.

Mr Chavez has set as one of his government's aims the reversal of a historic and widespread culture of non-payment of taxes in oil-rich Venezuela. Like many of the top officials in the Chavez administration, the tax agency's chief inspector is a former army captain seen as very close to the president and who is feared by some and admired by others for his no-nonsense efficiency and zeal.

Maybe the gringos thought they’d be exempt? I guess they are being disabused of that idea. Good for Venezuela that the rich and big companies now have to pony up their fair share of money to help pay for government services. I bet some other countries wish they had a tax service this efficient. In fact, rumor has it that if Hillary Clinton becomes the U.S. president in 2008 she is going to tap Jose Vielma Mora as the next head of the I.R.S.!!


Lastly, we end up this economic news with what else for Venezuela but oil. It seems a few more foreign oil companies have seen the light:

Three More Venezuela Oil Cos. OK Ventures

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Three more foreign oil companies have agreed with the Venezuelan government to run their oil fields as part of a state-controlled venture rather than independently under contract.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez announced that Japan's Teikoku Oil Co.,France's Perenco and Argentina's Tecpetrol have agreed to change their operating contracts into joint ventures with state-run Petroleos de Venezuela
S.A, PDVSA, at an oil conference in the eastern city of Cumana, a spokeswoman for the oil ministry said Thursday.

The three firms operate a total of five fields in Venezuela: Teikoku and Perenco each have two fields, while Tecpetrol operates one.

The move to joint ventures is one of a series of steps taken by the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to exert more control of the industry and increase state revenue at a time when oil prices are high.

The government has said it may take as much as an 80 percent stake in the new companies and required all 32 operating agreements held by 22 private oil companies to make the switch to joint ventures by the end of the year. Those that refuse will have their oil fields reclaimed by the state.

A total of 11 companies have now agreed to the changes. In August, eight firms signed the preliminary joint-venture agreements.

The move to joint ventures follows a 2001 hydrocarbons law that requires state-run PDVSA to hold a majority stake in all oil exploration and production projects.

Previously, Venezuela also hiked royalties and changed tax rules so that firms pay 50 percent income tax instead of a previous 34 percent preferential rate to pump oil.

By applying the revised tax rate retroactively to contracts signed in the 1990s, the government is now claiming that foreign oil companies owe US$3 billion (euro2.51 billion) in back taxes.

Venezuelan officials have said those tax claims must be finalized before the joint ventures are finalized.

Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter.

Before this is all said and done I bet most all of the oil companies will agree to Venezuela’s new terms. After all, with oil at more than $60/barrel its not as if they aren’t making money. Further, they know how to read opinion polls so they can see Chavez probably isn’t going anywhere for a while. Thus they are faced with two choices – 1) either accept Venezuela’s terms and still make a handsome, if less spectacular, profit or 2) leave Venezuela. They’re rational so they choose the former.

And remember all the chicken little predictions that foreign oil companies would lose interest in Venezuela due to the governments aggressive stance towards them. Well guess who wants to invest a lot of money in expanding production in Venezuela’s Orinoco oil belt? Yes, none other than Chevron.


Thinking outside the box 

Anyone who has traveled around Venezuela knows it has huge environmental problems. One aspect of that is the trash littering everything from city streets, to otherwise pristine beaches, to national parks to the nations highways. Travel the roads leading out of any major Venezuelan city and you feel as if you are driving through a refuse dump. It is a very unfortunate reality that Venezuelans of all class backgrounds tend to have a very low environmental consciousness and think nothing of simply discarding their trash where ever they happen to be.

One area that has as bad a garbage problem, if not worse, than any other area is the Libertador section of Caracas. It has gone through a number of trash collection companies over the past few years yet no progress has been made in cleaning this highly populated area up. The areas pro-Chavez mayor, Freddy Bernal, has been publicly berated by Chavez over this on several occasions.

So finally Bernal has come up with a new and innovative idea to deal with this seemly intractable problem:

Men, women and children lined up at a scale to weigh their loot: bags filled with old clothes and newspapers, bent bicycle wheels, rusted bed frames and discarded auto parts.

The junk was tossed into trucks by city workers and the people were given tickets to redeem for bags of rice, cans of sardines, vegetable oil and other food as part of an unusual government program.

"I think it's good people can hand in things they don't need for food, because that's what people need — food," said Maria Bonilla, a 50-year-old single mother who supports two children and a nephew on her job as a janitor.

She and other Venezuelans who came to turn in their trash in a Caracas slum last weekend said they felt grateful to President Hugo Chavez and his political ally, Mayor Freddy Bernal, who promoted the program as a way to clean up the streets while helping to feed the needy.

Chavez says he is leading a socialist "revolution" for the poor and has put billions of dollars in oil profits toward public works projects and social programs to build homes, fund health care programs and subsidize state food markets.

But a majority of Venezuelans remain poor, and many among the hundreds who showed up lugging bulging plastic bags and scrap metal said life remains a struggle despite some improvements. One man brought an old sofa that had been lying in the street.

Bonilla turned in a bag of clothes and a bag of newspapers weighing 18 pounds, and in exchange chose a bottle of cooking oil and a small bag of powdered milk.

"They only gave me a little bit, but it doesn't matter," said Bonilla, adding that it was a help since she has to support her family on $202 a month.

Some of Chavez's leading opponents accuse his government of running handout programs that help the poor just enough to win their political allegiance while not addressing deeper issues of poverty.

The leftist leader and his supporters insist major advances have been made and that within a generation they aim to eliminate poverty. The president, who has been in office since 1999, is up for re-election next year.

Gazing up at a hillside crowded with cinder block homes covered with barred windows, a city worker shouted into a microphone and loudspeaker: "Bring down all that trash!"

A poster with Chavez's smiling face was posted on a tent where adults lined up to trade in their tickets for food. A separate line of children snaked out in the courtyard, while salsa music blared over the loudspeaker.

"It's a lot of fun because we're all here," said 10-year-old Daniel Rios, who came with several friends and dropped off an armful of rusting pipes. The boy said his parents told him to get whatever food he could.

A few people emerged from the tent with long faces, saying they had hoped to receive more.

But 58-year-old Ermila Diaz came away smiling, carrying a box filled with packages of pasta, crackers, rice, beans and coffee after turning in bottles, newspapers and old rags. She said she still struggles to buy beef or pork on the small income she earns as a part-time seamstress, and her husband's meager pay working on-and-off as a security guard.

"Things are getting better, but there's still room for more improvement," Diaz said. As soon as she carried the food home, she said, she would be back with a second load of trash.

Will this be the idea that finally proves successful in helping clean up the garbage strewn streets? Only time will tell. But it certainly sounds like a very worthy idea whose time has come. It was this kind of out of the box thinking that devised programs such as “Barrio Adentro” that finally provided the government with a cost effective way to give health care to millions who lacked it. And when you’re a country with many needs and limited resources it is precisely that kind of thinking that is needed.


A succinct rebuttal: 

The Washington Post has been one of the leading anti-Chavez newspapers in the U.S. Its editorial pages consistently attack Chavez and attempt to paint him as a dictator, as absurd as that is. Further, they have an Op-Ed writer, Jackson Diehl, who never misses a chance to get a swipe at Chavez even if he gets his facts wrong in the process. Fortunately, sometimes these distortions are responded to as was the case yesterday when the Post published a letter by Venezuela’s Ambassador to the U.S.:

Jackson Diehl misinformed readers when he wrote that President Hugo Chavez's policies had increased the rate of poverty. ["Buying Support in Latin America," op-ed, Sept. 26].

Under the U.S.-sponsored "Washington consensus," or "neoliberal," model, poverty rose in Venezuela from 28 percent in the early 1980s to 85 percent when Mr. Chavez took office.

In the years since, social expenditures have risen in net terms (despite the U.S.-backed coup and oil strike), to about $5 billion per year, increasing as part of gross domestic product from 7.8 percent to 12.3 percent. This represents a massive transfer of resources to the poor. It has wiped out illiteracy, provided 40 percent of the population with subsidized food and ensured that 18 million people have free health care.

According to a recent analysis by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in the first quarter of 2005 the fastest-growing economies in Latin America were those that rejected the failed and flawed neoliberal model.

Indeed, Venezuela has the fastest-growing economy in Latin America, with growth rates in the first two quarters of 7.5 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. It had a 17.8 percent growth rate in 2004. The non-oil sectors grew at a faster pace than the oil sector, rising 8.7 percent and 12.1 percent in the first two quarters of 2005. Venezuela's economy is growing at the second-fastest rate in the world, topped only by China.



Embassy of Venezuela


And for the sake of brevity Ambassador Alvarez left out that the poor in Venezuela saw their standard of living go up last year by 30% in real terms and that even the temporary increase in poverty that Mr. Deihl referred to was the result of an opposition led oil strike. Neveertheless, it was still quite sell said.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Making a big bet on the Euro 

I previously mentioned that Venezuela was moving its foriegn reserves out of the United States to other places such as Europe. Despite some contradictory messages in the Venezuelan press as to whether or not this had happened yet we now have confirmation that it has:

CARACAS (AFX) - Venezuela has transferred 20 bln usd worth of its reserves, to the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland, Venezuela's central bank director Domingo Maza Zavala said, confirming an action foreshadowed by President Hugo Chavez last week.

Maza Zavala told daily EL Nacional that the dollar has weakened against the euro, so it seemed appropriate to increase holdings in euros and decrease those in dollar.

The funds transferred were held in the form of US Treasurys and represent 60 pct of the cental bank's total holdings.

The remaining 40 pct are deposited with European banks in the US, while a small proportion remains invested in US Treasurys.

Now the numbers given in this article change my previous calculations somewhat. Recall that I pointed at that if Venezuela had $10 billion in the United States and the dollar declined by 25% (as it did a couple of years ago) Venezuela stood to lose $2.5 billion - a very large sum of money by anyones standards (ok, not by U.S. standards - they piss away that much in just a few days in Iraq).

But according to this article they had 60% of their money in US Treasurys which would be over $18 billion dollars given that their total reserves are more than $30 billion. So that means if the US dollar sank 25% then Venezuela would lose $4.5 billion dollars!!! Now its not a given that the US dollar will lose value but given how heavily indebted that country is and the fact that it is going further into debt everyday its probable that the US currency will lose value over the next few years. So getting the money the heck out of there sure sounds like a good idea to me.


The fix is in 

Recently the Iraqi Parliament made an interesting revision to the electoral laws for the upcoming vote on its constitution. From the New York Times:

Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders quietly adopted new rules over the weekend that will make it virtually impossible for the constitution to fail in the coming national referendum.

The move prompted Sunni Arabs and a range of independent political figures to complain that the vote was being fixed.

Some Sunni leaders who have been organizing a campaign to vote down the proposed constitution said they might now boycott the referendum on Oct. 15. Other political leaders also reacted angrily, saying the change would seriously damage the vote's credibility.

Under the new rules, the constitution will fail only if two-thirds of all registered voters - rather than two-thirds of all those actually casting ballots - reject it in at least three of the 18 provinces.

The change, adopted during an unannounced vote in Parliament on Sunday afternoon, effectively raises the bar for those who oppose the constitution. Given that fewer than 60 percent of registered Iraqis voted in the January elections, the chances that two-thirds will both show up at the polls and vote against the document in three provinces would appear to be close to nil.

"This is a mockery of democracy, a mockery of law," said Adnan al-Janabi, a secular Sunni representative and a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's party. "Many Sunnis have been telling me they didn't believe in this democratic process, and now I believe they are vindicated."

Think this is bad enough? Well wait to you get to the details – it gets even worse.

Ms. Reyes said the assembly members had not changed election law, but only clarified the meaning of the word "voters" in the relevant passage. The legal passage in question states: "The general referendum will be successful and the draft constitution ratified if a majority of voters in Iraq approve and if two-thirds of voters in three or more governorates do not reject it."

In their vote on Sunday, the Shiite and Kurdish members interpreted the law as follows: the constitution will pass if a majority of ballots are cast for it; it will fail if two-thirds of registered voters in three or more provinces vote against it. In other words, the lawmakers designated two different meanings for the word "voters" in one passage. "I think it's a double standard, and it's unfair," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish assembly member who, like many other lawmakers, said he had not been present during the vote and only learned of it afterward. "When it's in your favor, you say 'voters.' When it's not in your favor you say 'eligible voters.' "

The reality is the fix was in on this process all along. Lets remember the government doing all this is a puppet government that probably wouldn’t make it more than a month or two without U.S. and British troops propping it up. The laws this government supposedly obeys were written by the U.S. occupation regime before they left. And the vote that elected this Parliament for all intents and purposes wasn’t monitored as the international observers had to observe from Jordan.

But apparently even all that isn’t enough to fix the process to the liking of the top Iraqi puppets and their U.S. paymasters. So they have to change the definition of what a voter is from one sentence to the next. And just to add insult to injury the same people who bring us this B.S. and try to pass it off as “democracy” then go around claming any government that doesn’t genuflect to their power is “undemocratic”. But look beneath the surface and it is easy to see who believes in one person one vote democracy and who doesn’t.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Chavez must be doing something right 

In Ultimas Noticias today they had a blurb pointing out that Carlos Menem, the former president of Argentina, has been making critical remarks towards Chavez. Apparently Menem feels that Chavez is converting Venezuela into another Cuba saying “there are expropriations, invasions of private property and attacks on people, and that takes one down the path towards Cuba”.

Now given that Carlos Menem almost single handedly trashed the Argentine economy giving it astronomical levels of debt and mass unemployment I think Chavez should wear his criticisms as a badge of honor. Menem’s criticisms of Chavez echo those of opposition leader and former Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez who even said once “Chavez must die like a dog”. Of course, Perez, or CAP as he is commonly known, is famous as the most corrupt Venezuelan president ever (not an easy title to win!) whose most famous act in government was having the army gun down hundreds of people in the street who dared to protest his economic policies. And as we all know, Chavez is widely despised by a certain Mr. Bush.

So lets see, Menem, CAP, and Bush all despise Chavez. Based on that alone the guy must be doing something right.

Keep up the good work Hugo!


Chavez still has their hearts 

Last week I gave some poll numbers from the Hinterlaces polling firm that seemed a little off. The question was whether they were simply an aberation, erroneous, or represented a new trend. In the past couple of weeks some other poll numbers have come out which shed some more light on this. I am referring specifically to the numbers presented by Alfredo Keller and Associates which is one of the largest, and most anti-Chavez, polling firms. An article summarizing the Keller results can be found here while the complete power point presentation can be found here.

The Power Point presentation first gives some updated polling numbers. And what do they show? That Chavez is supported by 59% of the population and opposed by 41%. This is almost exactly the same margin he won by in last years referendum and more or less in line with all the other polls that have shown his support oscillating between 60 and 80 percent. And these numbers are further broken down. Of the 59% who support Chavez 30% are strong supporters while 29% are moderate supporters. Of the 41% who support the opposition 15% are strong supporters while 26% are moderate supporters. So there are twice as many strong Chavez supporters as there are strong opposition supporters. Certainly not much in these numbers to hearten the opposition.

Then we get to what the opposition has wound up focusing on – the supposed intention of only 45% of those polled to vote for Chavez. This appears on slide 19 of the presentation which is entitled “The ‘popularities’ of Chavez”. This slide gives what it says are four different indicators of Chavez’s popularity.

The first is just his plain “popularity” which it defines as the level of liking or approving of him. This number is 61%. Why is it different from the 59% given a few slides before – got me. Escualido math I guess. It then gives a couple other results on who people would prefer win the next election (49%) or how many people want an alternative to Chavez to arise (45%).

But the final number it gives is what the opposition has been trying to emphasize. It asks peoples intention to vote “if the elections were to be held right now” and gives a result of 45%. Now what the some in the opposition have been grasping at is interpreting this number to mean only 45% of those polled would vote for Chavez right now. While its possible that is what that number means it really isn’t at all clear. They don’t give the actual question asked and it may well be that people were simply stating whether or not they intend to vote – not necessarily whether they will vote for Chavez. What is more, they don’t ask how many would vote for any potential opponent of Chavez. So if the opposition thinks Chavez is vulnerable based on just these numbers they are indeed grasping at straws.

So some ambiguities not withstanding the Keller poll shows that Chavez still enjoys the support of a large majority of Venezuelans and would almost certainly easily win any electoral contest. I think he’ll take that any day.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

"An excess of democracy" 

Read any of the right wing press, whether in the U.S. or Venezuela, and you will hear president Chavez referred to as a “despot”, “dictator”, “strongman”, or other similar pejorative terms. But worse than being pejorative, these terms are highly inaccurate. After all they are using these terms on someone who not only heads a completely free country but also a duly elected government . A government, in fact, that has legitimized itself at the polls time and time again.

Categorizing the Venezuelan government in this way is not only aimed at prejudicing world opinion against Chavez but also splitting other nascent popular governments, such as those in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, from a natural ally. Fortunately, this propaganda offensive seems to not be working. Witness the response of the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, when asked about the nature of the Venezuelan government:

“here during my presidential campaign they tried to demonize Chavez. Those who opposed me said that people shouldn’t vote for Lula because he is going to do the same as Chavez in Venezuela... I don’t know if South America has ever had an democratic experience like Venezuela’s: a president that wins elections, has a new constitution drafted and holds a referendum on it. Holds that referendum and wins another round of elections. No one can accuse Venezuela have not having democracy. In fact you could even say that Venezuela has had an excess of democracy”

To see what Lulu is referring to lets look at the elections behind Chavez’s mandate:

In the 1998 Presidential Elections Chavez won with 56% of the vote:

Chavez 3,673,685 votes

Salas Romer 2,613,161 votes

Immediately upon taking office Chavez proposed creating a Constituent Assembly to re-make Venezuela’s system of government and constitution. In the referendum on this issue the votes were:

In favor of creating a Constituent Assembly 3,500,746 votes (92.35%)

Opposed to creating a Constituent Assembly 289,781 votes (7.64%)

After it was drafted a referendum was held to approve the new constitution. The results were:

In favor of adopting the new constitution 2,982,395 votes (71.37%)

Opposed to adopting the new constitution 1,196,146 votes (28.63%)

Given that the system of government had been re-made new elections were held in 2000 for President and for the new National Assembly. The vote in the new Presidential election was:

Hugo Chavez 3,757,773 votes (60.3%)

Arias Cardenas 2,359,459 votes (37.5%)

Lastly, a presidential recall referendum was held after the opposition gathered enough signatures to invoke one [the Venezuelan constitution provides for Presidents and some other office holders to have their mandates revoked half way through their terms through special referendums]. The voting in the Recall Referendum was:

Not wanting Chavez’s mandate revoked: 5,800,629 (59.25%)

Wanting Chavez’s mandate revoked: 3,989,008 (40.75%)

As can be seen Chavez has been tested time and time again at the polls. With less than 7 years in office Chavez himself has been voted on 3 times – or a little less than once every two years. Would anyone argue that someone should have to stand for election more frequently than that? I think not. And next year Chavez will stand for election yet again.

This “excess of democracy” and the facts behind should be kept in mind the next time your local right wing shill starts making statements about Chavez being a dictator.


The three stages of colonial wars 

Jonathan Schwarz sure hit the nail on the head with his post on the three stages of colonial wars which are:

1. We've got to help these people!
2. Why are these people resisting our attempts to help them?
3. These people MUST BE KILLED!!!!!!!!

Check the whole thing out at A Tiny Revolution

The only thing I would add is that Friedman is a little behind the curve. A lot of the warbloggers have been in the "just kill 'em all" stage for quite some time now. And once this farce of voting on the Iraqi consitution is over and the war continues unabated I'm sure even the final holdhouts to the pretention of "helping" Iraq will be well into stage three.


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