Saturday, January 14, 2006

Preachers or politicians? 

The various religious groupings in Venezuela, from the Catholic church to evangelical protestants, have been very involved in the anti-Chavez opposition from the very beginning of the Chavez administration. In fact, one Catholic official said at the time of the Vargas tragedy which killed thousands that it was Gods way of punishing Venezuela for having elected Chavez. So you can see were Pat Robertson got it from.

Today in Ultimas Noticias there was another nice little gem showing how politicized the religious heirarchy is :

For his part, monsuer Roberto Luckert (archbishop of Coro and vicepresident of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference), who led the mass in honor of Copei [one of the two main parties of the Fourth Republic which is largely viewed as corrupt and despised by most Venezuelans - ow] indicated that Venezuela is in the third state of a process caracterized by terror and fear; afterwards will come something even worse, "silence".

"Do not hide Copeyanos, be proud of who you are, of what you have done, and what you were in this country. Copei has to go to the bases, to the people, and organize grass roots committees in the communities. We ahve to change the structures in this country and give hope to people. Don't be fearful, awaken and react because the people are waiting."

This certainly looks like pretty blatent interference by "people of the clothe" in the political life of the country doesn't it? However, that doesn't bother me in the least. I believe all people, including religious officials, should be free to participate in the political life of their country. So Roberto Luckert is, and should be, completely free to have said this. Of course, he may want to consider the repercussions for his credibility if he keeps going around talking about what a great thing for Venezuela Copei was.

In any event that, Luckert feels free to make these statements shows what a free country Venezuela. Had these sort of comments been made in the United States that church would be in deep trouble. Just another example of how Venezuelans are much freer than those who live in the so-called "land of the free".


Friday, January 13, 2006

Interesting statistics hot off the press 

Heres a little something from my inbox:


Chavez is giving his speech to the National Assembly.

Here is something that just hit my inbox and I thought I'd share:

Latest stats all refer to end of 2005 which he has just given

Infant mortality - down to 16.7 per 1000 live births (1998 it was
Index of Human development over .80 for first time at .8144
Individual consumption 1999-2005 up by an average of 15% compared to
period 1990-1998 when it fell by 4.5% on average
Poverty down from 55.1 at end 2003 now end 2005 down to 37%
Unempoloyment now 8.9%
Inflation ended year at 14.4%
GDP +9.4%
All time record vehicle sales surpassing 2001

The vehicle sales I already knew about and posted on. The poverty numbers and economic growth are no suprise. Infant mortality and Index of Human Development are very pleasent surprises. And on the individual consumption I can't wait until DATOS comes out and tells us that among classes D and E it was up 25% or so!

The only figure I'm a little skeptical of is the 8.9% unemployment number. I'd like to see more on that.

But all in all theres nothing to say except this news, while not new, is excellent.


Thursday, January 12, 2006

16 billion dollars or 16 billion lies? 

I don't know how many of you read the excellent blog "El Espacio de Lubrio" - certainly everyone who can read Spanish should. The other day he published an excellent entry which again points out the absurdity of much of what the opposition says. Recently I posted on the absurd comments of Gerardo Blyde and now Luigino has posted on some crazy comments by his Primero Justicia collegue, Julio Borges, who is already a declared presidential candidate. Given that the post was written in Spanish I thought I would take the liberty of translating it into English:

According to the opposition presidential candidate Julio Borges, "in only a few months”, President Hugo Chavez “has given to 35 countries more than 16.4 billion dollars, which could have been invested in such a way that Venezuelans would have decent living conditions”.

This appeared in the web site of the newspaper El Impulso.

The alarmist message of Borges, made on Globovision, was reproduced repeatedly by both the national and international media even when Borges’s source is “research by his compeign” without any other documentation or proof. It was front page news in various Venezuelan papers such as 2001. But is it true?

Lets see. What is meant by “in only a few months”? Three months? Six months? A year? Lets assume he means six months which is fairly generous for such a imprecise statement. This means that, according to Borges, Chavez has been “giving away” daily:

16,400,000,000 dollars / 180 days = 91,111,111 dollars.

If we assume that Venezuela has earned, on average, thirty dollars for every barrel of oil it produces (oil has sold at $50 but much of it is subsidized and from what I understand production costs are about $10 per barrel) then we have to assume that the president is “giving away” the equivalent of 3,037,037 barrels of oil daily, which is almost all of the daily national production (which I understand is 3.3 million barrels a day although some sources put it at 2.8 million).

That is, according to Borges, Chavez is giving away virtually everything we earn from oil production. In other words, in Venezuela:

We are not paying the salary of nearly 2 million public employees.

We are not carrying out social missions (one of which taught hundreds of thousands how to read and write and another of which has 12 thousand doctors in Venezuelan neighborhoods).

We are not constructing 5 subway lines simultaneously (2 in Caracas, one in Los Teques, one in Valencia and one in Maracaibo).

We aren’t constructing various railroads (that of Valle de Tuy and others in Bolivar state).

We aren’t constructing a second bridge over the Orinoco river nor our we beginning a third bridge.

We aren’t carrying out various infrastructure projects throughout the country.

We aren’t supporting public autonomous universities (the UCV alone costs $300 million annually and the University of Zulia $200 million, etc.) nor the Sucre mission nor the Bolivarian University.

And a very long list of etceteras.

Borges is being slick. He is taking advantage of the recent announcement of $30 million that is being donated to Bolivia to then create a lie the size of Viaduct 1. And with this type of alarmist announcement he was successful in becoming the center of attention of all the opposition media, which of course was not going to deny him television space either, regardless for what kind of crazy things he was saying.

Fortunately, the majority of Venezuelan’s don’t believe Borges and they won’t believe him while he keeps fabricating lies. Even when its difficult to justify what was given to Bolivia, and I recognize it. But Chavez is a good strategist; we’ll see what happens.

Luigino has done an excellent job of pointing out the absurdity of Borges accusations. It is not even remotely possible that Chavez has given to other countries anywhere near the amount of money that he claims. This shows the cheapness of what comes out of the mouth of one of the opposition's leading politicans. Borges’s political party, Primero Justicia, claims to be the party of the future and claims to be a clean break with the old corrupt parties of the Fourth Republic. Maybe. But apparently lying and making up widely false information is not one of the Fourth Republic practices they are willing to break with.

What is more, that the opposition media just runs this without any sort of analysis shows what they are about. The other day they were quite assertive when it came to asking some detailed follow up questions of the mayor of Caracas. Yet it apparently doesn’t occur to them to ask Borges for a detailed breakdown of how he came up with the $16 billion dollar number, much less where any of the evidence is. Apparently their journalistic standards vary according to who the information favors.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Economic notes 

I don't have much time to post now but I just wanted to give a couple of quick economic notes that came out today:

First, as I've been giving regular car sale updates with the intent of showing the strength of the economy I thought I'd give the final year end numbers. In 2005 228,378 automobiles were sold in Venezuela. This is an all time record. It supersedes the previous record year of 2001 when 217,000 were sold. Its kind of interesting that given the oppositions accusation that private property is under attack by the Chavez administration the two years when the most cars (expensive private property) came on his watch. As a side note 139,166 of the cars were assembled in Venezuela with the rest being imported.

Secondly, according to the economic consulting firm, Aristimuno Herrera & Associates Venezuela's foreign reserves at the end of 2005 stood at $30.311 billion dollars. This is third in Latin America behind only Mexico with 68.6 billion and Brazil with 53.8 billion. Venezuelan reserves increased by 25% during 2005. This stellar result was achieved in spite of $6 billion being taken by the government for capital projects and debt repayment. Had that $6 billion been left in the reserves their increase would have been 50%. And the increased inflation predicted by the opposition which critized that use of foreign reserves is no where in site as the Venezuela inflation rate actually decreased in 2005.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What do monkeys have to do with it? 

I know there are some readers who don't care for this type of post but there is recurring issue that needs to be brought up. Although the Venezuelan opposition repeatedly denies that it is at all racist, or that there is even any racism in Venezuela at all, some of their propoganda belies that.

Take for example this rather funny parody of what Caracas is going through now that the highway to the coast is out of commission:

This cartoon shows donkeys or mules being used to transport goods over the mountains to Caracas (that picture is definitely not from Venezuela but it conveys the idea). It reads on top "Taking merchandise from La Guaira to Caracas" and on the bottom it says "Venezuela advances on route to Socialism" next to the initials of Minfra which is the Venezuelan infrastructure ministry. Clearly they are poking fun at the government and pointing out that in some cases the country seems to be going backwards instead of fowards. I personally think it is quite clever and funny and I got a laugh out of it.

Then I noticed that there was a monkey stuck on the bottom right corner. How did that get there and what does that have to do with the joke? To put what it probably means in context please look at this prior post which also has some disturbing monkey references. When looked at in this context it seems to be yet another racist allusion to this government not being run by white European descendents but by the inferior "monkees" that the opposition takes Chavez and his supporters to be.

Of course, the opposition will very strongly deny this. But their denials would be a lot more believable if monkees weren't popping up in their cartoons all the time.


Monday, January 09, 2006

Audacity without bound 

Sometimes its just hard to believe the stuff that comes out of some of the opposition's leaders mouths. It really is.

Take this for example. Gerardo Blyde, an opposition leader and former assembly person from the opposition party Primero Justicia, said today "The government has to reimburse everyone affected by the Viaduct I closure". This apparently includes both private individuals as well as businsesses. So according to Blyde the Venezuelan government should be reimbursing American Airlines because their passengers have been inconvienced and all the folks in eastern Caracas who couldn't make it to the beach this weekend (and no I don't mean to the beach in Vargas, they wouldn't be caught dead there, I mean those who couldn't catch their flights to Los Roques).

So some land slides down a valley and takes out a bridge and the government is supposed to reimburse everyone for that. Yet when the Venezuelan opposition led a strike that cost the country billions, no one said anything about reimbursement. I know people who lost their jobs, who chopped up wood furniture to be able to cook because there was no gasoline, taxi drivers who lost weeks worth of fares they could ill afford to lose, and on and on. Where is their reimbursement, Mr. Blyde? Why doesn't Primero Justicia raise some money to reimburse them? If the people who led that strike just re-patriated some of what they have in Miami I'm sure they could make good on that damage.

Blyde may try to evade responsibility saying the strike was private whereas with the Viaduct it is the government that is responsible. But that isn't true. Blyde was in the Assembly when the strike occured so he was a public servant. Shouldn't he and other opposition elected officials be held responsible for the damage they did in supporting the strike? Plus, the strikers at PDVSA are in effect government employees so why can't they be held responsible?

Whats more, not only were those public officials responsible for far more damage than the Viaduct is causing they did it INTENTIONALY. They tried to destroy the economy. They tried to make people lose their jobs. They tried to shut down all transport. They tried to make the markets run out of food. They tried to make it so people couldn't cook their own meals. All of that was intentional, not the unintended consequence of an honest mistake or even just plain incompetance. They were doing everything in their power to bring Venezuela and its people, particularly poor people who support Chavez, to their knees. So Mr. Blyde, if people, and more specifically government officials, should respond for the damage they cause I think you should be one of the first people to start ponying up some money.

The stupidity of Gerardo Blyde is really emblematic of the problems of the opposition. They just can't help themselves. Here the country is faced with a difficult situation which is adminittadly the fault of the current administration. Instead of just saying they think this shows the current government is inefficient or incomompetant and therefore undeserving of the public's support they have to go way over the top and spout this kind of non-sense. And then they wonder why no-one accept an extremist fringe listens to them anymore.


A little lie slips out 

For a couple of years now the U.S. government has been telling its public that things are going well, they are winning the war, and that the troops in the field have everything they need. Further, it is said that there are sufficient troops to fight the war effectively. Of course, this always was doubtful as there were many journalistic reports of commanders in Iraq complaining of not having enough troops.

Now, some of the truth slips out. The former administrator of the U.S. puppet government wrote a memo to U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saying that he thought they needed 500,000 troops in Iraq to win the war (coincidentally, that is the precise number of U.S. in Vietnam at the peak of that war). This request was promptly shot down and never publicized.

The purpose of this post is not to talk about U.S. troop levels in Iraq. The last thing I want is for the U.S. to get the troop levels right and win the war. What the point is though, is that the war is based entirely on deceit. First, they lied about why the U.S. needed in invade Iraq and now they lie about the actual conduct of the war and what the prospects are for U.S. victory. And unfortunatly, a large section of the U.S. populace still believes in what they say. It should be interesting some day when the Iraqi version of "The Pentagon Papers" comes out and shows what all the lies were and how top officials talked about which lies would be best to decieve the public. But, of course, that, while interesting, will be too late to stop the enormous amount of death and destruction that will occur before then.


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